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Hello to everyone on this interesting and friendly forum of leatherworkers. My name is Brett and I am hungry to learn about leatherworking as a hobby and a business. I live in the north western part of Virginia about 50 miles west of Washington, D.C. I find myself in a career field where it is difficult to find a place for someone of my age (53) and with the lack of currently required skills. Not to mention I have hated what I do for the last 8+ years, which makes it hard to go to work and have any happiness.

So I am exploring other options for making a living and I am looking for some advice as far as the leather business is concerned. I know hearing about one more newbie wanting to get into the leather business is probably the last thing a professional wants to hear. I have done what I would categorize as leather craft projects in the past. Belts and holsters mostly and all my hand no machines. Unfortunately I made my first holsters when I first became a gun owner (I had experience with firearms in the military)and did not know very much about either. That was 25 years ago and now I am an avid gun owner, shooter and hunter. So before I start spending real money I want to find out if this is this a business someone can break into and make a living?

Thanks everyone and anyone who replies.


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Brett, . . .

In a one word answer, . . . "Yes", it is a business you can break into and make a living.

I don't make a living at it, . . . it's a hobby for me, . . . but there are just too many successful stories to say no you can't.

But it is like any other product, . . . you have to have a good product, . . . know your market, . . . know your competition, . . . be flexible, . . . and for at least a while, . . . you will have to work some long, long hours.

Get an internet presence, . . . (mine is with GoDaddy, . . . a good place to start I think), . . . get a Gunbroker.com account, . . . get an Ebay account.

From what my ears tell me, . . . brick and mortar is fading fast, . . . E-commerce is the wave of the future, . . . and that has been my experience.

The one serious exception I have found, . . . is gun shows, . . . if you can handle it. I've done well at local gun shows, . . . but again, you have to pre-guess the customer's desires, . . . and that only comes through experience. And the reason I say, . . . if you can handle it, . . . it will take up both of your weekend days, . . . from about 6 in the morning until 6 or 8 that night, . . . and you WILL have to put up with some people that you would just as soon you never, ever, met in your lifetime.

I sat across a room one Saturday, . . . selling $50 to $100 holsters, . . . fellow on the other side of the room was putting a kydex and leather thing together (it seriously looked like the blanks were cut with a table saw) and selling them for 20 bucks a pop. He had more sales in units, . . . and probably took home more cash, . . . and put out a product I would not have had my name associated with.

I prefer custom work, . . . I have a muzzle-down shoulder holster to make for a young man, . . . with a double mag holder on the other side, . . . and his Glock has a flashlight on it. CHALLENGE, . . . yeah !! I'm also making his fiance a holster for hers, . . . but it will be just a plain vanilla job, . . . little challenge at all.

Start out slow, . . . do a "bang up" job on the work, . . . price them accordingly, . . . you'll do all right. But remember, . . . you will never be able to compete with the trash being sold at Walmart, and even some of the high end gun stores.

Good luck, may God bless,


Edited by Dwight

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Enough said, Dwight gives good straight advise !

however; the fun is there too, pride, fellowship, achievement. Wild Bill46

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Hi, Brett, and welcome. I'm 55 and started messing around with small leather projects about a year ago. Like you, I'm thinking about making some money doing something I enjoy and take pride in. This site is a terrific place to find knowledge and get advice. I'm an archer and karate black belt (Shito Ryu -- traditional style Okinawan te) hoping to perhaps target my projects into those niches. I just made my first back quiver, a kind of graduation from small crafty items to actual leather making. But I don't think I could have done it without this site.


Sounds to me that you have a great advantage as a retired vet. You would most likely have a great rapport with fellow vets and active military and could take advantage of web-based networking directly to them. And I bet that many of them share the same interests in firearms, hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities where your products would be useful. Have you thought about making business cards and working the gun shows (not only setting up your own table with your portfolio and samples, but leaving your cards with gun sellers and knife makers/retailers)? Maybe offer a break in price or additional custom work to customers who buy guns and knives from those particular sellers as a package deal)? And don't forget to set up a mobile-viewable website that shows off your work, so the guy that picks up your card at the gun expo can instantly look at your finery.

As I get more proficient and confident, I intend to not only post biz cards at archery clubs/ranges, and dojos, but also ads on their web sites.

As I learned from catering and photography, you need to sell yourself mostly by word of mouth and personal rapport. Otherwise, most folks tend to shop mainly by price. And you don't want that market segment. Like Dwight said, you can't--and shouldn't--compete with Walmart, Dick's, Cabela's or even Holsters.com, Safariland, Bianchi, etc. On the other hand, you can't price your handmade, custom products out of the market. So you need to do some research as to price points and competition. What you do is an amazing art form, but it's also a business with marketing concerns.

Good luck!

Edited by Capn Cohen

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SASS (Single Action Shooting Society) and Cowboy Action Shooting is a really good place to start. Now, you have folks that will stick to brand names even though they gun leather is mass produced, wet molded. and all looks the same. These folks have more dollars than they do cents . . . .uh, sense.

But then there are those who want the high end gun leather and accessories. There's your target customer. You will need to be able to meet any and all needs of the Shooter as far as Cowboy Action Gear goes. Seems a little mind boggling, but it's a something that can get done.


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