The Vision of Success Champion Magazine is to provide a platform for Success Champ members to highlight their brands, products, and services while inspiring action in fellow members.
Q: What is your story?
Honestly, my “story” is boring. There is nothing exciting to see here… I have been an artist or involved in arts since I could pick up a crayon. Everyone in my family was either creative or worked with their hands. Hard work ethic was drilled into me, and a strong do it yourself attitude. So I was always exposed to craft type things because my dad liked collecting antique tools.
I was blacksmithing stuff when I was 10! They sucked of course, but I was making blades when I was a teen… it wasn’t an everyday thing…being in the shop was a rare treat….the point is – I have a strong (sometimes to a fault) work ethic and an attitude that you can really achieve a great deal with little. That and a strong independent streak.
Anyway… I kinda floated around a bit until I discovered graphic arts and since then I have never really strayed very far from visual arts of some kind – but things that focused on doing things with your hands always held a strong appeal.
My entering the military was one of the least considered, but yet best, decisions I have ever made. I gained a “can-do-make-shit-happen” attitude and a lot more confidence. Many people focus on all the “military aspects” of the army or any other service without seeing the “soft skills” you learn. Things like how to work with others, accept challenges, attitude, the getting shit done type of mentality. So I am an odd sort of dichotomy of touchy-feely creative with a strong “get-things-done-at-all-costs” mentality. I actually made a go of a graphic design and sign-making biz when I was not even old enough to drink..then desert storm happened and that kinda killed things for me, After that, I was a graphic designer and webmaster and then after a combat deployment, I had an opportunity to finish my college degree (I had been doing evenings for years). So I put myself through college fulltime by doing freelance graphic design work (First marriage, but I still had to pay bills, etc) and I took up teaching history and social studies….I did enjoy it, but for various reasons, I lost the passion (or things made that harder to achieve). The real turning point came when I picked up making leather stuff…at first just for a costume party…but then people wanted to pay me …and then I realized I wasn’t getting any younger …and quite a few people start later… In fact, I can honestly say I was influenced to make the jump into business by a meme. Yup! I hate those things for the most part…but it was a post about all the people in their 40s and older who “made it” later in life. So with the support and encouragement of my now-wife, I quit my teaching career of eight years, and went full time …and here I am!
Q: How did you become a Badass?
So to me, a badass is someone who BOLDLY strives to accomplish things in the face of some type of adversity with attitude. The success part is just an even higher measure. You CAN be a badass and fail! Its what you do with that failure. So I like to use the term creative badass (BTW I feel it’s a term people should feel applies to you…like a nickname. Not something you call yourself, but hey we gotta be bold sometimes.) So, besides some of the elements already mentioned (Work ethic, etc) I became a badass by doing my own thing despite having like zero budget. I became a badass by inspiring others. See I have only been doing leather arts for a few years and people think I have been doing it for decades. So I kinda show them that you can accomplish a shit ton of stuff by JUST. FUCKING. DOING IT.
Close your mouth, open your mind and put your hands to work! So, as much as I hate calling myself a badass, I think that’s a big part of what I bring… inspiration and aspiration…and you don’t NEED all those things to start making things happen… it just makes things easier to have them. Its more about a positive attitude being open to advice, and surrounding yourself with good people who will support you, but also won’t put up with your BS and working efficiently for your situation.
Q: What has been your greatest failure?
This is a tough one. I’ll be honest, and maybe a bit gutsy, and say I don’t have one. But part of that is my perception of failure. Failure, to me, has a climax. And, I don’t have that yet. At this point, it’s more that I could be better! If I am gonna say anything it’s that I could have realized sooner where I should be and planned better for it. I am only on year three. I have failed at going harder, perhaps. Being more serious. Yeah, sorry, nothing monumentally inspirational there.
Q: What are your likes and dislikes around common things? Such as music, whether pineapple belongs on your pizza, etc.
Firstly I feel some dislikes are centered on ignorance or inexperience. (Like the pineapple pizza) If you haven’t tried it, you need to shut the fuck up until you do. Or music, I am not a fan of Rap, for a few reasons, but I find the more I listen to things the more I might get it. That being said, I like all flavors of Rock and Roll, I do yoga, have been in theater and arts yet I also think a day at the range would be a good time, too. I love to read when I can and like sci-fi, fantasy, etc. genres, but I will also spend the time when I can and read a 500-page non-fiction book on the constitution. There is NO subject I don’t find interesting at least to a degree. The world is a big massive experience and if you are open to it it can positively impact you (Even the bad shit)
Q: What motivates you to keep moving forward when you face an obstacle?
