Ian, can you tell us in your own words why you’ve followed in your father’s footsteps?
My dad Frank, who the company is named after, started the business in 1970, following graduation from college. Originally, he was going to be a bank manager, but my mother gave him a wallet kit at Christmas - not just any wallet kit, but a leather one. He fell in love with the craft and making from then. During college, he was making bags for all his professors and by the time he graduated he decided, ‘you know what, screw this bank stuff. I want to try to make leather goods. I'll give myself a year and if it doesn't work, I can say I tried.’ Well, he did a pretty damn good job and has been doing that ever since.
I’ve always been interested from a very young age but didn’t know I’d be so involved when I was older. The kids at school used to joke: ‘Your dad makes handbags,’ because during that time growing up, he did a lot more women’s designs. I didn’t want to be involved in ladies accessories, but when I matured at 18, I came to my senses and saw this whole other side to it.
The market was a lot different back then, my father was selling through catalogs and had salesmen going around local leather shops across the US which was tough. A friend of his said, ‘you’ve got to get this online’ because that’s where it’s happening and we did! I got into the business with my brother, Andrew. We took the core collection from our archive and relaunched it online. Andrew looked after production, while I built the website, learning everything about the business from accounts and online sales to PR and marketing.
Now, it’s all about preserving the business, having fun and going into work. I’m like a kid in a candy store when we get new machines. You have to understand with our company (and much like yours), there’s real people behind it who are invested and love what they do. Our goal isn't to just produce stuff, sit here, sip champagne and relax. We're in here working our ass off everyday and we're making cool stuff. And then our clients enjoy it - that's what brings us the joy.