Name: Jose Estela
Business: Smiths & Kings
When Jose Estela lost his job as a graphic designer, he was already tired of having his destiny in the hands of a boss or manager. As he mulled his options, Jose made himself a simple wallet using skills he’d picked up designing leather cases for electronic devices. Friends admired the wallet and placed orders for their own. That unexpected response led Jose to develop his own line of handmade leather goods. Today, as founder -- and everything else -- of Smiths & Kings, Jose designs, crafts and sells his gorgeous wallets, key fobs and accessories.
Jose will be selling his gorgeous leather goods at the Bazaar at this year's SOLD OUT QB Connect 2017 in San Jose.
Jose, tell us the story behind your business.
When I got laid off from a company making leather cases for iPads and other electronics, I decided to transition out of graphic design and into another field. I’d picked up some leather-working skills and started making simple products for myself. I’ve always liked leather goods, but I’d never envisioned creating them.
My first wallet now retails as the Ludwig. When friends asked me to create more so they could buy them, things began to click. I saw that I could build a business around handmade leather goods. I started learning as much as I could about leather and techniques for working with it. I’m entirely self-taught. I learned much of what I now know from YouTube videos!
I’m lucky to be able to pursue my passion and make a living. I truly love what I do. My business gives me the creative outlet of designing and making leather goods, which is very fulfilling.
How do you market your products?
All my products are available on my website, and eleven stores in the United States carry Smiths & Kings leather goods.
I’m based in Los Angeles, and I do a lot of in-person sales through markets, events and craft fairs here in Southern California and in other parts of the state. I love connecting with customers face-to-face and explaining the process and the thought behind my products.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days are very structured. In the mornings, I do a lot of administrative work, such as answering emails and fulfilling orders. Then I work in the studio to build up inventory for shows and other events. With the holiday season coming up, it’s busier than ever. I have to keep as much inventory in stock as I can.
As a one-person business, I wear a lot of hats. I’m the customer service team and the marketing team. I create email campaigns, post on social media and take care of anything else that comes my way.
Looking ahead, what’s next for Smiths & Kings?
I’d like to help formerly incarcerated individuals learn skills to help them get back on their feet and make a living. When you come out of prison, there aren’t many opportunities, so it’s hard to see a new way forward. This lack of opportunity means the chance for re-incarceration is much higher.
I’ve had close family members go through this, and I’ve seen their struggles. My ultimate goal is to grow Smiths & Kings to a point where I can help former inmates find employment. I’m confident I’ll be able to do this in the coming years.
What advice would you give to a small business owner who’s just starting out?
When I talk to people who are thinking about going into business on their own, I tell them to be prepared for things to go wrong. No matter how much you plan, there will be unexpected surprises. Some will be happy accidents, but others will be setbacks. It’s on you to adapt and continue to pursue your dream.
There’s a fantasy that entrepreneurship is a walk in the park. The reality is, if I take time off, things don’t move forward. When you run a business, everything falls on you.
What do you hope to gain from QuickBooks Connect?
I’m very creative, but a huge weakness for me is the business side of my company. I’m looking for information to help grow my company -- things like accounting, legal matters and general business development. I hope to learn a lot about these areas at QuickBooks Connect.
I’m also looking forward to meeting others entrepreneurs. I turn to other small business owners for inspiration, and I love to understand what they’re doing and what’s working for their businesses.
Joining the QB Community connects you to others who, just like you and Jose, dare to work for themselves. (Find the Sign Up link to the upper right!)
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I love your products, José, and I can't wait to meet you at QB Connect! I also love that you turned losing your job into a positive. Sometimes it just takes a little bump in the road to direct us in the right direction. :smileyvery-happy: