What It's About
Under the Tuscan sun, a program manager discovers a profitable hobby working with leather.
Words of Wisdom
Can you learn anything on YouTube? Maybe not everything, but it's a great place to start from especially if you aren't able to afford classes or lessons. Use YouTube as a starting block to help you generate some income, then pay for specialized or more complex lessons to help you grow your business.
Ritesh found that, by allowing potential customers to request custom colors, sizes, and designs, that they’d be far more willing to spend a premium on handmade items.
Notes from Chris
Ritesh Shrestha remembers booking the plane tickets to Italy for him and his wife back in 2015. They were especially thrilled to visit the Tuscan hills of Florence. As they explored colorful walkways, wandering from shop to shop, Ritesh noticed something: there was an abundance of leatherworkers selling handmade, premium leather goods. They walked into one shop and were greeted by a man paying careful attention to his product-in-progress. They admired the man’s attention to detail, his precise handiwork, and his patience. Ritesh was hooked. He had been in search of a hobby, and this was it. Upon returning to the U.S., he started watching YouTube videos on how to learn about leatherworking—dozens and dozens of videos. He ordered around $500 worth of tools and supplies, then another $400 of leather. Ritesh then began crafting after work and on weekends. He started by following YouTube tutorials to make simple handbags, which he’d use himself or pass on to his wife. It was challenging, but the pride of making something by hand was motivating. As his skills grew, he started getting requests from friends to make bags for them. Each new piece turned out better than the last. He finally made a handbag that was completely of his own design—and that’s when people really started noticing. Ritesh’s wife would get stopped in public by other women wondering where she had gotten her bag. They saw it as a sign, and a few months later he made a second, improved version of that same bag—and all of a sudden she began getting requests to buy the bag. Quality leather doesn’t come cheap. Ritesh sold that handbag to one of his wife’s friends for $275, which covered the material and some time cost, but didn’t offer a real profit. At that point, he was more surprised than thrilled. He knew he was making a high-quality product, but he assumed there was little to no market for upscale, handmade item—especially with so many factory-produced items available for $20-50. It turned out there were people who wanted that high level of quality and craftsmanship—Ritesh just needed to find them. Random strangers who found his Instagram account and followed weren’t there for inspiring lifestyle images. They were there to see Ritesh’s work—which meant they were already somewhat interested in buying handmade, high-end bags. So between a few new followers on a regular basis, referrals from previous customers, and just using his products out in public, Ritesh was able to stay busy. In July of 2019, Ritesh broke $1,000 in orders in a single month for the first time. He’s looking at around $7,000 of revenue for 2019, and as the numbers climb, so do his sights. He’s now looking to standardize a few of his product designs so that he can start selling them directly on his website and at craft shows without customization. Since he’s made wallets and handbags dozens of times over the years, he knows he can do them quickly, which means he can lower prices slightly without sacrificing a healthy profit margin. But Ritesh isn’t desperate to grow rapidly. In fact, he largely still considers himself a hobbyist. It’s a hobby that brings in money while making him—and his customers—incredibly happy.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE:
- Check out Ritesh's beautiful work at his personal website and follow him on Instagram to see his latest work.
- Craftsman Creates $350,000 Hustle from Handcrafted Leather Products: A leather craftsman starts a successful, multiple six-figure side hustle after being inspired by the tannery he works at for his day job.
- Lifestyle Change Leads Two Brothers to Open Leather Shop: When health issues end a construction career for one of them, two Canadian brothers start an online leather shop selling high-quality goods.
- Shopify Employee Manufactures Handmade Desk Accessories: A couple brings their love of handmade wooden accessories, technology, and design to life with a side hustle manufacturing handmade wooden desk accessories and phone cases.
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