In 2021, Tim Aton works in a marketing company in Spokane, Washington, doing campaigns for customers. Then he got a call from a friend in Wyoming whose company, Range Leather, made and sold handmade leather products.
The friend told him, “If you want to go from a company to a brand, come and help me create the Range.”
Aton took over. He is now the COO of Range Leather, having moved his family to Laramie.
I recently discussed his new project with him. The full text of our conversation is below. This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.
Eric Bandholz: Tell us about different skins.
Tim Aton: Kyle Koster launched the Leather Range in 2015 with a Kickstarter campaign. The company is based in Laramie, Wyoming. I was shopping for a company in Spokane. Leather Range is my independent client. Kyle is from Laramie but lives in Spokane.
He went back to Laramie and I stayed in Spokane. We got together last year when Range was growing like crazy. Kyle bought a house in downtown Laramie. People make all the Range products there. He called me and said, “If you want to go from a company to a brand, come help me grow the Range.” I was fed up with the corporate world. Living in the small town of Laramie runs a nice leather shop. I was jumping, and it was amazing.
The aim of the Leather Range is to bring back the idea that products should last. Everything is garbage these days. The company manufactures wallets, hats, bags, jewelry and key rings. Our snapback hats have leather patches for a good third, if not half, of their revenue. Hat wearers tend to have a lot of them, so there is a high rate of repeat purchases.
Our hats are unique. We use full grain leather from Horween Leather, a Chicago leather company. Our leather is designed to withstand hot stamping so our logo looks more clear, won’t suffer and looks great.
A $30 hat has more volume than an $80 purse. A wallet lasts more or less forever. A similar study. But people collect hats.
Bandholz: Talk about the difference between working for a company and a brand.
Aton: There are pros and cons to both. Companies have access to many companies and people – to network and learn from others. There are many media outlets. But the bottom line is off the hook 24/7. Plus, you spend millions of dollars every day on consumer advertising. Stress can make you tired.
Working for a brand allows you to focus. It is better to enter into one business instead of giving high attention to 10. For example, I can spend more time waiting for our email reception. But I lose track of what’s going on in the sky. I solved this by joining MentorPass, a personal mentoring service. Twitter is great for communicating with people and learning about other brands. I still have friends around the office that I connect with every month.
Bandholz: What drives the sales of Leather Range?
Aton: The biggest challenge for us is educating the audience about leather. People know leather in general, but not details, such as leather types, leather care, and leather production. This is the learning part. We do this by email, although we plan to post this on the site. Leather connoisseurs are often our best customers.
We source the best quality leather. It is expensive, but we can adjust our production process to reduce the cost. And our staff is amazing. They can build our product faster with fewer errors.
Bandholz: You are responsible for marketing and operations.
Aton: Yes, two different jobs. I cut off my day. The first phase is marketing – campaign planning, working with the team, and all the support you would expect.
Then I go home for lunch, see the family, catch up, and come back with a working idea. I look at the fires we are fighting and the processes that need to be updated. I work with our sales team – B2B sales are huge for us. I work in customer experience. I also use a travel group. We pick up, ship and ship here.
Kyle’s specialty is product design and leather. Our designer uses artisans every day. I don’t want to do this. I am in charge of operations and marketing. If I promote the ad and the order increases, I can adjust the shipping team’s time to fulfill the order. We can quickly make changes on that front.
I like to focus on both sides at the same time.