When we first discovered Coppell, Texas based Odin Leather Goods , we were impressed by the aesthetics of their online presence. It came as no surprise that founder, Odin Clack has a background in Digital Marketing.
We spoke with him to find out how he went from making one laptop case in his garage, to producing a branded line of leather products for himself and a growing list of clients in a 1500 sqft workshop space.
What inspired you to start Odin leather?
In the beginning, I only had two goals: 1) create something I needed (a laptop sleeve); and 2) find a creative outlet. After spending 15 years working in corporate America building a successful career, I found that I always needed a creative outlet. Over the years that need for a creative outlet lead me to do woodworking, web design, and now leather work.
The one difference is that once I started doing leather work, it really stuck! I found myself really digging in on this craft and skill set. I wanted to understand the material and the process of constructing items that I saw other producing. What’s the gap between the types of goods a hobbyist/amateur can make in their home workshop, and those that are being made by the Hermes’ and Louis Vuitton’s of the world? Is it just experience and skill? Is it equipment?
I wanted to understand that and see if I could narrow that gap significantly. It turns out that with a bit of planning and care, you can actually build a sizable business at the same time you’re searching for the answer to these questions.
How did you raise your initial startup capital?
My business has been completely bootstrapped. I’m fortunate to have had a successful career in the digital marketing space. The income from my day job allowed me to invest in the leather craft hobby for the first year or two. Once I recognized the business potential of my hobby, I quickly began to reorganize things to ensure the business would become self-sustaining.
Once I made that mental shift, from hobby to business, I began to pick projects more carefully and reinvest income back in the business to acquire additional tools, equipment, and most importantly leather. Often times I’d take on bigger and more ambitious projects, not for the profit, but to raise capital to buy a large piece of equipment. I was never about what I could afford. It’s more about ‘what do I have to do, to be able to afford’ something.
Getting started in this business involves a lot of trial and error – that gets expensive quickly. There’s no turnkey ‘start your own leather brand’ toolkit you can buy or purchase. Most leather businesses were started years ago by families who produced shoes or saddles. They’ve already been through that learning curve, trail, and error and have acquired all the equipment and tools needed. I was starting from scratch. Without having a successful day job/career, I’m not sure I could have found the funds needed to start this business.
How has your background as a Digital Marketing executive helped you as a business owner?
My background in Digital Marketing has provided me the capital needed to get through the initial learning curve of starting this craft and business. It has allowed me to leapfrog ahead of some other small brands by leveraging Instagram.
It also allowed me to create an excellent website for my business. So many other makers really struggle in this area. Social media and web design is so foreign and scary to them, despite it being one of the most important sales channels for them to build these days.
There are literally so many great small mom-and-pop brands and products out there that are dying and disappearing each year, just because they haven’t been able to figure out their social media and web strategies. That’s unfortunate, but it has also provided me with an advantage.
What is the most fulfilling thing about owning your business? What is the most challenging?
The most fulfilling thing about owning my own business is knowing that I’m creating something of value. It will be apart of my legacy. Not to say that my kids are going to run the business one day – thats actually not important to me. The legacy I want to leave my kids is a paradigm that they too can build something of value on their own.
I think the default answer so many other entrepreneurs give is “I want to work for myself so that I can be the boss and doing everything my way.” Well… I think that this is actually the most challenging part. When you run your own business, you are wholly responsible for EVERYTHING that happens. There’s no way to defer to someone else or pass the buck. You bear the full burden or all decisions made.
If your goal isn’t bigger than, “I want to be my own boss,” you could easily cave under the pressure. You have to have a bigger goal in mind. Working for someone else is absolutely easier. You know exactly when you’ll get you next paycheck and how much it will be. No one is looking at you each week and depending on you to write a check for them to pay their bills and take care of their families. And let’s not even talk about the number of hours you’re going to work each week.
If you could wake up tomorrow as the master of a particular business skill, what would it be?
Wow. That’s an interesting question. The answer to this question could change daily. This year, I think I’d love to have more experience and insight on managing finances – when to spend money, scheduling expenditures and of course raising capital. Much of our future development will be closely tied to how to manage this. A close second would be related to scaling production.
Where do you see the company in 5 years?
We’re going to make some significant change in our production process in 2019. We’ve got to figure out how to make bags and totes faster. This will lead us to our next big goal of opening a full retail store early next fall. This new retail concept will help to build even more brand equity in our region and really blowout our online business. Online is still our core business, and a retail store to ground us will help us greatly – it’s amazing how that works.
What advice do you gave for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is this:
– Make sure you’re starting your business for the right reason. If it includes not wanting to work for someone else or being able to control your own schedule, I think you should revaluate things.
– Don’t’ chase your competitors! Instead, find your own unique message and brand and stick to it. That’s where you’re going to add value to the marketplace and pick up loyal customers.
Check out their website for more info.
-Tony Oluwatoyin Lawson (IG@thebusyafrican)