Many of the products we tend to buy are often lacking in some department. If you’re looking for style, you’ll probably have to compromise functionality. If you’re looking for functionality, sometimes it’s lacking in quality. So when all these different aspects come together, it’s a beautiful thing to behold. Piotrek from Nautilo Boutique has managed to combine form and function with his handmade leather goods. You can just tell that the passion he has for his craft oozes from the quality products that he creates.
Read on to know more about his humble handicraft journey and his timeless tips for overcoming failures.
What made you decide to join Zibbet?
I was looking for a new place to promote my products with a thought to expand my business and increase my sales. I was anxious to find a friendly marketplace for sellers where sold products are in fact hand made, not mass-produced. Zibbet fully met my expectations, so I decided selling there my products.
How did your love for crafting handmade leather items start?
I graduated in oceanography – I’m a marine physicist, and over the years I worked for an international corporation related to Earth Science. I had a good salary and great development opportunities. However, the work that I was doing didn’t satisfy me.
Christmas were approaching and I was looking for gift for my wife. I wanted to give her something special, which will serve her for years. I decided that the best idea would be if I do it myself. I decided to try to sew leather etui for documents. Why leather? Leather is just one of those materials that will always be classic and stylish. I ordered a piece of leather, necessary accessories and a manual by the Internet. My first products left a lot to be desired, but my wife was delighted.
With time, my new passion completely absorbed me. I decided to quit a full-time job and start my own business. For the name I chose “Nautilo” as a symbol of perfection, present in Nature in the form of Nautilus spiral.
In my new activity I found all that I did not have in my previous job. First of all I have influence at any stage of creation – the choice of materials, the design, the packaging and ending with customer service. I have huge satisfaction from the fact that others use products that from the beginning to the end were created by me. I appreciate also direct contact with the customers. Their positive feedback is much more motivating for me than boss approbation.
What is the handmade business scene like in Poland? Are handmade items popular?
Fashion for handmade items in Poland has only a few years. After a period of fascination with malls, it’s time for re-evaluation. Awareness slowly increases, but also the prosperity of the Polish consumer. Therefore, popularity of native handmade products increases every year.
Can you tell us about about your crafting process from beginning to end?
All Nautilo products are entirely made by me in my studio in Gdynia in Poland. First, I carefully select piece of vegetable tanned leather suitable for the product that I’m going to create. After cutting off, the piece of leather is preconditioned with natural oils and covered with the layer of beeswax, edges are carefully waxed and burnished. After this, I get down to sewing which is done with durable saddle stitches technique. The linen thread is intensely waxed with natural beeswax to increase durability of the stitches.
For cutting, sewing and finishing of each product I use only hand tools. This guarantee the best precision and high durability, but also strengthens the unique character of each individual product.
What are the benefits of selling your items online?
The undoubted advantage of online selling is a broad range of customers worldwide. Although I live in Poland, my products reach customers from all continents. But what I love most about online selling, is a flexitime, which is not possible in case of a stationary shop. Online shop is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, even if I leave for a few days. What is more, I can work from home, what reduces the cost of production and saves my time, I would have to spend on commuting. Besides my children are happy, because they have daddy all the time at their fingertips.
What has been the most challenging thing you’ve faced in running your business?
The most challenging thing for me has been sourcing of materials. This is one of the most time-consuming part of my job. From the beginning, my principle was to create products using only the best quality materials. I knew that the market is flooded with cheap semi-products of low quality mass-produced in third world countries, but it seemed to me that if I search long enough, I’ll find that what I had in mind. Soon I realized that I was wrong.
The problem is also the small scale of my production. Sometimes even if I find a potential supplier who agrees to produce semi-products on my request, I would have to order a few to several thousand units to start the production, which obviously, I can not afford. I have many ideas which have unfortunately not been realized yet because I can not find satisfactory materials. I am compromized in this matter.
What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
I am a full time dad of two small children (1.5 years and 4 years), and soon the third one will be born, so obviously I don’t have too much free time for myself. However, with my wife we try to share household duties so that each of us have a bit of own space. Twice a week I meet with guys on skates. I need male meetings to keep the balance, as everyday I have at home three women (wife and two daughters, and soon will be born the third one). I also try to jog regularly, which relaxes me and allows me to sort out my thoughts. I really enjoy taking pictures. Recently, however, due to the lack of free time, I meet with this passion only in work – through taking pictures of my products.
What’s your favorite item that you’ve created?
Very difficult question… I really like all of my products, I spent many hours/days creating them. Sometimes I had to develop a dozen prototypes to achieve the satisfactory final effect. My wife is a first product tester and she has already gathered quite an impressive collection :).
But if I had to pick one thing, it would be a small coin pouch. I created a small sized product not to fiddly to use with plenty of room for lots of change. The coin pouch gets a lot of positive comments among customers and is a bestseller in my shop. This is more surprising because in the era of e-payments, it would seem that use of coins is on the decline.
Do you have any advice for people who want to sell their handmade items online?
I find it hard to give a recipe for guaranteed success. Recently it passed a year when I started my business, so I’m still at the development stage. I would rather share with you what I focus on in my development path.
At first, do not give up after initial failures. Handicraft selling by the Internet requires patience. I am constantly improving my skills and experimenting with new ideas. I try to keep the customer service at the highest standard. Good communication and quick delivery are important, but most of all I focus on workmanship and material quality. Customers also pay attention to the way of package as they often buy products for gifts.
I’m trying to develop my business in a sustainable way – using local suppliers while maintaining the highest quality products. This is the best way to gain repeat customers and build a base of positive feedback. I believe that such an approach guarantee a success in handicraft business and the best achievements in selling not only online.
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