They say it takes a village to raise a child and the same could be said about delivering a great product to market. In our case, that product is a revolutionary handmade curved leather belt and we can tell you it takes a virtual village and more to bring that baby to market. This past weekend we were reflecting on all the many people who’ve lent their talent, skill, and time to this endeavor and how grateful we are that they did. So, just what does it take to bring a new consumer product like this to market?
The Idea: The World's Best Handmade Leather Belt Should Be Curved
Like all new products, we identified an unmet need and had an idea on how to fill it. In our case, that need was the result of another creation. My co-founder (and wife), Stephanie Boyles, is a life-long lover of all things equestrian. After leaving a successful career in tech and telecom, she wanted to combine her business skills with her passion for riding horses. She decided to convert the dressage rider’s bible, 101 Dressage Exercises For Horse And Rider – by Jec Ballou, into an easy to follow and carry app on your phone. This then begged the question, “how do I carry my $500+ smartphone to the very phone unfriendly barn and also once I’m up on the horse?” Stephanie solved this problem with our first design, a belt that is curved to shape like your body with a holster that neatly fits your smartphone.
The Production: Who Makes Leather Belts?
Of course, there’s a long way to travel to get from the idea to the product you see above. For example, where in the world does one even buy leather and who knows how to cut and sew it into a curved leather belt? Thank God for the internet! We soon zeroed in on Leon, Mexico as the center of all leather production in the western hemisphere. From there we simply started emailing and calling to find an initial point of contact into the leather world.
We eventually found a fantastic factory that would help us turn our idea into a finished product. It’s where we met Leticia and Jerry who would turn us onto Candido, Miguel, and Dee, and through them many of the artisans, tanneries, hardware manufacturers and cut and sew business partners we work with today. Without these human connections, we’d still just be an idea wondering how to become a reality.
We had to choose leather (hint: there are thousands of colors, thicknesses, and textures to choose from) that would be perfect for our belt application. We also had to find just the right buckle to pair with our belt and then we had to find the cut and sew shop to, well, cut and sew and put it all together.
Protect and Promote: How To Patent Product
While all that product production was underway, we were also pursuing a design patent for our unique curved shape. The curved shape of our handmade leather belts is a critical feature as it distinguishes our belt from any others and the curve eliminates “gapping” in the back and gives you a more comfortable feel and slimming look. After multiple re-writes and with the help of yet another new resource, a patent attorney, we were able to secure our design patent and protect our product from knockoffs.
Marketing Our New Handmade Leather Belt
Equally important was a plan for communicating the benefits of our unique design and the high quality materials and craftsmanship we use in production. We developed a tag line, “feel the embrace,” and we designed a logo that we believe conveys the image of an embrace.
We found a wonderful “web guy” named Michael who worked with us to craft our initial web site, email marketing campaigns, and other online strategies. We are so thankful for his involvement and still work with Michael today.
Developing Your Sales Strategy
Our selling strategy is two pronged:
- we sell direct to retail boutiques,
- we sell online direct to retail customers.
Since we don’t have a ton of money to pour into a large online marketing and advertising campaign, we decided to sell direct to retail boutiques where we and boutique owners could make a little money and customers could learn about our brand. When we say direct, we mean direct. Stephanie and I travel one to two weeks per month calling on existing and new boutiques. It’s taken some time (really over 10 years) to build up our clientele but you can now find Embrazio leather accessories in over 300 boutiques in the US, Canada, and Australia.
We build our online sales via a combination of email marketing, facebook posts and ads, Instagram posts, pinterest posts, and Google ads. To be honest, the only online method that’s consistently provided good returns is our email advertising. Right now, we’re focusing on building up our SEO (search engine optimization) scores via various techniques including writing articles like this one.
Post Sales ServiceFinally, if you’re still thinking about creating a new product after reading this far, you’ve got to remember and be able to provide great customer service. Customers are unbelievably savvy and demanding these days and they set a high bar for brands they’ll continue buying from in the future. We respond almost instantly (unless we’re traveling) to customer inquiries and issues, we ship almost instantly, and we work hard to follow-up with customers to ensure they had a wonderful experience with us, the product, and the process. So far, we’ve gotten excellent reviews as a result.
Don’t Forget to Have Fun
All in all, founding and building Embrazio has been fun and rewarding. Just today, a customer told us our belt is the best they’ve ever had and it’s the only belt they wear every day. We love hearing those kinds of unsolicited comments and they really keep us focused on doing the best we can every day. We hope this little recap of our experience has encouraged you to launch off on one of your own and, until then, if you happen to need a belt … come “feel the embrace”