Matt Haddock, Founder of Woods Hollow Leather Co., is a self-taught leather worker with an entrepreneurial spirit. Inspired by the idea of creating a high-quality leather briefcase after his mass-produced bag had ripped, Matt initially dove into leather making as a hobby, but quickly it became an obsession.
“I knew absolutely nothing about leather,” he admits. “But once my curiosity was piqued, I wanted to know everything about it.”
After his bag tore, Matt thought: “Maybe I can make one myself?” After many hours of reading articles, forums, and watching many YouTube videos, he bought the tools and slowly built his skillset.
“I’ve always enjoyed hands-on projects that inspire creative design elements” he says. Leather crafting unleashed a “whole new kind of creative,” he explains.
Matt began creating belts and wallets on nights and weekends around his day job—soon friends and family became interested. Around this time, he was becoming more intrigued with the idea of selling more of his items.
“It’s so different than my standard office job,” he notes. “It was a nice break from the computer screens. No bosses or managers. Just me, my tools, and a blank slate.”
STARTUP MENTORSHIP EXPERIENCE
Matt launched his startup and started selling in the fall of 2015. Through word-of-mouth, he found out about the Valley Venture Mentors, a Springfield, MA-based entrepreneurial mentorship program. Woods Hollow Leather was one of 12 companies selected to participate in the six-month startup accelerator program.
“The mentorship program was very helpful. The mentors and attendees really help you to fine tune many details about running your business,” explains Matt.
“It helped me focus and align my vision, branding, and target market. There were mentors who asked important questions as to what you are doing and why,” recalls Matt.
“The mentoring support also helped give me access to a network of contacts with actual experience in the marketplace and provided validation every step of the way,” he adds.
Matt says what makes his company truly unique is the quality of the products. “Everything is handmade right here in Connecticut using some of the finest leather suppliers in the U.S.”
He adds, “Right away people can see and feel the quality of the material. The motivating factor for me is when every customer picks up an item—and it never fails—they take a big inhale of that ever-amazing fresh leather scent. I love that.”
Going in, Matt didn’t know much about retail marketing. However, he has a background doing cold-calling-type door-to-door sales for insurance. “I am comfortable going into stores,” he notes. “It is such a different selling dynamic from insurance, it was a fun change of pace to talk to those first few store owners!”
Woods Hollow Leather is slowly building a customer base. Matt has been working on building an audience through word-of-mouth and social media, mixed with a few wholesale accounts. His products have been featured in stores in Simsbury, CT; Northampton, MA; and Westchester, NY.
“One market I really enjoy working in is the wedding market,” says Matt. “I like working with a bride or groom to create customized wedding gifts. We can monogram initials, names, or even get a custom logo stamp to emboss onto your piece,” he explains.
In the future, Matt hopes to collaborate and partner with other brands or accessories. “We are currently working with a few companies to create unique branded marketing items. Why spent thousands of dollars on the typical cheap pens, keychains, and chip clips? Everyone does that. We can help companies be different and stand out from the crowd.”
Matt is looking forward to continued growth this year by increasing his online presence and using social media to extend his reach. “The longer I continue my craft, the better my work becomes. I am continuously creating new product offerings.”
When asked to characterize his life as an entrepreneur in one word, Matt’s response is, “Creativity.” He adds, “The ability to take something and make it completely yours is something you don’t find in many current work cultures.”
Woods Hollow Leather is offering a special 25% off discount for the Innovation Destination Hartford community. Use online code INNOVATE25 at checkout.