Shop Etsy

Featured Shop: Holtz Leather Co.

Nov 27, 2017

by Aleksa Brown

With upwards of 16,000 sales, a rapidly growing team of employees, and a three-story HQ featuring a brand-new brick-and-mortar shop, the husband-and-wife duo behind Holtz Leather Co. have built a wildly successful empire out of making personalized leather goods together. But business and life haven’t always been easy for these Huntsville, Alabama natives. In fact, their leather shop was born out of the 2008 recession—which turned Rick and Coleen’s world upside-down. “We lost our house, lost our car, and went through some really humbling times a family,” Rick says. “We have six kids, and when we hit rock bottom, there wasn’t anyone that could house us all, so we were talking about splitting up the family.”

That’s when Coleen got the idea to start a leather business on Etsy—a completely new endeavor that appealed to Rick’s entrepreneurial spirit. “One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we were producing simple leather goods,” he says. “Our first product was a keychain with a rivet. I had no confidence in sewing, but we read a lot of old books on leathercraft and leather making, and watched lot of YouTube videos.” What followed was a full-blown success story based on never giving up.

Read on for more from Rick on creating custom products, staying inspired, and what it’s like working with his highschool sweetheart—then shop the collection.

Let’s start at the beginning. How​ ​did​ ​you​ ​and​ ​Coleen​ ​meet?

We met at church. I was 6 and she was 5, but I was a military brat, so I moved away for a few years. I moved back to Huntsville when I was 13. I remember the first Sunday we were back, I saw Coleen walk across the front of the church. In that moment, I fell in love with her. I had to work really hard to get her attention, but I did, and about five years later we were married. We’re best friends still to this day.

At​ ​what​ ​point along the way​ ​did​ ​you​ ​decide​ ​to​ ​start​ ​a​ ​business?

I’ve always had business ideas since I was 10 years old mowing yards. When I graduated high school, I went to college on a football scholarship, and then in our early 20s, Coleen and I started an embroidery business. After that, we stumbled upon a laptop parts business, where we would buy broken laptop computers, strip them down, and sell all the component pieces. We did that for five or six years with great success.

When​ ​did​ ​you​ ​get​ ​into​ ​leatherworking?

We experienced the crash of ‘08 and really lost everything. Around that time, Coleen stumbled on some things on Etsy that were selling really well. Up until that point, we had always kind of pedaled other people’s products, but we knew in our hearts that we always wanted to be makers. That was really our desire—we wanted a business that we could do together.

How​ ​did​ ​you​ ​learn​ ​leathercraft?

We taught ourselves everything, just trying to be very disciplined. We started with that leather keychain and when we listed it on Etsy, it started selling. I think our first sale was a set of six that we sold as groomsmen gifts. It kind of blossomed from there, and just really exploded with growth.

We’ve been doing it now for about three years, and we still have a lot to learn. We’re always learning, and I think that’s part of business. You always have to be in the mindset of being a learner, because if you ever get to the point where you think you know it all, you’re real quick to be humbled.

How​ ​have​ ​you​ ​gone​ ​about​ ​growing​ ​your​ ​product​ ​line?​ ​What​ ​does​ ​that​ ​process​ ​look​ ​like for​ ​you?

When we create a new product, it often goes through 15 or 20 prototypes before we think: This is exactly what we would be happy to carry, or happy to give to a friend or family member—something we’d be proud of. That’s the way we look at it.

It took us forever to agree on zippers, actually, because zippers always break. When we created our shave bag, we actually had the zipper custom made to our specifications. From there, we tried it out and found that the water was absorbing into the leather, so we ended up buying local beeswax and melting it down to treat the leather. After that, you could literally pour water
right into the bottom of the bag and there’s no damage to the leather. That’s just one example of prototyping, and how we teach ourselves things as we go along. It’s a lot of trial and error. It’s all about persistence and not giving up.

How​ ​do​ ​you​ ​source​ ​your​ ​materials?

We make everything here in the states, all the way down to our leather. There’s only a handful of tanneries left in the US, but we source all of our materials from them, and that’s a big deal to us. The type of leather we use is different, too. A lot of leather out there is very uniform. With ours, we try to incorporate the wrinkles, scars, brand marks, and those types of things so it’s a unique product. It’s not a wallet you’re going to find at any store. It’s going to be a wallet that actually has life in it, which is really neat.

Can​ ​you​ ​tell​ ​me​ ​more​ ​about​ ​the​ ​custom​ ​designs​ ​you​ ​offer?

All of our products can be personalized with initials or names. Our most popular custom item right now is our custom logo hat. We had this huge bin of scrap leather that we didn’t know what to do with, so we thought, Why don’t we try and see if we can make a leather patch out of this? Then we thought about burning somebody’s logo on it and stitching it to a hat. Since we added it to our line, we’ve seen explosive growth with it.

Where​ ​do​ ​you​ ​work?

We have a really cool space here in Huntsville. It’s a turn-of-the-century building that was actually a commissary for a local mill, so it has this deep, rich history. A friend of mine saw the potential, purchased the building, gutted it, and started restoring it to era.

It’s three floors, so we have our marketing offices on the top floor, and then the second floor is where we do all of our production. Our retail shop—which we just opened on Black Friday—is down on the bottom floor. This is our first retail operation, and we’re so excited because we have an amazing group of people that work with us between both businesses.

