... is the passionate founder of Guarded Goods, a business born out of a desire to learn and master a craft that would allow Jesse to use his hands and creativity instead of spending his free time on the computer. In search of a tangible skill that allowed him to learn and create, Jesse found leather. Each Guarded Goods item is hand stitched and finished with precise detail. Jesse's hands are the sewing machine. Each hole is meticulously punched with a sharp awl and stitched with two needles and waxed thread. All edges are sanded and burnished by hand with natural beeswax. All patterns are designed in house on the computer and transferred to acrylic, cardboard or made into steel cutting dies. Jesse's aim is to create a product that will last for generations. He prides himself in sourcing some of the best materials available and offering them at affordable prices to customers.
Talk about the beginnings of Guarded Goods.
Guarded Goods started out as a journey for myself to learn a skill that involved using my hands and not a computer. Many of my friends have really cool hobbies that you can talk about every time you get together (woodworking, climbing, etc.) but most of my hobbies revolved around a computer. You can only talk about graphic design or video games for so long before most people lose interest. At the same time, I also needed a new wallet so I decided to give leatherworking a shot as my newly selected hobby. I ordered a small amount of leather and all the basic tools and began trying to make myself a new wallet. The first wallet was terrible and so were the next ten. After a week of practicing my cutting and hand stitching every night, I began to finally get a final product that looked relatively close to a wallet. Two years and seven months later and I’m still doing my best to get better every day. Guarded Goods is still only a side business for me on top of my regular day job but it provides me the necessary creative outlet that I need.
How has your business evolved? How have you evolved?
When I first started selling wallets, I only made them in one color of leather and now I have nearly twenty different options available. Part of the fun of leatherwork is sourcing new options from different tanneries around the world. While most of my wallets are made from leather sourced from a tanneries in Chicago (Horween) and Pennsylvania (Wickett & Craig), I also have some leathers from Italy, France and Spain. It is always exciting to try to find a new and unique leather that not many other people offer.
Handling almost every aspect of a business while still having a day job and being married has its challenges. Most of my best work gets done after my wife goes to bed (around 9:30pm – 2:00am). I suppose I’ve evolved into not needing as much sleep! My wife is incredibly supportive and patient with me as I try to do the balancing act of a job and a passion. I wouldn’t be able to do it without her continual support.
What do you hope your products add to the 'Made in MN' community?
There are plenty of fantastic leather makers in the Minnesota community but we all do things with a bit different style. My goal is to provide a quality product that is going to last you for generations and get better with age. It sounds cliché but it is very much a core part of why I’m still making wallets by hand and not with a machine. Being able to do it in Minnesota just makes it all that much better.
How has living in Minnesota impacted your business and products?
Minnesotans have a great appreciation for their local businesses. I have a lot of friends and family who have become brand advocates after using one of my products and they are always eager to share with other people. Often times I see a lot of people buying stuff from my website and sending me an email letting me know that they’ve been actively trying to find a wallet made by someone in Minnesota so they could support a local business. That is pretty cool to see!
Talk about the fulfillment that comes from being a maker.
I come from a family of creative-minded people so it has always been in my blood to “make”. Growing up, I attended craft shows every weekend around Minnesota with my mother, aunt and grandmother who all had their own businesses. I got to see firsthand how excited they were when someone would buy their products (and would come back year after year to support them). They lived and breathed their craft. This mentality transferred to me at a young age. Being able to create a product with your hands and have someone like it enough to buy it and tell people about it is a very rewarding feeling. It is an even better feeling to have someone come back to buy a second wallet for someone else. At the end of the day, it wouldn’t really matter if I sold any wallets – that isn’t why I do it. It is the art and craft of creating it alone that is rewarding and fulfilling to me.
Do you have any advice for someone just starting out?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are tons of people out there with a vast wealth of knowledge about leatherworking. There are many resources on the internet and tutorials galore on YouTube. I try to participate in these forums as much as possible to help new people out since they helped me out greatly when I first started. If you don’t know something, don’t be afraid to ask.