As an artist and traveller at heart, Jesse Bateson’s experience creating his business, Solid Leather, has been an almost two-decades-long journey. From what started out as a hobby to make a little bit of extra cash while solo travelling around North America, Jesse’s passion for leather artistry has brought him to Peterborough with a wealth of experience and new personal connections.
“I began working with leather almost 17 years ago while I was travelling by myself around Canada & the US,” says Jesse Bateson, owner of Solid Leather. “I met a man while train-hopping who turned old leather jackets into wallets and wristbands and was selling them for extra cash. In a sort of serendipitous twist, I was in a thrift store a few days later and ended up buying a bunch of leather belts. I started making these into bracelets and selling them throughout my travels.”
While this might seem like an unconventional way to begin a career path, Jesse is thankful for the experiences and personal connections leather making has given him. “I was often travelling alone, so selling my leather pieces helped me to meet new people, navigate the new places I was visiting, and allowed me to generate income to keep travelling,” says Jesse. After landing in Peterborough a few years later, his leather-making business continued to evolve.
“I moved here in 2004, the year of the flood,” shares Jesse. “I started by selling my bracelets on the corner of Hunter and George every Friday. It was just me and my little briefcase. But that experience was invaluable in helping me build a community here in Peterborough.”
In 2008, Jesse created Leather Cache, a small leather artistry boutique that operated solely on custom leather commissions. This business not only allowed Jesse to continue to develop his work with leather but also incorporated more artistic elements as well. “In the five years I operated Leather Cache, my primary focus was bringing different artistic components to traditional leatherwork. I focused on creating leather belts, bracelets and wall hangings that incorporated artistic elements as well,” says Jesse.
After operating Leather Cache for five years, Jesse took a short pause from leather making. After becoming a Dad and tipping his toes into a more traditional career path, Jesse found his love of leather making was beginning to dim. “I know I wasn’t done, but I also knew I wasn’t loving it anymore,” shares Jesse. “I took a few years off completely. Even when people tried to commission pieces I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wanted a chance to miss leather making, and I knew once I truly missed it, that I would be ready to go back.”
During this break, Jesse also became a father to two young children. Once his children went back to school, Jesse felt the entrepreneurial itch kick in once again. “I knew I had this love for mens’ fashion and this unique skill set in leather making, so I decided to combine those two passions into what is now Solid Leather.”
When asked why he returned to leather making and creating Solid Leather, Jesse’s answer was simple. “Everything I do, I do for my children. For me, the most valuable thing I can give them is time. Time to be with them, play with them, support them. As a small business owner, I have the flexibility to give them that time. For me, that is really the primary driver for everything I do in my life.”
From the very beginning, Jesse knew the focus of his new endeavour had to be rooted in what was more appealing to the common consumer. For Jesse, the answer was simple. “Belts have always been the most requested and sold item throughout my leather-making experience. A belt really helps to finish off an outfit and really elevates the whole look. A good belt is a timeless investment,” he explains.
After Leather Cache, Jesse was able to shift his business model into the digital age. Solid Leather is an online retailer specializing in mens’ leather belts. “From my first experience with Leather Cache, I learned the importance and opportunities that are available when you expand your marketplace. Previously I was doing very artistic-based creations which is a very niche market. With the online reach of Leather Cache, especially during COVID-19 times, I can reach a whole new audience and customer base.”
As Jesse explains, what sets Solid Leather apart is the commitment to quality and craftsmanship. For him, the pride of knowing someone is wearing a belt that he created with his own hands is an incredibly rewarding experience. Solid Leather specializes in handcrafted leather belts for men in both casual and formal styles. Jesse stands by the quality of his product by providing a lifetime guarantee on all Solid Leather products. From a consumer, this commitment to product quality is what sets Solid Leather products apart from fast fashion leather goods.
When chatting about quality, Jesse shares the personal connection he hopes customers make with his products. “My first belt was my Dad’s belt. I love that type of connection. I want my product to be something you carry throughout your whole life, something you can give to your grandkids. That’s the investment I want people to make when they purchase a belt from Solid Leather.”
For Jesse, the support from Peterborough has been incredible, especially during these difficult times. “It always blows me away the number of people who make proactive efforts to support local businesses. The outpouring of support has been incredible from both the local community and our online customer base. This has been a challenging year for all of us and I am very grateful for the support I have found from the Peterborough community and PKED.”