Imperial leather: Stuart’s journey from dodgy wallet to award-winning leather smith

Making the “worst wallet you’ve ever seen” was hardly the most encouraging start to a new business.

But determined Stuart Coupland was determined to master his craft – and now, in less than three years, his top quality leather goods are in worldwide demand.

And the Osmotherley craftsman can now add “award-winner” to his CV after picking up the Best New Young Entrepreneur trophy, sponsored by Racz Group, at the Best New Tees Business Awards.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, which was held at the Kirkleatham Walled Garden Pavilion, “shell-shocked” Stuart admitted his business, Coupland Leather, had very humble beginnings.

After being presented with his award by Racz Group CEO Mike Racz (pictured above), Stuart explained: “I effectively taught myself leathersmithing.

“I went on holiday, bought a watchstrap from a guy, came home, thought ‘I can make one of these’, tried – and made the worst wallet you’ve ever seen. You couldn’t fit a bank card in it!

“I was in the fire service at the time so I gave up. But later, after I left the service, I had some free time so I tried the leather thing again and it just grew and grew.

“People were coming to me for a watch strap, which became a belt, which became a wallet and it naturally developed.

“Then, all of a sudden, I’m into Alnwick Garden, Rockliffe Hall, all these different retailers, with people coming to me saying ‘can we do this with you?’ All of a sudden, it went from this little hobbyist business to selling internationally.”

Stuart, who made his own leather poppy to mark Remembrance Day, told how one customer flew over from Iowa to pick up a bespoke bag worth more than £5,000.

He said: “People are getting in touch now and asking for things, which I never thought would ever happen.

“Now I’m just going to roll with it. We’re growing a lot faster and smoother than l had ever expected, so I’m now bringing in some family members to help me with bits and bobs.

“We’re taking on some really big partnerships and working with some very established brands to make branded products for them under our style and my quality, but in their branding. All of a sudden, I’ve gone from a new business that makes a wallet or a belt to 50, 60, 70 items at a time.”

With business booming, Stuart plans to update his kit “so we can make things faster” and continue supplying his growing clientele both at home and abroad.

And his message for anyone thinking of starting their own business?

He said: “Just give it a go! I never thought Coupland Leather would have the legs to get to what it’s going to become.

“I started off just wanting to pay my bills and now it’s doing much more than that – we are looking at training and other things.

“It’s gone from just paying my bills to potentially paying other people’s, with a potential for jobs.

“We’re now a nationally recognised brand with people from all over the world getting in touch, asking for different commissions – I never thought that was going to happen.”

More than 300 people attended the Best New Tees Business Awards, which was organised by Tees Business in association with headline sponsor PD Ports.

Stuart pipped Melissa Mullen, of Melissa Jane Floral, and Ashleigh Hughff, of Ashes Lashes Training Academy, to the Best New Young Entrepreneur title.

Image credit: Tees Business photographer, Chris Booth

Original News Statement: Tees Business

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