Saddleback Leather: Lessons of an Accidental Entrepreneur
Posted by Ranga Bodla, Industry Marketing Lead, NetSuite
Dave Munson is not your typical entrepreneur. The founder and CEO of Saddleback Leather, a NetSuite customer and maker of high-end leather bags and accessories, doesn’t have a business background, nor did he spend his young adulthood dreaming up ideas for new products. Munson was a dedicated youth pastor, teacher and frequent traveler before starting Saddleback Leather.
The idea for the business grew out of a personal quest for a strong leather book bag to carry his gear during a volunteer teaching stint in Mexico. Unable to find a bag rugged enough for his needs, Munson sketched out a design and asked a local leather maker to build it for him. Upon his return to the U.S., he was quickly overcome with requests for a similar bag. It wasn’t long before he realized he could sell a few each month from the back of his car and make enough to fund his teaching and travel.
That was the plan, but after selling eight bags within three hours on his first sales foray, Munson realized he might just have a real business on his hands. When two of the bags sold for $ 700 each on an eBay auction shortly thereafter, his hunch was confirmed.
That was in the early 2000s. Today, Munson’s company has its own leather-working plant in Mexico employing 180 people, with another 50 employees in the U.S. and even a couple in Scotland. Munson uses the profits to support several charities, and he is heavily involved in one in Rwanda that provides educational services and food for poor children and business help to women. He and his wife Suzette frequently travel to Rwanda, often subsidizing the tab for employees who want to go too. He’s continues to teach, most recently in in Mexico at his factory’s school for worker’s children.
As Munson sees it, business shouldn’t be just about profits, but a holistic endeavor that positively effects the lives of its employees, customers and the community at large.
To achieve that, however, Munson had to master the science of profit and loss. One such lesson was that QuickBooks doesn’t scale well with rapid growth. In 2011, the company’s expansion strained the capabilities of its home-grown ecommerce site and its QuickBooks/Excel accounting system. The lack of integration was a strain on productivity, as was the constantly-updated website. Munson also wanted visibility into key metrics.
He turned to NetSuite’s cloud-based, integrated platform with CRM, distribution, ecommerce, financials, inventory and sales, and the scalability that Saddleback needed for growth. Being a hosted cloud-based application, NetSuite also relieves Saddleback of the cost and worry of maintaining an in-house system. The switch was a major step up and the company has since achieved double-digit growth in its yearly sales.
But there’s a lot more to the Saddleback story. Dave Munson recently shared more in a podcast with Dirk Beveridge, a business consultant and the founder of the UnleashWD, the only innovation summit for distributors.