SMALL BUSINESS OMBUDSMEN OFFICE
Will Cusey and Liz Erdman are two of the three members of the Small Business Ombudsman (SBO) Office at the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), the US regulatory agency focused on safety of all consumer products. Through their work to demystify the federal regulations on consumer products, they are helping small businesses develop safer consumer products for the public.
Last year, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the SBO office saw the need for help to small businesses increase substantially, as individuals began sewing and selling cloth face masks, children's clothing, and stuffed toys to the public as a means of earning additional income. Will and Liz, working completely remotely due to the pandemic, rose to meet the need for the public to receive timely information. They innovated and developed a series of show "How To" videos, short animated videos, and product screening videos (in conjunction with the CPSC's Office of Import Surveillance) to explain safety requirements for products most frequently made or imported by small businesses.
Since the SBO team launched the updated Reseller's Guide online, they have received requests to ship printed copies throughout the US to thrift shops serving the American public. In the fiscal year 2020, the SBO team provided answers, via phone and email, to 2,300 questions on consumer products and are on track this year to answer approximately 2,900 questions from the public in 2021. All of this was accomplished by an office with only three full-time personnel.
The dedication of Will and Liz not only ensures that the U.S. public has safe consumer products in their homes, but in helping small businesses and individual entrepreneurs develop and responsibly source materials for safer consumer products, is unrivaled. This year, they are on pace to provide guidance to approximately 2,900 members of the public and to deliver at least twelve training sessions on specific consumer products.