In 1999, while working as an English teacher near Mexico City, Dave discovered he needed a sturdy bag to carry his books. He found a leather shop and asked the owner to make a bag he had designed. He peddled the bags from the back of his car in Mexico and three years later Saddleback Leather was born.
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Time Stamped Show Notes
(click the time stamp to jump directly to that point in the episode.)
- [01:10] – Dave did not intend to go into business, but everyone was asking about his bag and where they could buy it
- [01:30] – Dave is a father of two and has an amazing wife
- [02:06] – Dave’s team sent JLD Saddleback merchandise and he and Kate love it
- [03:01] – One BIG and Unique Value Bomb: Saddleback has a really strong brand
- [03:32] – Branding has to be like you, so you have to make a business like yourself
- [04:25] – Dave came up with the brand by listing the keywords and that describe his bags
- [04:41] – Dave describes the brand as Indiana Jones meets Clint Eastwood
- [05:47] – Worst Entrepreneurial Moment: Everything was going well and Dave could not keep up with the demand. Dave found a business coach who helped him delegate. The problem started when the business coach wanted to become the CEO and business partner
- [06:21] – Dave knew that you should not hire your business coach, as they are only meant to coach you to be able to do things yourself
- [06:42] – The coach was more involved in the business than Dave was
- [06:56] – Dave didn’t learn how to run his own business and was relegated to the branding and designing
- [07:26] – Learn how to run your OWN business
- [07:36] – Later on, Dave hired another business coach that gave him the space to make decisions
- [08:01] – His coach told Dave to ask his staff questions because they know how the business works
- [08:57] – Greatest AH-HA Moment: Dave always makes videos of their products and one time, they hired a full-time filmmaker. The guy does part-time customer service for them now
- [09:22] – Dave made a deal with the guy to shoot for them and a trip to Rwanda was free
- [09:44] – The videos were so well done Dave asked him to be a full-time filmmaker for them
- 10:03 – The guy creates their online content and their viral video, How to Knack Off a Bag
- [10:35] – The video got 500,000 views!
- [10:49] – The video made Dave a real person to his customers
- [11:12] – Since they only sell online, the second best way to engage with customers next to meeting them in person was by having a video
- [11:30] – JLD says you have to be personable for people to trust you
- [12:10] – What are you most FIRED up about today? – “Growing my business through my people”
- [13:53] – The Lightning Round
- What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur? – “Ministry. I was a youth pastor and I thought I had to be paid by a ministry to help other people”
- What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received? – “Help everybody around you to be as successful as they can and then you’ll have everything you’ve ever wanted or dreamed of”
- What’s a personal habit that contributes to your success? – “Reading old literature”
- Share an internet resource, like Evernote, with Fire Nation – notes on my phone
- If you could recommend one book to our listeners, what would it be and why? – Love and Respect
- 14:48 – JLD says to check out The Ziglar Show
- 16:04 – JLD recommends the book Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday
- [17:49] – Be generous now
- 18:17 – Connect with Dave via email
Interviewee: Yes. In 1999 while working as an English near Mexico City or as they in Puerto Rico, Mexico City. Dave discovered he needed a sturdy bag to carry his books. He found a leather shop and asked the owner to make a bag that he had personally designed. He peddled the bags from the back of his in Mexico and three years later, Saddleback Leather was born. Dave, take a minute, fill in some gaps from that in show and give us a little glimpse of your personal life.
Dave: Yeah. I didn’t mean to start a business, but everyone kept asking me about my bag. So, I – they’re like, “Where can I buy one of those bags? I mean four or five times a day. So, I thought, “Hey. Maybe there’s a business here.” And I’d always been entrepreneurial, but never really thought about starting a business. Yeah, got them going and it worked out. I am a father or two. I’ve got the most amazing that a guy could imagine. And I think about 11 different women call her their best friend. She is great. If you’re not married, get married. Just do it. It’s important.
Interviewer: Well, not everybody gets quite as luck as you Dave in the marriage department. In fact, about 50 percent don’t even end up that way for very long. So, let’s not rush into it fire nation, but if you end someone like Dave’s talking about, dive on into it. And real quick side note – before this interview- Dave’s amazing team sent me JLD and here at EO Fire headquarters, some Saddleback Leather gear. And let me tell you, right now, my mouse sits on a leather saddle back mouse pad which I just love. I have a nice little handy wallet, and Katie even got a little throw over the shoulder purse which she kinds of love walking, and showing off as well.
