Thank you to the amazing work of CJ, the master behind The List. This creative curation features the best artisans of U.S.A and Canada, and as a sustainable leather and ethical fashion brand, I am so proud to not only be featured, but to be the first Canuck!
The following is a Q&A interview I did with CJ. Read our discussion on entrepreneurship, creative work, hobbies and starting an independent fashion brand with a disability. See the original post here.
We’d originally set out to feature exclusively U.S.-based Artisans on The List. But that changed the instant we found Sadelmager Design House on Instagram and learned it was headquartered in Canada. When its founder, Becca Meadows, agreed to be part of our community, the Great White North was officially added. And we’re so happy about it.
We recently chatted with Becca about her business and how she began handcrafting leather accessories. Turns out she’s not only a talented person, but also a fascinating one.
Hey Becca. How’d you end up here?
I started off when I was a kid in my dad’s tack shop. He’d quit his nine-to-five corporate job to pursue his dream of becoming a saddler. He taught me how to make my first belt when I was [very young], and as I got older I apprenticed with him. I helped him with repairs and custom orders for the horse industry.
Growing up, though, I never imagined I’d have a career in leather work. But I did always enjoy working with my hands, I loved fashion, and I [developed] a background in fine arts. But I never thought it’s what I’d actually be doing with my life.
What’s your favorite book or movie?
I love monster movies: Godzilla, Pacific Rim, Jurassic Park. As a kid, I used to spend hours sitting at home, drawing monsters and dinosaurs, and my obsession hasn’t changed as I’ve gotten older. I think I always felt these beasts were so misunderstood. I also loved watching Steve Irwin on The Crocodile Hunter.
Who’s been the biggest inspiration in your career?
I think my biggest inspiration to keep moving forward as an entrepreneur is my parents. I’ve never seen two harder-working people. Growing up on a farm, they always had the do-it-yourself gumption and motivation. They did their own renovations, and built greenhouses and chicken coops. We were always working. Living on a farm is seven-days-a-week kind of work, but it’s so beautiful and rewarding. That dedication, hard work, and resiliency has inspired me in my own work and business, even in just the day-to-day.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a small business owner?
No one knows what the fuck they’re doing. As a kid, you think grown-ups have it all together. They don’t. And as a small business owner you think everyone around you knows exactly what they’re doing, and that they’re doing it way better than you. They don’t, and they aren’t. We’re all here taking a huge risk, and are always terrified of losing everything we’ve built. Most businesses are just a few bad months away from losing it all, and in realizing that reality, I’ve really accepted that challenge and anxiety as an entrepreneur. It’s exhilarating to beat the odds and to pivot when necessary. It’s really hard, and I can easily say there are many sleepless nights, but it’s also the most rewarding experience.
What are you currently listening to while working?
I’ve been listening to a lot of Lo-Fi chill music in the background while I work, along with folk.
As a kid, do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?
I always wanted to be a vet or an artist. I grew up spending all of my time with my animals and art. I can’t imagine a world without either.
What about in high school?
When I was in high school, I had no clue what I was going to do, and it didn’t scare me. I loved art, but thought it was outlandish to pursue an Art degree. I had no clue what I’d do with a Bachelor’s in English, and thought I wasn’t smart enough to pursue a career in the sciences. I loved fashion, and started taking garment construction courses an hour away from where I live at a college that didn’t check my pre-requisites. It was all hush-hush that I hadn’t even finished grade 11 when I started. I didn’t think it would actually translate into anything.
Did you have a career before this one?
I was on my way to becoming a funeral director when I became disabled. It was out of necessity; I couldn’t find any work that would accommodate me. So I started Sadelmager. I had 10 years of experience under my belt working with this medium, and as I started creating designs, I had an enormous amount of positive feedback. From being mostly bedridden, I started my career designing and creating bags, and eventually evolved into creating my own business, brand, and dream.
If money, time, and place were no object, what would be your dream job?
I’d love to continue to do this, but I’d probably grow it a little faster without the huge risk of losing it all. I think the better question for me is, “If I didn’t need sleep and was immortal, what would I do?” [Laughs] If so, I’d also continue my degree in Biological Sciences, by day research microbiology and immunology, and at night I’d run Sadelmager. That way, I’d have the perfect balance between the arts and science.
What are five things people would be surprised to learn about you?
1. Organic Chemistry is the best class I’ve ever taken in school.
2. I have a tortoise named Boris. He’s the true head of the household.
3. I can use power tools, and in every relationship I’ve been in I’ve always been the handy one.
4. If there were more hours in the day, I’d use them to go horseback riding.
5. I swear far more casually and creatively than people expect me to.
What are the top places you’ve traveled, or top places you want to travel to?
Unfortunately, when I became ill it postponed all of my travel plans. When I spent a year and a half mostly bedridden, my favorite part about my business was sending my bags off to places I’d never seen: Australia, South Africa, Alaska, England. These are all beautiful [destinations] I’ve dreamed of visiting, and when I sold my bags there, it was like I got to be there in some way. One day I hope to go.
What’s coming up for you?
In the next few months I plan to branch out into housewares. I’m partnering with a woodworker named Jordan Dyck. We’ve created some small goods like cutting boards, and will be creating chairs and tables in the future. I’m also working on a more avant-garde line of fashion goods to be worn as a way to dress up outfits—or dressed down in the bedroom.
Which Artisan’s work are you currently coveting on The List?
I admire Hackwith Design House. When I first started out [as an entrepreneur], I was always thinking, “Can I do this? Is this even possible?” I thought only the rich and famous could start their own fashion brands. When I discovered Hackwith, it really turned the light on. The business, design, brand, and community Lisa has built are absolutely phenomenal, and are something I aspire to.
What so far has been the best part of being an Artisan on The List?
Being a part of community of makers. We all have different stories, perspectives, and backgrounds, but all have a passion and a drive. Pursuing your dreams and working for yourself is hard, but the people you meet along the way make it far easier, and worth it.