- Blythe Leonard
Enjoy this article written for our 2019 Spring/Summer BL Magazine!
Four years ago you could find me on the front steps of the shop with my sanding machine and a makeshift clothes line drying some hand dyed leather. I oh so wanted to be a part of the fresh air, feel the sun shining down and the wind whipping by. I wanted the opportunity to meet my neighbors who walked by. Somehow by being outside on the front steps, I felt like I was a part of the community. Friends and family knew where my workshop was, but for the rest of the community, we were yet to be discovered. Many people would wander by and tell us how excited they were to have found such a hidden gem.
In the beginning, I met so many people, whether they lived around the corner or they worked at a small business nearby. It was quite organic how people began to learn about my business, and it was delightful how the company started to take shape. Every time someone dropped by the workshop, I would stop what I was doing and eagerly show them my workspace; my sewing machine, cutting table and the ten patterns I had so proudly created while a few stacks of leather hides lined the edge of the room. People seemed instantly drawn to my work; could it have been my sincere heart and soul for the business that they were sensing? Whatever the reason, they fell in love with BL.
It’s unfathomable to think that I decided to share my creativity with the world almost four years ago. However, as my story began being told, it spread like wildfire. I began meeting people from all over the state; they were even driving four and five hours to come shop. Now, I have clients flying in to design their bags…how amazing is that? I was humbled then, and continue to be so, by the outpouring of love and support for the BL brand. It is beyond my imagination as to what it has become! As more and more people began requesting bespoke handbags and buying BLs, I began to notice a gradual shift in the business. Daily interactions with clients altered from one time buyers to return clients, seeing them on a weekly or monthly basis. The returning customers soon turned into our friends, who then turned into being a part of the BL family. As you know, your closest friends are your chosen family. As artists know the colors in their palette, I began knowing the complete makeup of my family: old friends, neighbors, friends of friends, locals and out of state friends, loud friends and funny friends. I’ve even recently discovered that one of my BL customers is my great great-grandfather’s brother’s great granddaughter!
About a year ago I placed several rocking chairs in the workshop and since then, on any given day of the week, they are filled with BL family, a cup of coffee or a chilled Coke in hand. Just the smell of coffee makes me exuberantly happy knowing that our friends stopped by. We learn much about each other in those rocking chairs; upcoming surgeries, recent sicknesses, new family additions and getting to know each family’s pets. Speaking of family pets, the best days at the shop are when the BL fur babies come to play (I’m due a visit folks!).
When I reflect on my brand, it’s not about the number of handbags we have created or custom bags designed, it’s about the relationships that have developed. I’m talking about the special relationships that would have never happened if I hadn’t taken the initiative to start my own business. Taking part in my neighbor’s lives, witnessing the blessings of life and holding tight to true friendship every day is truly a blessing. I recently visited a friend’s newborn at a local hospital to take him his first blue suede BL booties! The mother was overjoyed and thrilled at the gesture. But that’s what friends do; we care about one another.
Family and friends are extremely important to me, and in the scheme of things, making a difference in someone’s life or community is truly what life is all about. Families depend on and care for one another, as well as give guidance and support no matter what the circumstance. On most any given day you can hear me say, “Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you.” I truly mean that! I love and cherish each and every friendship and connection I have made with my clients. We all walk different paths in life, but it sure feels good when our paths cross. I am truly blessed to have such a large community that cares about what I do every day. I treasure all of you.