North East leather specialist grows 'side hustle' by 675%

North East-based Stuart Coupland has turned what he describes as a ‘side hustle’ into a flourishing business over the last 10 months, despite operating in some of the most difficult trading conditions the country has experienced for years.

Following redundancy a mere six weeks before the UK plunged into a national lockdown in March 2020, Stuart took the opportunity and decided to make his hobby, Coupland Leather, a full-time job - building on the brand he had been working away on in his spare time to create a luxury, handcrafted leather business selling items such as watch straps, belts and notebook covers as well as stunning bespoke pieces including ladies’ hand bags and shotgun slips.

Coupland Leather was formed in 2018 when Stuart began making leather items. From the birth of the concept to the end of 2019, Coupland Leather had produced a total of 81 handcrafted pieces, while he also worked a full-time role in sales and business development.

On being made redundant on 21st January 2020, Stuart threw himself into the business 100 per cent and from that point till the end of 2020, Coupland Leather created and sold a total of 442 handcrafted pieces - despite losing the security of a full-time role, facing a worldwide pandemic and having to learn how to run a full-time and successful business on his own.

Growth-wise, the company saw an increase of 675 per cent year on year from 2019 to 2020, designed and launched over 20 new products and grew an international presence with sales in the US and Australia, as well as enquiries from other countries.

Founder, Stuart Coupland said: “At first I had a look online to see what others were doing through craft websites like Etsy. Rather than trying to copy their model, I took a step back and reviewed my career path, the connections I have, the people I deal with and then started to think about and consider products that those people might like.

“I took this a step further and spoke to friends who fell within that target audience to see what they wanted to see me make. Over the years I have added a couple of products a month, a lot of the time through commission-style enquiries asking if I made something like ‘X’. After making the products, I took images and added them to the ever-growing product list on my website and this sparked more questions about what I could make.”

Stuart markets the brand himself through his impressive network and with the support of his professional photographer girlfriend, Megan. In the build up to Christmas the orders were coming in thick and fast, necessitating a temporary member of staff to assist with admin, but Stuart says it is usually him on his ‘lonesome with Netflix and Amazon Prime for company’.

Coupland Leather is a corporate supporter of Butterwick Hospice and works closely with MAIN, as well as being a sponsor of local boxer, Joe Maphosa. There are also some exciting reseller partnerships in discussion which Stuart hopes will come to fruition in 2021.

He continued: “The plan now is to continue building the brand and the business. People have seen it evolve from a hobby to a serious and professional company making high quality products and that is where I want to be.

“In 2021 I’ll be focusing more on the ladies’ accessories market such as handbags, as well as expanding the existing ranges.”

Coupland Leather handcrafts all its leather products in house, from scratch. Clients can speak directly to the person who will be making their item or gift, ensuring that what they’re expecting is what they will get. There is a wide range of dyes, threads and amendments to the designs available, so the finished product not only matches their style but is also perfect for the intended use. There are also several options for personalisation, from stamped initials, dates and names, to laser engraving and the crème de la crème corporate debossing stamps.

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