So, this is high quality stuff. People ask about it, so that story Dave told – I’m now getting those questions. I’m like, “Should I start up Saddleback Leather in Puerto Rico because people love it down here.” But it’s just one of those things fire nation, hey let the light bulbs go off. Keep your eyes open, keep your ears open. You never know when that opportunity is going to arise for you, for your business. Now Dave, let’s talk about what you consider today your area of expertise. I mean you’ve grown Saddleback Leather to where it is today. What is your area of expertise within this business?
Dave: It’s branding. So, we have a really strong brand. We’ve been compared to Apple quite a bit. We’re way smaller than Apple, but in the leather bag world we have a really strong brand. We really are blessed with some real good – yeah. Good way of good branding.
Interviewer: What don’t we know? And by we, I mean myself, fire nation, we’re entrepreneurs, we’re small business owners. What don’t we know or maybe understand about branding that we should?
Dave: It has to be like you. I believe that make a business like yourself. And then, people who are a lot like you will buy from you. And all you have to do is find them, especially if you’re designing a product. I would say design something that you personally would buy, something you really like. And then, you’ll find people who have your same tastes. And they’re like, “Man, this is like made for me,” and you go, “Well, yeah kinda.”
Interviewer: Made it for me too. Now, what would you say – if you had to really break it down – is your brands? You said you make it for you. What does that mean for you?
Dave: I’m a little kind of a rougher kind of guy. I was born up in Oregon, hiking boots all the time, that sort of thing. So, what I did is I came up with a brand to kind of just keywords and themes that kind of make up my bag. And I would encourage any entrepreneur to sit and do it. And if you don’t really know, it’ll really help you think through your brand. And so, what I did is ours is like Indiana Jones meets Clint Eastwood. It’s not John Wayne and it’s not Just Bieber. It’s like outside, outdoors, rougher style. Not really Lord of the Rings, but kind of. It’s True Grit, the newer one.
Interviewer: I think True Grit is where we can stop right there. And I think that’s a good vibe, a good brand about who Dave is. And what I want to do next is kind of shift this interview your journey, Dave, as an entrepreneur. I mean you came up with the idea, you made some bags down in Mexico City, you’re selling them out of the back seat of your car, and your trunk. And then, here we are Saddleback Leather, the Apple of leather. And it’s awesome, it’s an exciting story. But it wasn’t this rocket ship to the moon. So, take us to what you actually consider your worst entrepreneurial moment to date. And Dave, tell us that story.
Dave: Everything was going really well, I couldn’t keep up with demand. The bags were selling for $700 on eBay. And I thought, “Wow! These are really going.” But it all depended on me, the whole entire business. And so, I found a business coach and he helped me to start delegating. He helped me to understand that sort of thing. The tough part came when he wanted to be my CEO and my business partner. And what I found – and looking up these sorts of things, you never hire a business coach. A business coach is there to coach to become your own coach. They’re there for a year, year and a half, two years, or sometimes longer. But to coach you to do it yourself.
And so, what I did is I brought him. And then, I kind of delegated everything out to him and I didn’t get involved in the business. And man, that took a south turn. That was really a bad thing and I got out of the business. And I just did my designing, and my branding, and the writing, and the business, and I didn’t ever learn how to run my own business. And that was super painful.
Interviewer: Pain is part of the journey. So Dave, welcome to the club my friend. It won’t be the last time I’m sure. It wasn’t the first time either. But what do you want to make sure our listeners get from that story? What’s the lessons as we as entrepreneurs can really absorb and walk away with?
Dave: Learn how to run your own business. And so, learn how to deal with people. I hired – later on – I hired another business coach and I would ask him, “Larry man, what do I do? What do I do? How do I do this?” And he’d go, “Man, that’s a great question. What do you think you should do?” And the standard business coach answer, and I would give him an answer, and he’s like, “Man Dave, you’re so – that’s really great thinking.” So, as you’re running – he was teaching me how to run a business. And he said the people within your business; they know how to run the ship, maybe better than you do. And you just have to get them to do it. So, ask them questions.
