Glad to have you with us for another insightful instalment of ‘The Brands…’ edition of the 10@10.
Tonight’s post is a little different as we delve back into the world of the start-up. It’s been a while since we last did a new brand so tonight we thought we’d break that streak and feature @smithsleatherbalm and boy is it worth it!
It’s normally the case with something just starting from the ground up that it’s harder to find the time to adhere to outside requests BUT Shane from Smith’s has been really generous with his time and we’re thankful for that, as the write-up and product are second-to-none.
The story of how Smith’s got to this stage is a really great one and with CCSC being in the green stages too these start-up blogs seem to resonate EVEN STRONGER with us, than before. So let’s find out about Smith’s Leather Balm, shall we? Yes, let’s…
MEET THE BRAND BEHIND THE MENSWEAR
NAME: Shane Smith
POSITION: Founder / Maker
BRAND: Smith’s Leather Balm
LOCATION: York, Maine – United States
SIZE OF TEAM: Just me and the wife (Mrs. Smith), that’s it
SPECIALITY/COMPANY FOCUS: Boots, Shoes and Leather Goods
1. Straight forward, please tell us, how did your company Smith’s Leather Balm start out? What’s the story? How and why does this sort of journey begin?
It kind of started on accident. I was cleaning my boots one day with an old jar of leather grease. I was applying it by hand- really massaging it into the leather. My wife saw that I was covered in this oil-based slime and she was like “Stop! Those chemicals are going into your body.” She told me “Shane, I can make something better- that’s safer on your skin.” So, she did.
She melted some beeswax and cocoa butter on our stovetop and put it in a tin. When it cooled down, I put it on my boots and it worked great. Also, it left my hands feeling pretty incredible. I didn’t even have to wash my hands after. So, yeah, that’s how it all started.
2. Tell us. What does a day in the life of yourself look like? What’s your daily work routine?
Our routine is pretty crazy right now because we work from home and we do everything by hand. We get up early to fill orders. Then I drive to the Post Office to ship yesterday’s orders. After the Post Office I check in at my regular 9-5 for the day. At night we spend time as a family. Then we put the kids to bed, convert our small kitchen to a workshop and make leather balm. We generally finish up around midnight. It makes for a long day but it’s been a lot of fun.
3. What do you see as being your signature item? The garment to take you forward?
Well, this is an easy one for us because we only have one product (laughing). We just have the one formula, one size, one color, etc. You know- some companies have a boot cleaner, boot conditioner, boot wax, boot salve, boot shine. I’ve never understood that. You need like 10 different products just to clean your boots; Formula #4 and Formula #9. I never knew which one to buy. So, our model is pretty simple- if you ordered a tin of Smith’s – you got the stuff.
4. What’s your personal favourite garment when it comes to the items you manufacture?
(Laughing) So, yeah- right now it’s just the one thing- our leather balm. Friends tell me we should make a brush or a rag with our logo on it- I hate that idea. For starters, a rag absorbs 90 percent of the product- and where do you store a greasy rag when you’re done? You know? That’s the entire reason we designed an all-natural recipe- so you could apply it by hand. No rag.
The brands I admire most do one thing- and they do that one thing at the highest possible level. That’s what we’re trying to do. Our focus is making the best leather balm we can, and that’s it.
5. What are your thoughts on the rise of Instagram fashion and the chaps that post their clothing on there to help spread the word of their fave brands?
So, when I first saw the title “Brand Influencer” I had no idea what it meant (laughing.) Sure, these guys look great- but I always wondered- are they for real? Are they wearing the brands they love or are they for sale? Then, I got to know some of these guys and I realized- they’re passionate about what they do which is really cool. One of the first guys I met was a guy named Mike @bigdudeindenim. What an awesome dude. He’s not doing this to make money or get famous. He’s using his account as a platform to send a message to menswear. He’s using his brand as a tool to let companies know that “Big Dudes” want the same great heritage workwear that’s available to everyone else. I think that’s amazing. I’m super proud of Mike and what he’s doing- because he’s really making a difference.
6. Has it made an impact on your business at all, do you think?
Oh, it’s definitely had an impact on our small business. We’re just a husband and wife team- working from our home. We don’t have thousands of dollars to spend on marketing and advertising. We can’t compete with the large brands. So, we shipped samples to some brand influencers with no strings attached- we told them- no obligation – if you hate it- tell us you hate it. If you love it- tell someone else you love it. Fortunately for us people loved it. And they’ve told other people they love it- which has really helped us grow. We are so incredibly grateful.
7. Is there any feeds on IG that you particularly like to check-in on regular. What brands are you fond of on there? What menswear feeds to you like to peruse?
So, when I open Instagram my first stop is normally @railcarfinegoods. I love to see what Steven’s been working on. This guy is amazing. Always working. Always doing something. His craftsmanship is incredible and I love his commitment to handmade. Then I like to check in on @pigeontreecrafting and @aegishandcraft to see what Isaac and Jess have been up to. They’re both such innovators and so unbelievably creative. What they’re doing is an art form. Their work is where art meets wardrobe. After hitting up those three pages it challenges me to push the boundaries, think outside the box, work harder and improve my craft in some way.
8. A quick one about you. Other than the business, what passions do you have in life? What flicks your switch and helps you relax?
For me, time spent with my family is how I relax. Getting outdoors, breathing in some fresh air. Last year my kids bought me a portable hammock and I love it (laughing.) Most weekends we’re outside hiking, biking, down by the water- just enjoying life in Maine. The ocean is just a couple miles east of us and there’s a mountain 3 miles west of us so we’re outside a lot.
9. What do you consider to be the best thing about your business and why?
I think the fact that our product is handmade. That resonates with people.
It wasn’t poured in a factory somewhere. Our family measured it, stirred it, poured it, and packaged it all by hand. I think society is beginning to recognize the superior quality in things that are handmade. The culture is shifting. People are putting a higher priority on things that are handcrafted which is beautiful. Our family has a connection to this product and I think our customer wants to be a part of that. To know that we made something- by hand – for them.
10. And Lucky Last, You’re going to be stranded on a desert island and you can take 1 outfit (4 items) only with you. And 1 choice of drink.
What would they be? And Why?
Wow (laughing) now this is a tough one. I guess I’d be in my Railcar Spikes and Iron Rangers since those are both made to last forever. I’d hope for mild temperatures on this desert island though (laughing) because my favorite wardrobe staple is an old, well-worn hooded sweatshirt. I love a good hoodie. Something about the shelter of a hood is comforting to me. I think even if I was stranded on a desert island I could pull my hood up, put my hands in the front pocket and feel cozy no matter the circumstances. Oh, and I’d be drinking coffee nonstop.
So good Shane! Thanks for taking the time mate and big props to all the peeps you mentioned; Railcar, Jess, Isaac & Mike…some good company you keep 😉 Everything about your brand is top notch pal and we can’t wait to see where you take it. Cheers
If you haven’t already, go check out the latest clobber-cast to hear me & @clobbercalm.sean waffle on in our Yorkshire patter. Don’t hate us if you ain’t us, said sarcastically…honest! Go have a great week guys and, you UK folks, come to OR AT LEAST share our latest EVENT.