Futurpreneur Canada recognizes the hard work, determination and passion it takes to start a business. That is why we teamed up with CIBC for a campaign to recognize the milestones (big or small) that our entrepreneurs reach while starting and growing their businesses.
As a part of the campaign, we’re encouraging our Futurpreneurs to share their start-up successes using the hashtag #FuturHighFive on social media. David Whitrow of HYDE Artisan Leather is one of those success stories.
Making the industry shift from auditor to real estate agent to artisanal leather importer may seem like an unusual career path for some people, but not for HYDE Artisan Leather founder, David Whitrow.
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, David id his undergrad in Business Administration majoring in Accounting at the University of Regina. After graduation, he received his CPA and CMA designations and worked as a Corporations Auditor at Saskatchewan Finance before moving into the real estate industry, where he focused on residential sales and developed a strong understanding of social media, sales and content marketing.
However, his desire to pursue a more socially responsible career path led him to go back to school and complete an MBA in International Development Management at Carleton University in Ottawa. After completing his MBA, he spent the next nine months travelling Canada and circumnavigating the world, including a month in a refugee camp in Lesbos, Greece and stops in Turkey, Malaysia, and Thailand.
“I love to travel and have a passion for helping others grow their perspective and live to the fullness they were meant to,” says David.
During his world travels, he also spent some time with friends who manufacture ethically-sourced products in Northern India.
“Spending time with my friends and living day to day in their lives, I also got to meet and work alongside the artisans,” says David. “I experienced first-hand the pride and the joy these men carried having the opportunity to have consistent well-paid work. As I sat and glued bindings on journals with them I knew I had to be a part of the story of change they were writing.”
David and his friend kept in touch after his trip, but it wasn’t until this past spring that he was able to align their vision with his goal to start a socially-responsible business.
“I learned they had started a second factory this time focused on leather products. Intrigued, we talked numbers and I quickly recognized there was a potential business here,” says David. “On my return to Canada, I continued to develop the idea and model its potential and in September decided that it was go time!
Today, David is the proud owner of HYDE Artisan Leather, an importer of ethically-sourced leather bags and accessories that has since expanded into accessories like jewellery, upcycled sari handbags and scarves as well as housewares.
The business is founded on three major principles: quality, style and social impact.
“We are anti-fast fashion; we produce products that are well constructed and meant to last,” says David.
However, despite having an exceptional product, communicating the value of his business proved difficult at first. Like most start-ups, he didn’t have much of a marketing budget but thanks to social media (follow @HydeArtisan!) and content marketing, he was able to share his company’s story with the world and grow a following.
He also quickly realized that most shoppers consider a leather bag an investment, so while many people connected with his story, he found it hard to turn his social media success into sales.
His solution? Expand his store’s offerings.
“We brought on the sari and jewellery lines and expanded our line of leather accessories to allow people to experience our brand at a lower cost and begin a relationship with us,” says David.
Now, his start-up fashion business is growing into a recognizable brand. In fact, HYDE was recently featured on CTV Morning Live while he was exhibiting at the Canadian Western Agribition trade show, which he shared as a #FuturHighFive milestone.
“That was such a fun moment!” says David about his experience. “Greatest of all, it was my birthday which I shared live and had people coming up to me the rest of the weekend wishing me a happy birthday! It was all incredibly well received and for weeks after I had people I ran into telling me about how they saw it.”
Before starting HYDE Artisan Leather, David worked with Futurpreneur Canada to get financing, resources and mentorship for his business. The experience proved valuable as he not only gained input on his initial business plan but also received useful industry-specific advice from his business mentor.
“My mentor is an experienced import broker who has been working with me to understand and more effectively import my products,” says David. “We were connected by a mutual friend and his wealth of knowledge even beyond importing has proven to be incredibly valuable.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, David has these words of wisdom: “Plan! Have a tangible representation of your idea so that as many of the issues you will face can be averted ahead of time. There will be more than enough pitfalls to navigate once you are live, so getting rid of the low hanging issues ahead of time is invaluable.”
Written by: Jasmine Williams, Social Media and Content Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada
Want to be featured in a #FuturHighFive Entrepreneur Spotlight? Share you start-up milestones using #FuturHighFive on Instagram and Twitter!