Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in handcrafts but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Reuben Schwartzman, Founder of Leatherstripper - Cooper 1001 Articles, located in Montreal, QC, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

We have been providing companies and crafters with genuine leather trimmings since 1952. We have a large assortment of genuine leather and imitation leather trimmings that can be used on handbags, garments, millinery, shoe making, jewelry, the adult industry, and any other place you can think of. We mostly work with cowhide, both soft and firm, pig suede, lamb leather and suede, kid and goat leather, and suede, but we also work with snakeskin, buffalo leather, and deerskin. All items can be made to order in production quantities or purchased in smaller quantities on our website. Our customers range from big production houses to costume departments for film and theatre, to start-ups who are making leather handbags or jewelry, and everyone in between.

Tell us about yourself

I have a Bachelor of Science and an MBA, both from McGill University in Montreal. Shortly after graduating, I started working for the Cooper brothers and have been there ever since. In the early 90's, I bought the business and have been running it with a small team ever since. A great motivation has been being able to help new designers come up with ways to enhance their products with the use of our technology. It's a special treat when the Montreal leather school comes to our factory for a yearly field trip, and I get to see their faces light up as they really take in all the possibilities.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

It would definitely be surviving through the tougher times when, for example, much of the local manufacturing was outsourced, and the factories in Canada that were producing manufactured goods began closing one by one. Because of the variety and diversity of our products, we were able to stay afloat during these harder moments because our products were so versatile and could be useful in many different industries. This diversity and polyvalence have been key to our survival, especially during the pandemic when people were in need of supply. What we are able to produce saved many businesses from going under because they could rely on the consistency and quality of our merchandise.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Getting through the slow periods where sales are like molasses! But we always go into the shop and work on production for our Etsy store, where we can sell to the public. And that has been life-saving. Another difficult situation is watching companies that I have worked with for over 40 years close their shops one by one as trends begin to change. And then you wonder if you'll be next. So I guess the answer to this question would be keeping my spirits up and showing up every day even when there is no guarantee that you will be there tomorrow.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Market research. Make sure that your product is answering a demand in the marketplace or is somehow unique. Sure there are other people out there producing leather goods. But we take custom work and can work with your own materials to produce the product that you need for your individual project. That's pretty lucrative.
  2. Keep your overhead low. Try to make sure you're doing as much as you can to reduce fixed expenses such as rent and utilities. Don't rent more space than you need or hire more help than is absolutely necessary. Get ready to do the labour yourself and to work for free for a while. Slow and steady wins the race.
  3. Let your passion drive you. No one is a better salesman than the owner. No one you hire will do your product justice more than you can because you love what you do. You know your product or service better than anyone else because you live and breathe it. This will easily come across to anyone you interact with, both in-person or online. As long as you remain passionate, that passion will be contagious.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Anyone with any particular project in mind requiring leather goods or imitation leather products should absolutely get in touch. If the product doesn't already exist in our extensive catalog, we can likely invent it. We've done it before. And honestly, it's one of the most fun things about this type of work. It's a challenge, but nothing beats the look on a satisfied customer's face or great feedback mentioned online when our product has really been the make-or-break piece of a customer's biggest selling item. We're so glad to have been a part of that.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

Turn your craft into recurring revenue with Subkit. Start your subscription offering in minutes and supercharge it with growth levers. Get early access here.