Once we heard the need out there for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our front line medical protectors, we decided to put our leather manufacturing on hold and start manufacturing reusable isolation gowns and CDC civil face masks. We’re already really good at sewing, so we decided to make the switch. This call for help was all I needed for motivation to get out of my comfort zone and open up a new arm.
As a part of my series about the things we can do to remain hopeful and support each other during anxious times, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Munson, from Portland, Oregon, owns Saddleback Leather Co. based out of Fort Worth, Texas. He first started selling the leather bags he designed off the tailgate of his old Toyota Land Cruiser with his Black Lab, Blue. He has since opened a factory in Mexico, married the girl of his dreams and has a daughter and son.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?
In 1999, I was a volunteer English teacher in Southern Mexico and sketched out a leather bag to be made to carry by books. Back in the US, 4 or 5 times a day people would stop me to ask me where they could buy a bag like mine. In 2003, I finally moved to Juarez Mexico with my dog just across the border from El Paso, Texas. I had a father and son send bags up to the Juarez bus station and I would pick them up there and take them to El Paso to sell on eBay. Blue and I slept on the floor of my 100 dollars per month apartment for 3 years with no hot water, A/C or heat for and all of the money I saved on living expenses, I reinvested into buying more leather bags.
In 2006, I met my wife on Myspace and moved to San Antonio, Texas. In 2008, we started our factory, Old Mexico Manufacturing in Leon, Guanajuato to make our own leather goods. I found that nobody cares about your stuff as much as you do. It has been humming ever since. But not without some very difficult situations and learning 1000 ways to get cheated.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
How to Win Friends and Influence People was a great book for business and relationships. It highlighted and directed to me the fact that we need to be genuinely interested in other people and help them get what they want. The more times I worked through the book, the more often I heard other people regurgitating the same content, but from different angles. The reason it resonated so strongly with me was because just before I read the book for the first time, a friend of mine had a heart to heart with me and told me that I was very prideful man. I told my wife that and she said, “That’s crazy talk. You’re one of the most humble men I know”. That’s what I thought too. But I start thinking that maybe I didn’t have a full definition of what pride really was. So I googled, “Signs of Pride List” and couldn’t believe what I found from Wikipedia, Psychology today as well as the writings of the Who’s Who list of religious leaders throughout history. I learned that pride isn’t just bragging about money or success, but there are about 22 categories that someone can be prideful in. We may be humble in many of them and prideful in others. One of the signs of pride on several lists was when someone isn’t interested in other people, just themselves. Therefore, they don’t ask people questions. That shaped our customer service, marketing and my own personal life. Asking questions about others is a sign that you are genuinely interested in other people.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. From your perspective, can you help our readers to see the “Light at the End of the Tunnel”? Can you share your “5 Reasons To Be Hopeful During this Corona Crisis”? If you can, please share a story or example for each.
If there is ever a time to make a significant change, the time is now. Just as necessity is the mother of all invention, it is also the father of all change. It’s a new start. Move out to the country, get some chickens and plant a garden. Is it time to stop chasing growth? My wife and I have been talking about this very thing. It’s a lot of work to grow grow grow. Why? What if we purposefully cut down to half the revenue, but doubled our profit? Wouldn’t that make life easier and more fun? There’s an inner drive placed in most of us to provide and preserve and the way that manifests today is in growing a business to see how much money we can make. Sometimes, it’s nice to stop growing one thing and venture out to another. Diversify.
The opportunity to grow and expand is at hand. This time is forcing us all think about food, drawing us out of our comfort zones and driving us go hunt to survive. In order to stay secure, I’ve known that I should expand out beyond just manufacturing and selling high quality expensive leather briefcases and backpacks, but never really found the time for or needed to do it. Once we heard the need out there for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for our front line medical protectors, we decided to put our leather manufacturing on hold and start manufacturing reusable isolation gowns and CDC civil face masks. We’re already really good at sewing, so we decided to make the switch. This call for help was all I needed for motivation to get out of my comfort zone and open up a new arm.
There are just as many needs as there were before; they’re just different now. We are all on a level playing field to jump into fulfilling all of these new needs. There are very few who have an advantage over another. We saw there was and will be a strong need for medical supplies based in North America and so we’ve got just as good of an opportunity as the next guy to jump in and supply. What else will people need once all of this manufacturing leaves China?
Many empires are built during hard times. We are weathering this storm. I’m not sure how many of our competitors are going to be standing after this, but I know the cheap knocker offers of our bags will be no longer. It’s like a forest fire and far more quality companies will be alive after this, charred, but alive. Now is a huge opportunity to start something, but done with quality. We’re going to be providing the highest quality reusable medical PPE’s in the world.
Now is the time to mentor like you’ve never mentored before. Talk’s cheap. You can say all you want about how inwardly strong you are, but a soldier’s strength is not seen in times of peace, but in times of war. Your employees, co-workers and kids are watching the video more than they’re listening to the audio. How are you reacting to these stressful and uncertain times in life, even if things go bad. If you are a person of hope, faith, innovation, kindness, optimism, generosity, happiness and love during this time, then that’s what others around you are going to learn. In this isolation time at home, we’ve been laughing and playing games and are on our 4th 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. They’re listening to my wife and I talk on the phone as we innovate with our factory and as I talk with medical staff from all over the country. And it’s all positive, with a little reality mixed in when it needs to be talked about.
From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
- Help those around you to be thankful out loud. Ask them what are they thankful for. Health, house, vision, pets, car, etc.
- Simply text, email or call someone who you know is alone. Several of our friends are alone and about to relapse into their old lives.
- Get on the phone and read to them. Read the Bible, particularly the Book of Psalms or maybe Louis L’Amour. I’ve been reading to my old those old western at night to my mother in law over the phone and it calms her right down and puts a smile on her face. Knowing that someone wants to spend time with them is all most people need.
- Pray for them and let them know that you are. Even if you’re not super religious, the prayers God loves the most are the genuine ones.
- Send a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle to them. One thing that never hurts is occupational therapy to take the mind off of life for awhile. And there’s just something about gifts that will never go out of fashion.
What are the best resources you would suggest to a person who is feeling anxious?
Read the Bible. YouVersion is the online app that the world goes to to read. I prefer the English Standard Version or the NET version. The Book of Psalms or John are great places to start.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?
“Help everybody around you to get what they want and you will have everything you ever wanted or dreamed of.” — Zig Ziglar. It’s true. I had a fellow working for us and I helped him start his own leather business, as a direct competitor to us. He wanted to know how to do it and so I told him to come work for me to learn the ins and outs. After a few years, his business was going so well that he had to quit and go full time on his own. He’s still going 8 years later. And now, instead of me paying him, he pays me to make his leather bags. His is a different style and so there isn’t a whole lot of competition, but it’s been a very good deal for both of us.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’ve been trying to get people to buy less but buy quality. Imagine if everyone’s shoes lasted twice as long. There would be half as many shoes in landfills. The same goes for floor fans, furniture, jackets, briefcases and belts. They don’t need to buy the most expensive. Copper does a great job conducting electricity in my house. I don’t need gold wiring. But buy quality everytime.
What is the best way our readers can follow you online?
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!