Interviewer: Ask questions fire nation. You have to be curious, come from a place of curiosity, and know what you know, and crush that. Be great at what you’re great, and then find people who are great where your weaknesses are. That’s how you can scale, and thrive, and grow, and – by the way – just be happier. So, you can spend time in what you enjoy doing, what you’re good at, and not doing things that you don’t enjoy doing.
And Dave, that just kind of shifts and segue us into another story that I want you to share with fire nation. This being one of your greatest ideas to date. One of those, “Ah ha,” moments. Of course, the idea for Saddleback Leather was that great idea and maybe that’s the story you’re going to tell us. I mean this your story, your call. But it can be of any of your great ideas and kind of walk us through how that idea came to be and how you turned into a success.
Dave: So around 2012, we took a trip – we’ve always done video for different things – a crocodile pulling on one of my brief cases, or shark diving with one of the brief cases, that sort of thing. But I decided to bring on a full-time film maker and he was a guy doing part time customer service for us. I said, “Joe, why don’t you come to Rwanda with us?” And he said, “Yeah, I’d love to.” I said, “Do some filming of this stuff,” and he goes, “Yeah, okay.” I said, “If you do filming for us for the whole trip – and we took employees.”
I said, “I’ll pay for your whole trip.” And he goes, “Alright, deal.” So, he did some videos of us of doing some product demo videos in Rwanda. And it was so popular, they were so well done. I thought, “Joe, you’re coming on full time.” So, he came on full time, and he said, “What am I going to do,” and I said, “You’re going to make films.” So, he has really developed our whole presentation online. So, we have incredible content. We ended up doing 222 videos before we had a real –
Dave: Big hit which was how to knock off a bag. And that one got us on NPR, it got us interviews everywhere, I was explaining to people how to make one of my bags on the cheap. And I showed them all the stuff we do, but you don’t need to do that stuff. And man, it’s gotten us 500,000 views for a 12-minute video.
Interviewer: And most people are like, “Okay, that’s cool. But I don’t want to make my own bag, so I’m going to buy yours.”
Dave: Right, right, right. But here’s the thing – all this video did – and we have a lot of it. What we did is it made me into a real person and –
Dave: And I’m not Saddleback Leather Corp. I’m a guy who has a leather bag business and his name’s Dave. And he’s got a wife and kids.
Interviewer: Love that.
Dave: And it’s become a very personable thing. And so that they start trusting you. And since we only sell online, it’s hard for people to trust. But when they meet you, they trust you. But if they don’t meet, second best thing is a video. So, that’s about our biggest, best success was bringing on a full-time film maker to make films and see what happens.
Interviewer: Fire nation people of people. And if you want your audience to know, like, and trust you – you have to be personable. You have to create the videos and the podcasts. I mean right now, I’m in your ear bud. You’re going for a run right now, you’re driving in your car, you’re folding your laundry, you’re walking your dog. Whatever you’re doing this is an intimate form of connection right here. I’m in your ear bud. Dave’s in your ear bud. And same thing with the video, you’re looking in the person’s face.
I mean you might not be one and one interacting with them, but you’re seeing the person. And how they are, and who they are, and that’s critical. So, bring that to your business. And Dave, today, what are you most fired up about? What are you really excited about right now?
Dave: I’m really excited about growing my business through my people. I mean it’s been a long process, but my coach – he said – he’s a guy in his 60s, been doing this forever, coaching. He said, “Dave, ask questions.” And so, he said, for example, “By when?” Man, that’s my favorite question. And he said, “Your business will grow at the speed at which you ask – you make agreements with people.”
So, someone will say – I’ll say, “Hey, what do you think we could do here?” And they’ll give me their idea and I’ll say, “Man, that’s great. By when do you think we can have that?” And they go, “Yeah, I don’t know. I’ll get back to you.” And I go, “Well, okay. By when can you get back to me? And when can you give me a date?” And they go, “Okay, I’ll make some calls. I’ll get back to you on Wednesday.” I go, “Great, talk to you Wednesday.”
Interviewer: And then what I do is I go into Google calendar and send them an invite to call me on Wednesday.
