What does it mean to stand for something? It means you believe in a solid set of core values, ethics and beliefs as a contributing member of society — for profit or otherwise.
When I started Duvall Leatherwork at 25 years old, in 2005, I didn’t know that I even possessed core traits.
Perseverance as a craftsman taught me the importance of establishing values, but none of that really mattered until I hung up my craftsman’s apron. I needed to build a company of artisans eager to learn the skills I spent more than 25 years developing.
And they also needed a code to follow that goes beyond the rules of good craftsmanship.
These values make the foundation for excellent leather goods. Without them, this company could never create the personal accessories that you rely on every day. I’m passionate about our values because they’re what led me to build this company in the first place.
For you, the end user, you can feel better and more confident in our products because these values go into every piece. This is passionate leather craft fueled by a foundation of dedicated customer service.
An obsession with leather craft, from a young age
Let’s start at the beginning. It’s 1990. I’m 12 years old, growing up in South Central Pennsylvania. My family took their one and only trip to Arizona to visit my grandparents and extended family.
My entire life, I’ve had this deep interest in history, militaria and Native American crafts. To travel anywhere exhilarated my 12 year old brain, so a cross-country trip was pure ecstasy. I didn’t know it then, but this trip turned out to be the most consequential excursion of my life.
While in Arizona, I found my father’s 1960s-era leatherworking tools, and my imagination went into overdrive. For my father, they were essentially boyhood toys, but I begged to have them until he boxed them up. We brought them home.
I brought home embossing tools, leather carving tools and kits that my father had never finished. An endless amount of summer fun! This was all 25 years before social media. At that point, leather crafts — or crafts of any kind for — were not cool. I kept at it anyway.
To be honest, I learned no real methods or techniques, but I got familiar with the tools. I worked the leather in my hands and learned how it folds, how it twists and how it wears.
Toward the end of high school, a friend and I began to get serious about leather work. His father was a professional saddler, working exclusively with English riding saddles. He taught us a host of unique skills that changed my life and outlook on leatherworking.
In the following years, I left home and began a journey of craftsmanship that turned into more than a trade or even a career — it became my lifestyle.
I spent time with the right people who inspired me to create, but there was also the aspect of entrepreneurship. From 2005 to 2012, I taught myself the basics of running a business from end to end. I brought the creative inspiration. I was the chief craftsman, salesman, website developer, production manager and accountant.
I’ll be honest: it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
While all my friends and family started lives, bought houses, had babies, found great jobs with benefits, I lived in poverty. I worked seven days a week without success. I felt embarrassed, and I struggled to advance. The inspired entrepreneur has to get comfortable with feeling hopeless, and stay the course toward their goals in spite of it.
After a decade, I was still working day-to-day, doing a custom job or filling an order to pay for my supper. My disposition was always just angry. For some reason, my work ethic was always, “I’m an amazing craftsman, but I have to keep my prices low, and I have to do everything in my business myself.”
Change had to happen, but how? I mastered my craft, the envy of business competitors. I had shining world class customer service. I never missed an order delivery date, but I just couldn’t change this pattern of self-employment poverty.
Change started when I began developing artisans
It all began to change when I started hiring employees and developing them into strong craftspeople. The work became enjoyable again, the products became amazing, and things just flowed like never before, including sales.
The Duvall Leatherwork brand grew stronger with each new artisan I brought into the fold. My dream of becoming a successful craftsman and business owner had finally started to come true. What finally occurred was that while I had been so laser focused on being a craftsman, I had overlooked my core values — the tenets I had developed with every hour in the shop.
Establishing core values never dawned on me until I read the book “The Law of Success” by Napoleon Hill. In the book, he talks about the importance of identifying your top core values and identifying your purpose in life.
What a profound idea — identifying what you stand for and living your life by these words. The spark was like lightning. I knew that in order to succeed, my whole team had to understand my core values.
My Personal Core Values (for life, and by extension leather craft)
- Imagination: Ideas are the magic that give us all hope, and hope pushes for a better tomorrow.
- Creativity: The only thing that moves our society forward is creativity.
- Discipline: Do your job, and get that job done. Never give up.
- Leadership: Be strong, be decisive, take risks and bring out the best in people.
- Intelligence: Thought is stronger than action, but action is more productive than thought.
Duvall Leatherwork is not just Nick Duvall. It’s a team of hard-working, dedicated craftspeople, who each have space to excel at the craft they call a career. Whether they run a sewing machine, cut leather, manage team members, make new products, or crunch numbers, each person has the ability to improve my top five qualities to make Duvall Leatherwork a world-class, quality-driven company.
Because I have a clear purpose in life, I can focus on making a great work environment for my team, which leads to creating wonderful products for people around the world to enjoy.
What all this means for our leather goods and you
When you see and feel the quality of our products, you see how this is more than just business or retail. These are products, made by real people, that literally change the way you live and think about yourself.
When you see and feel how the design makes your life better, when you hold quality leather in your hands, each piece comes with the history of creativity wrought by determination toward quality and style.
Duvall Leatherwork is in pursuit of something greater, something more human, something exceptional.