Hey, welcome to the first episode of Handmade Pennsylvania. My name is Josh. I’m a leatherworker from Schwenksville, PA. I quit my job to pursue my side hustle, Caliber Leather Company.

I enjoy talking to other makers about how they got their start and thought it would be fun to create a Podcast full of Pennsylvania makers.

Leathercraft Resources and Links:
Beginner Projects and How-to Videos – Weaver Leathercraft YouTube Channel

Some of my favorite Leather Artisans:
Low Tide Leather YouTube
Little King Goods YouTube
Mascon Leather YouTube

Leathercraft Supplies
Tandy Leather
District Leather Supply
Maverick Leather
The Tannery Row

Epsiode Transcription:

Hello and welcome to the first episode of Handmade Pennsylvania my name is Joshua Meyers and I’ll be your host. I run a small leather shop out of my home called Caliber Leather Company and for the first episode, I’m going to tell you my story and how I got started with my handmade business. So back in 2015, I wanted a leather watchband. I started searching online. I came across Etsy and I came across a beautiful leather watchband for $95. Now I’ve always been a bit of a DIY’r so I thought instead of spending $95 on one watch band, I could buy some leather and a few tools and start making watch bands myself to sell. I’ve always had a little bit of an entrepreneurial spirit so I thought maybe this could be a little business I could start out of my home to make some money on the side. I purchased the leather. I purchased some new blades for my box cutter and a few other tools that I saw when I Googled, how to get started with leathercraft, and I began to make leather watch bands. I opened up my own Etsy shop and offered watch bands for sale for a lot of the smartwatches. Apple Watch and Fitbit watch. One of the early successes I had was with a leather band I designed for the Fitbit Flex widget that would replace the silicone one that gave some people irritation and it wasn’t as nice looking if you were going to dress it up with some more formal clothes. So this Fitbit band that I designed started to sell pretty well and it was really encouraging, that hey, maybe this is a business I could pursue. I really started to fall more in love with leather as a medium and as a craft. I really felt that I’d found my medium. I always enjoyed working with my hands and I always wanted to start a business working for myself and this just really felt different from some of the businesses that I had tried to start previously that fizzled out. I started a cleaning company. I did some real estate photography for a while and ultimately, none of them stuck. I just didn’t enjoy the work as much as I thought I would. Everything kind of became another job, where I didn’t have a passion for it. It was just a way to make money and I didn’t feel engaged. A similar feeling that I had to my nine-to-five job where it was something I did to make money. I wasn’t engaged in the work and Monday thru Friday I was just looking forward to the weekend. Day after day, week after week. it started to drain me. I was getting depressed that I was just living my life for essentially two days out of the week and it was such a small percentage, and I wanted to enjoy every day. As much as I tried to enjoy the nine-to-five job, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. So having found my medium now in leather and a marketplace that people were appreciative of handmade products, I really started to grow the business. I continued to develop new products and offer new leather accessories, wallets, and jewelry pieces and the more I grew online the more I thought that maybe this could be something I could make a full-time career out of. I started to take my handmade business offline and signed up for a couple of local vendor events. This was a whole different world to me that I hadn’t done before and really opened my eyes to a lot of other crafts and a lot of other local makers. At these events when you’re setting up your tent side-by-side with other makers, you start to talk to them, when things are slow and lend a hand or watch over their table while they go to get something to eat. I found their stories really interesting and I found that I could really relate to their passion, in that when they found their medium, it gave them a sense of joy. A sense of purpose with something different than just a way to make money. I began to think of ways that I could grow my business more with more vendor events and more online sales. I started my own website to offer my products for sale outside of Etsy and I began to save because I’m thinking that this is something I want to pursue full-time. I want to be a leatherworker 100%. I was saving up so I could quit my job and go full-steam with leathercraft. Just growing Caliber Leather Company to replace my full-time income. So over the years, finally fast forward to 2019, I had left the 9-to-5 I was working at and started another job. I was still not feeling fulfilled but my savings were still growing, to the point where I had about 12 months saved. A runway where I could pay my bills without income including carrying private health