Dave: But man, so I’m finding a lot of joy in not doing it all myself –
Dave: But asking people – and they’re usually – I’ve surrounded myself with super smart people. And man, they can do it way better than me. So –
Interviewer: Way better.
Dave: Way better. So, I’m just asking them when? And how does that work? And what do you think? And why do you think that? And then, I ask by when again. So, it works out pretty good.
Interviewer: Fire nation, if you think Dave’s been dropping value bombs. Well, number you’re right, he has. And number two, they’re not stopping cause the lightning round’s coming right after we thank our sponsors. Dave, are you ready to rock the lightning rounds?
Dave: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: What was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Dave: You know this is going to kind of sound weird, but ministry. I was a youth pastor and I thought that in order to help people and care for people, I actually had to be paid by a church or some sort of ministry. And really, my business it’s super cool. We’re helping a lot of people.
Interviewer: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Dave: I sat down with Zig Ziglar once for lunch and he said, “Dave, help everybody around you to be as successful as they can. And then you’ll have everything you ever wanted or dreamed of.”
Interviewer: I love that. I’ve actually become very close with Tom Ziglar. Zig’s son and doing a great job carrying on that torch. And fire nation, check out the Ziglar show. I’ve been on there a few times, they’re just great, great people over there. And that’s a great, great piece of advice. Dave, what’s a personal habit that contributes to your success?
Dave: I don’t know about habit, but I would say reading old literature. So, I’m reading – I just finished reading a bunch of stoic philosophy –
Dave: I read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, Ralph Waldo Emerson. A lot of these guys – and I’m reading through the Harvard Classics. It’s a 51-volume set of the greatest works of all time up til about 1870.
Dave: And I don’t understand a lot of it.
Interviewer: That’s okay.
Dave: But I tell you what, it’s helping my vocabulary, it’s getting me thinking different, it’s getting me to focus, and concentrate –
Interviewer: Well, it’s making you learn words that nobody uses anymore. So, I don’t know if that’s of any help.
Dave: Seriously. It’s really changing me. It’s fantastic.
Interviewer: Well I will say this, I’m really getting into stoicism myself and reading those old books is great. But there are a couple new books out that I’d recommend when you have the time. Obstacle is the Way and Ego is the Enemy. And those are both written by Ryan Holiday, who’s in his mid-30s now. But he’s a learner of stoicism for most of his life and he just bring a lot of what you can learn from – way back in the Roman days to present time. And it’s really cool how he kind of translates that into the 21st century. Now Dave, can you share an internet resource like Evernote with fire nation?
Dave: What I found is the easiest, the best is notes on my phone. I click on notes, and then I just type in notes. And I just save the notes and when I get back, I email myself those notes, or I look them up, or I buy the book. But notes is just as easy as it gets, notes.
Interviewer: If you could recommend one book, what would it be and why?
Dave: I would recommend Love and Respect. It changed my marriage. We were going to through marriage counseling until we read this book. And it completely changed our lives and it’s easily transferrable into business. So, I – women need love, men need respect. And so, when I’m dealing with women, I act in a loving way cause I know what loving looks like. And when I’m interacting with men, I act in a respectful way. And it has changed everything.
Interviewer: Dave, let’s end today on fire with you giving us a parting piece of guidance. The best way we can connect with you and then we’ll say goodbye.
Dave: I would say be generous and be generous once you have extra money. Be generous – or once you have extra time – be generous now. So, don’t go, “Hey, I’ll be generous and I’ll help fund, or support, or whatever things later.” Be generous now in your business, not once you have extra money. That’s huge.
Interviewer: And how can we connect with you?
Dave: So, you can connect with me Dave@SaddlebackLeather.com.
Interviewer: Fire nation you’re the average of the five people that you spend the most time with and you’ve been hanging out DM and JLD today. So, keep up the heat and head over to EOfire.com. Just type Dave or David in the search bar. His show and this page will pop up with everything that we’ve been talking about today. These are the best show notes in the biz. Timestamps, links galore and of course shoot Dave an email if you just want to thank him or ask him question. I mean when he drops his email, take advantage of it fire nation. Dave@SaddlebackLeather.com. And Dave, thank you for sharing your journey with fire nation today. For that brother, we salute you and we’ll get you on the flipside.
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