Small business owner reveals company secrets to quell knock-offs


Dave Munson, CEO of Saddleback Leather made an entertaining 12 minute video giving his imitators — and us — step-by-step instructions on how to make leather bags your kids will fight over when you die.
Dave Munson, CEO of Saddleback Leather made an entertaining 12 minute video giving his imitators — and us — step-by-step instructions on how to make leather bags your kids will fight over when you die.

If you’re a small business owner with a unique product the last thing you want is to see are copies of your one-of-a-kind product being ripped off, sold cheaper and made with inferior materials.

But it happens. It’s inevitable. We know the same night the Oscar Awards air on TV, knock-offs of the most popular gowns worn by movie stars are being replicated in overseas sweat shops to be worn by high school girls at their proms a few months later.

What can you do about?

A recent report on Marketplace segment about Saddleback Leather relates how one business owner got even. (Full disclosure: I LOVE Marketplace, which airs 6:30 p.m. on my PBS radio station WNYC so I make sure I am in the kitchen with the radio  making dinner at that time so I don’t miss it. That makes me one of the more than 8 million listeners of the most popular business program in America, beating out CNBC, Bloomberg or Nightly Business Report.)

Anyways, Dave Munson, CEO of Saddleback Leather made an entertaining 12 minute video giving his imitators — and us — step-by-step instructions on how to make leather bags your kids will fight over when you die. He wanted to show people quality and let them  decide if they preferred cheap. You will know a lot more about leather than you knew existed — in a fun way.

Both the video and the company’s website are great examples of tongue-in-cheek marketing. His “About Me” page, called “The Saddleback Story” is funny, endearing, socially conscious and if he weren’t already married I’d be booking a flight to El Paso to meet him.

As he told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdale, when Munson, a serial world traveler, couldn’t find the perfect leather satchel in 1999, he had one made. So many people asked him about it, he had more made. And more. And more. Now he owns a successful company that makes a variety of leather products. But as he notes he almost drowned a couple of times as he built the company and was smart enough to ask experts for help. It’s an inspirational story for any entrepreneur. I’m contacting SCORE  now.

The only downside, he said the video helped but gave no numbers of examples. Even if it didn’t stop the knock-offs, knowing what goes into his products is good branding,

To see the video, click here.

To visit the Saddleback website, click here.

To listen to the Marketplace podcast, visit the Marketplace website by clicking here. Then click on PODCASTS, click on LISTEN, then click on Marketplace for Tuesday, April 21, 2015.

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