Howl + Hide the Journey to Small Batch
For the past 4 years I have be grateful enough to build my own dream with Howl + Hide. It all started with my curiosity on how to build a product from one of the oldest textiles known to man, leather. I was visiting a larger format store in the mall that is known for their leather bags when I started inspecting every aspect of a product. At that point I have never sewn anything in my life and really had no aspirations to do so. When I saw that seams were blown and the general design of the bag was poor in quality I simply said to myself, “I could make that”. I came home and immediately started researching the art of leatherworking through old Al Stohlman articles and eventually purchased a library of his iconic books. A full blown obsession of ingenuity began when I would scavenge each and every thrift store in Indianapolis buying every used leather jacket I could find. I began pulling apart these jackets and quickly taught myself to hand sew. Through this process I educated myself of different types of leather, sewing techniques, and most importantly the overall product design. Every day since then this obsession has grown and I have been fortunate enough to do this every single day.
Trial and error is an understatement when it comes to the progression of my company. These early days of Howl + Hide were filled with production of small goods to refine my skill and to build a vision of a company. I began buying scrap leather and started to understand the weights and types of the material that I hold so near and dear to me. The only personal investment that I made to Howl + Hide was my first purchase of full leather sides. I bought 4 sides of leather, which is predominantly sold by the side or half of a cow, and created a small collection of goods using this one color of leather. From there it grew and it grew fast. Like almost every “Maker” the “Made to Order” production model fit with Howl + Hide initially. “Made to Order” is a production process where a sample is made first, photographed, and posted on any sales platform. From there the consumer places their order for that item and production begins. This is an amazing platform for small businesses to receive funds to purchase materials to make said item that was ordered, thus removing the need for start up capital. As we grew this process became tangled and mixed allowing slower production times and lack of creativity for me. I would become caught in a web of orders impeding my desire to create new products.
Our typical turnaround time on “Made to Order” goods was at an all time high of 6 weeks. I spent a great deal of time sourcing materials that were 100% Made in USA and was locked into minimum purchases for these materials. If I received an order for a 15” Natural Messenger and we were out of Natural leather then I would essentially be upside down on that one order. This caused a proverbial fork in the road between needing working capital to scale the business or to take a step back and to slow grow. This situation occurred roughly a year ago and it has caused tremendous stress on my behalf as well as a feeling of constant stress to come out ahead. Lonesome in my shop I knew I needed to make a change in the way things were done around the shop and I began some intensive research on successful production methods that would turn us in the right direction. I took every opportunity I could to use the folks I have met in this amazing industry as a mentor asking too many questions. I have spent the last 6 months building a model that would be both successful for us as well as diminishing the turnaround time for the customers that eagerly purchased our products. I knew that it was not fair to ask an individual to wait upwards of two months for a product that was purchased. After 4 years in business, constantly learning from my mistakes and my successes I have come to the decision to reorganize Howl + Hide as a Small Batch Manufacturer.
Small Batch Production is a term used to describe a small production run, for us around 10-500 units at a time. Instead of having infinity quantities and taking orders on our website we have begun building each product in runs. What and the heck does this mean you ask? This means that our production schedule is on a monthly scale. Each week is dedicated to a different product production. Once these products are built we input the quantities in our website and each product will ship within one week! We have already began building our inventory of items and are very excited to continue to grow using this Small Batch platform. Once an item quantity dips below a certain number we know to start a production run of that said product.
I am beyond excited to share this new production process with you. My goal for 2018 was to become more transparent on how we make the products that you love so much. Effective July 1st once you place an order for a product it will ship that week. Thank you so so much for continuing to support Howl + Hide, my employees, and myself.