You’re​ ​a​ ​husband​ ​and​ ​wife​ ​team.​ ​What’s​ ​it​ ​like​ ​to​ ​work​ ​with​ ​your​ ​partner?

I think we complement each other really well—I tend to shoot from the hip and ask questions later, and Coleen’s really good about saying, Hey have you considered this? She has really great ideas. We build off of each other and it kind of goes from there. It’s fun—we love it.

With everything going on, how​ ​do​ ​you​ ​stay​ ​creative?

I think creative juices flow from just looking around. Take our personalized belt, for example. A belt is not an original idea, but putting a message inside the belt is different. We’re taking what’s out there and making it more unique.

Follow Holtz Leather Co. on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

Photographs courtesy of Holtz Leather Co.

Shop Holtz Leather Co.

Personalized Groomsmen Gift Double Sleeve Mens Leather Front Pocket Wallet Gifts for Men, Wedding Party Gift Graduation Gift - The Bradford
Personalized Groomsmen Gift Double Sleeve Mens Leather Front Pocket Wallet Gifts for Men, Wedding Party Gift Graduation Gift - The Bradford
HoltzLeather
$35.00 USD
No. 3 Babe Ruth Personalized Groomsmen Gifts Leather Front Pocket Wallet Groomsmen Flap Wallet, Credit Card Wallet, Groomsmen Gifts
No. 3 Babe Ruth Personalized Groomsmen Gifts Leather Front Pocket Wallet Groomsmen Flap Wallet, Credit Card Wallet, Groomsmen Gifts
HoltzLeather
$36.00 USD
Personalized Graduation Gift Leather Pocket Journal Cover Field Notes or Moleskine with Pencil Journal Case Sleeve Gifts - The Surveyor
Personalized Graduation Gift Leather Pocket Journal Cover Field Notes or Moleskine with Pencil Journal Case Sleeve Gifts - The Surveyor
HoltzLeather
$60.00 USD
The Vanderbilt Fine Leather Portfolio Notebook Padfolio Groomsmen Gift Groomsman gifts bridal party gift  American Made
The Vanderbilt Fine Leather Portfolio Notebook Padfolio Groomsmen Gift Groomsman gifts bridal party gift American Made
HoltzLeather
$114.00 USD
Personalized Fine Leather Tote Bag in Tan - Mother's Day  Gift for Her, Gift for Wife, Gift for Mom, Gift for Daughter - The Ashley Tote
Personalized Fine Leather Tote Bag in Tan - Mother's Day Gift for Her, Gift for Wife, Gift for Mom, Gift for Daughter - The Ashley Tote
HoltzLeather
$250.00 USD
The Rocket City for 30 oz Yeti Personalized Leather Drink Cooler Wrap with Handle in Tan for YETI Rambler Tumbler Tumblers - Yeti Handle
The Rocket City for 30 oz Yeti Personalized Leather Drink Cooler Wrap with Handle in Tan for YETI Rambler Tumbler Tumblers - Yeti Handle
HoltzLeather
$29.99 USD
Personalized Leather Wine Tote - The Muscadine Fine Leather Wine Tote Wine Bottle Carrier Bag With Bottle Stopper - Gift for Wine Lover
Personalized Leather Wine Tote - The Muscadine Fine Leather Wine Tote Wine Bottle Carrier Bag With Bottle Stopper - Gift for Wine Lover
HoltzLeather
$150.00 USD
The Charleston Personalized Fine Leather Triple Sleeve Front Pocket Wallet, Small Billfold Wallets, Card Holder Wallet, Credit Card Wallet
The Charleston Personalized Fine Leather Triple Sleeve Front Pocket Wallet, Small Billfold Wallets, Card Holder Wallet, Credit Card Wallet
HoltzLeather
$35.00 USD
Custom Logo Leather Patch Trucker Style Hat Hats Richardson 112 Personalized Patch Corporate Gifts Company Gifts Gifts for Clients
Custom Logo Leather Patch Trucker Style Hat Hats Richardson 112 Personalized Patch Corporate Gifts Company Gifts Gifts for Clients
HoltzLeather
$30.00 USD
The Adelaide Rough And Ready American Bison Leather Pillow, Sofa pillows, handmade in USA, Rustic, wedding gift, house warming gifts
The Adelaide Rough And Ready American Bison Leather Pillow, Sofa pillows, handmade in USA, Rustic, wedding gift, house warming gifts
HoltzLeather
$105.00 USD
PERSONALIZED Groomsmen Gifts Leather Keychain Key Fob Ring Keyring belt clip keychain Graduation Gift Wedding Party gifts - The Henry
PERSONALIZED Groomsmen Gifts Leather Keychain Key Fob Ring Keyring belt clip keychain Graduation Gift Wedding Party gifts - The Henry
HoltzLeather
$19.00 USD
Custom Logo Leather Patch Trucker Style Hat Hats Richardson 112 Personalized Patch Corporate Gifts Company Gifts Gifts for Clients
Custom Logo Leather Patch Trucker Style Hat Hats Richardson 112 Personalized Patch Corporate Gifts Company Gifts Gifts for Clients
HoltzLeather
$30.00 USD

42 comments

Sign in to add your own