Dan Horan l Merchant Leather
Dan Horan is a designer and producer of classically styled, handmade leather goods, called Merchant Leather. A firm believer in whatever the opposite of fast fashion is, Merchant Leather goods are simply, yet timelessly designed and built for everyday use, for generations to come. Merchant Leather also strives to pass on the tradition of working with leather by teaching students of all ages the basics of hand-sewing and design in classes throughout the Midwest.
Can you tell us a bit about your business and how it got started?
I started Merchant Leather 6 years ago, because I wanted a handmade leather wallet, that I couldn’t afford. I then decided to try my hand with leather making because my wife also requested a tote bag. After awhile, the tote bag I made for my wife became a requested item for me to make. I actually had 9 months worth of back orders because I was working full time and could only create the tote bags on the weekends. Once I realized that there was a high demand for my handcrafted leather items I decided to quit my job and pursue leather making full time. I travelled all over the country for shows where I could showcase and sell my products. I actually went to 22 shows in one year. Now I am teaching leather workshops and selling my products online.
LAB is founded on three key values: connect, create and collaborate. What are your three values?
Social, analog, hand-made. I love being able to see people make things that they didn’t think they could. Allowing other people to create, and feel the joy of craft.
How do you think living in the Twin Cities has shaped you?
Well… the winters. You definitely need something to do during the long winter months. When it comes to the people, I think that Minneapolis has an incredibly supportive community. Other artists and leather makers have always been supportive of me throughout my journey. I also love to trade and barter with my products. Over the years I have found people in the Twin Cities to be incredible creatives that love to give!
What is one of the most pivotal decisions you have made for your business?
Teaching. I get many offers from stores wanting to sell my products, but that hasn’t been the right path for my business. Over the past 4 years I have taught close to 1,000 students and that has brought me so much joy. I value generosity and teaching over selling.
How and where do you see growth for your business?
I see growth for my business in teaching and making leather kits more accessible. As of now, I don’t travel remotely to teach, but I would love to start to travel more! I also would love to start doing demonstrations online. My main goal for growth, is to share the joy of crafting.
If you had one piece of advice for someone starting a business, what would it be?
Make sure it’s not just your mom who wants to buy your product. Customers need to know what they are buying and they need to be excited about it. My other piece of advice would be, realize that starting your own business is a ton of work. It’s more than just ideas and brainstorming, it’s making your dream into a reality. It’s doing the not so fun things, just because you are passionate enough to chase your dreams.
What’s your favorite thing about your workspace?
Most of the time, I work from home. My house is situated above a pond with incredibly large windows so it fills my house with light and that is my favorite part!
When you were a child, what did you want to grow up to be?
I still don’t know what I want to be. As a kid, I was always interested in the arts and my parents were very supportive. I think I always wanted to be a creative.
I would love to collaborate with the man who made the wallet I was so inspired by. It took me two years to learn how to make a wallet like him, and I would love to meet him to tell him how he changed the course of my life.
If you could have lunch with anyone, who would it be?
It would be my grandfather. He passed away when i was in high school, and I wish I could have gotten to know him now that I am an adult. He lived an incredible life and I still admire the stories I hear about him.
One brand you couldn’t live without is ____.
Horween Leathers. They have unbeatable quality and I love using their products!
What I am Eating: Chips and salsa.
What I am Drinking: La Croix.
Secret Skill: Sommelier.
Favorite Word: Unicorn. (my daughters favorite)
Latest Adventure: Sledding with my kids!