insurance. In December 2019 I decided this is it. I’m going to start 2020 working for myself full-time with Caliber Leather. Everything was going well! 2020 started, I had my calendar tacked up on my wall with vendor events planned out for the rest of 2020. I had marketing plans kind of in place. I was dialing in my social media presence and growing my Instagram accounts. Really trying to work every angle that I was learning about how to grow a handmade small business, and then, the pandemic hit. Online sales took a hit, in-person vendor events were non-existent and the future was largely unknown. I was starting to get a little concerned, because my income from Caliber Leather, while I was averaging about 50 sales a month at that time before the pandemic, I was still not making enough money to pay all my bills. Looking at the future of not having income from in-person vendor sales and not knowing how I would make money with this business, I had a choice. I got an email from an old coworker that said, “Hey, your old jobs opening up if you’re interested” and given the state of the world, and my circumstances I took the opportunity. I went back to work with the mindset that this is temporary. I can continue to grow my business so I can continue to work on developing Caliber Leather and trying to increase my sales, increase my marketing, and then further improve my social media presence. One of my ideas that I had to grow my presence and grow my business was to start this podcast. When I was at these vendor events and hearing the stories of other local makers, it really felt like such a community. People really cared about each other in a way that you don’t typically find, or I hadn’t found, in Corporate America where it was more Cutthroat and we’ll just care about the money or the job title or the promotion. It didn’t feel authentic the way that these makers felt with their craft. I have wanted to try to create this podcast for a while now and back in 2019 I recorded four conversations with local makers but never got everything dialed into the point that I launched it and that kind of brings me to today. I am still working a nine-to-five job I’m still growing Caliber Leather Company and I still want to ultimately work for myself and I figured this podcast would be a way to help other makers grow their business share their story and also allow for people interested in their particular crafts to learn more about that or learn more about how they can take their craft from a hobby, side hustle, type deal, to a full-time career and go from there. So that’s my plan. Each month I intend to release a new episode that’ll be about an hour long. Featuring a new Pennsylvania maker talking about how they got their start with their craft, how their craft became a business for them, and things they learned along the way. Hopefully, continue to develop the community that I felt when I was attending those in-person events. Knowing that in-person events are somewhat limited these days I figured this is a way that we can still come together and makers can support makers, people who appreciate handmade goods can learn more about the people that make them. Together we can grow. We can learn from each other. We can share stories and laughs and create another forum where we can share our passions. Let me know what you think! Please leave a comment and subscribe to the show. It really helps with the podcast ranking so that it can be found by other people. The more people that find the podcast and listen to it and subscribe, the more these small businesses can get their story out there and can promote their handmade businesses. I hope after hearing the conversation with these makers that you follow their social media accounts that you like their post and leave comments. It really is the easiest way to support them and help their material reach a wider audience which helps them make more sales and make their business more successful. If you have the means to purchase from them that’s even better, but at the very least, give a like, give a comment, it’s so easy to do, and takes no time, and really makes a big difference for these small handmade businesses. If you want to reach out to me with any questions about Caliber Leather Company or about this podcast, if you think you know someone who would be great to be on this show, send me their info or put me in touch with them. You can email me at Josh at handmadepennsylvania.com or if you just go to handmade pennsylvania.com there’s a contact form and you can put some info in there and that’ll come right to me. I’ll reach out to them and get them scheduled so I can have a conversation with them and we can learn more about their passion and their small handmade business. On the website is a complete list of all the episodes with links to each maker’s social media accounts where you can follow them. Where you can buy their goods and learn more about their business and their craft. Go support small businesses. Support handmade! It really is important and is something I’m passionate about. Until next time my name is Josh Meyers thank you for listening to Handmade Pennsylvania