How did you choose yourself? (What do you do?)
Why do you do this, and what drives you?
I’ve enjoyed 30 years in the leathergoods industry. My early years being as a Sales Rep, then also being Product Consultant, and north American Sales Director for a German leathergoods company. All my efforts were spent with upscale better make products. I came to realize that the industry was shrinking in terms of U.S. manufacturing and that I wanted to take on a challenge of being a small player in resurrecting a dying craft. I somehow developed a passion for the leathergoods industry, this said, it was only natural that I would want to craft my own products. Knowing product and how it’s made is one thing, learning the craft and making the product is more challenging that one would first realize. It has been rewarding and yet frustrating at times.
What was one of your proudest accomplishments from working for yourself?
I had a very large corporate client and they asked me to solve a problem and develop an item that would address their needs. I developed and crafted a new item that was very well accepted as it included in design the features and functions required. It was a pivotible moment as it cemented a good amount of business for several years. And yes, it became my first of 2 U.S. Patents. A great feeling of accomplishment.
If you couldn’t do this, what do you see yourself doing?
As for what else might I do, it’s hard to say, as I can’t imagine anything else….possibly real estate sales.
Was there a turning point in your life that led you to go out on your own & work for yourself?
My turning point…Well, there have been a few. I was a successful independent sales rep for many years, but with the advent of imports taking over, my companies succumbed to cheaper goods from overseas. Reinventing myself as a designer and provider of custom goods….this sounded good, but I had to source numerous contract sewers who were found to be unreliable with good consistent workmanship. It became difficult and a financial loss. This all said, maintaining a passion and then redirecting myself to have a small startup business that I can fully control and enjoy….it’s been hard work, a lot of stressful moments, but I love it, and no one can take that away.
Do you have any advice for others who might want to work for themselves? Something to encourage them, or something for them to be cautious about…?
For anyone who wants to be self employed, know this, it takes good financial planning, family and friends who believe in you, a nice bank with a line of credit, a knowledge of the business helps tremendously, a passion for what you are doing, as it is your love of your work that will get you through difficult times of which there are many. Be prepared for long days, hard work and that failure comes easy. Stay the course and work through your daily challenges. Most of all, do it for you. Having the support and love of family is a key instrument.
What has it allowed you to do that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do? If you could choose again, would you?
Perks and benefits of being self employed are numerous. I’ve enjoyed taking my family to Europe while I visit some of my suppliers of leather, hardware and other materials. Being able to set your schedule to accommodate your personal daily routine is also nice, but keep in mind, that customers are a priority. It’s nice to break away from sewing and play salesman again and make a few trips to other parts of the country. And yes, being able to schedule 18 holes of golf when the opportunity presents itself is wonderful.
Who were some of your biggest inspirations in life… people you looked up to?
In my earlier years, I was fortunate to have worked with companies that still produced goods here in the U.S. The owners of these companies shared their wealth of knowledge with me and instilled a growing passion of which I have today. I was blessed to have several mentors.
What are some things outside of your work that keep you going?
Without question, my family drives me. I’m self driven, but my 3 children of which are now all grown and successful in their careers, my wife who is an elementary school teacher share one thing…a passion for our job. Good health and family is everything. I’ve been bless with my first Grandchild, what a fabulous addition to my life.
It’s great to have family to share your life with, it is a life reward !
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced?
Having your financing in good order with family and friends support as well. A good bank with a line of credit will come in handy. Realize that even with hard work and planning, failure can exist, but that ‘s ok, as we learn from failure to build and achieve our successes.