Passion for what I do. I LOVE creating things. And that passion is the fuel that drives me and the salve that soothes me when shit is going wrong. When shit is going sideways, or it’s just been a long dragged out thing…or, when I am working an all-nighter, I “embrace the suck” – why – because its MINE!! me! I own this shit, so any part of that struggle is still me to make something of it. MY BUSINESS IS ME, so all that hard work and frustration is gonna benefit me. Also, on occasion I go the gratitude route and think of the freedom by biz brings me, the opportunity to do what I love and the fact that no one is shooting at me….lol.:
Q: What do you do for fun?
This is tough because so much of my biz is the stuff that is “fun” for me. I would have to say, that I do enjoy spending time with crazy artists and makers I find in the steampunk and fantasy convention realms.
Q: What do you do and how can you potentially help another person in the group?
I am a genius at making do with very little – so solving problems in that realm among others, social media and visual stuff (I am pretty good at making attractive posts that get engagement), I am also 52…I have a lot of general wisdom in my brain. I GET branding and many of you need to work on that! Thinking creatively to solve problems is another. Too often we are so focused on our brand-specific world view that we forget that there are a lot of things going on that can help you – that exist in other fields that seem to be unrelated. Part of this oddly comes from Steampunk. Part of what steampunk stuff is about is repurposing and thinking of things in a different potential use or way…
Q: Why did you start your business?
I started my business because I wanted to create things, to make people happy with those creations and have the freedom financially to do so at my leisure.
Q: What obstacles have you had to overcome?
The biggest obstacle has been ME. I am the biggest barrier to success. But financial stuff has been a big part of it too. That and dealing with issues of scale. When your “thing” is handmade, there are limitations. And moving that dial from one to two sets of hands is a HUUUUGE point. The solutions are, in part financial. As in money stuff in general. Pricing, right paying clients, affording machinery that will help, and of course actually compensating workers (or paying for time-consuming non-productive services like social media, etc.)
Q: What would you do differently when it comes to how you have moved forward with your business?
Two things — better prepare financially and some sort of actual legit plan. My plan was literally my elevator pitch “Make cool shit that makes people happy” Lol. I mean it was a touch more defined but yeah.
Q: What is your succession plan?
What is that, lol? Honestly. I do not have one. I have no children. I’ll be dead. I won’t care.
Q: What is your favorite money-saving tip?
First rule. You’ve got to spend money to make money it doesn’t work if you have no money at all. So, budget wisely. Consider what can you get the most out of with what you do spend.
Have the fortitude to work hard to work with what you got and the wisdom to know when to pay someone else. Knowledge and info is out there and you can learn how to do almost anything you set your mind to., Especially if you are a solopreneur on a budget (and I used the word budget as if there is one). But sometimes you need to recognize your center genius and efficiency is not doing your taxes or social media. It’s just not efficient.
Q: What is your true WHY for starting your endeavor?
I already touched on this, but I, I really just wanna create cool things. I wanna make art. I want enough money that I don’t have to worry about, but I don’t need a big house or a Lambo…that shit doesn’t make one happy…or certainly doesn’t move me. Money is NEVER the true why…it’s just a tool. And if you focus on the money too much you are just gonna lose your passion and be empty inside. Because, unless perhaps you run a charity… it’s not going to be meaningful. The ultimate expression of a why is wrapped in FEELING and sense of purpose that exists outside of yourself.
Q: What are you going to do when the shit hits the fan?
Again, see above. You fall back on your passion…your why. THAT’S the shit that gets you through the rough spots. That’s what sustains you when its 3 am and shit goes sideways and the project has to ship out in the morning.
Q: What is your 10-year vision for your business and life?
Ummm…not be dead? Part of being an honest badass is being brutally honest… I ain’t got shit for that…my vision game is weak because I have been focused so long on the day-to-day. 10 years? Shit 5 years is even pretty scary to consider. Part of my ideal is that I like what I do…if I am supervising I can’t have fun making the stuff? So I am just as comfortable with the vision of me as the “Picasso” of leather and have folks pay top money to wait 6 months for a piece from me. I don’t want an empire. A small fiefdom of super fans is sufficient. This might be disappointing to some. There is nothing wrong with a small dream that makes you happy versus ambitious ones that make you miserable.
That being said, I think that I have gotten to a place where I can and NEED to start thinking about this.