Introduce us to you and your brand/work.
We are Melike and Sinan, a married couple from Turkey. We visited Edinburgh on our first anniversary back in 2012. We fell in love with the city at first sight (been deceived by the most
wonderful sunny day but I am sure we'd fell in love anyway) and wanted to find a way to live here. Then I (Melike) decided to pursue my PhD at the University of Edinburgh and we happily moved here in 2014.
My husband (Sinan) was trying to decide what to do here, he was a structural engineer but it was hard to make a transition to a new country with his profession. He wanted to see this as an opportunity to turn his leathercrafting hobby into a full-time business and we gave it a shot. He started making leather accessories at home (many thanks to our downstairs neighbour Mary for hanging in there patiently while he was punching) and I took care of the financial/administrational side of the business. We were lucky enough to get a stall at Edinburgh Grassmarkets to make our first sales where we are still a happy trader to this date.
Since then, we were able to grow little by little both as a small business and as a family (a little boy joined us in July 2019), and very thankful for the support we got from our local community in our beloved city (still very much in love).
To describe our business shortly: We design and handcraft leather goods at our studio in Bruntsfield. All our items are handmade and hand-stitched from full-grain vegetable-tanned leather, so they are unique, they age beautifully and develop a character, and they are used for long years. We choose to solely apply the handcrafting processes and use hand-stitching because handcrafted leather items are much superior in strength and durability. Our product range includes wallets, card holders, key chains, journals, coasters, travel organisers, and many more.
How has your brand/work developed since you began?
Sinan started leathercrafting as a hobby, and when we decided to turn this into a full time business he was making only a few types of items and in a not-so-professional way. I didn’t have a single knowledge about leatherwork. Then we trained ourselves in many ways, both about leather-crafting and also about running a business. We also used local markets and social as a source to introduce ourselves and to understand what prospective customers are looking to get. Using this insight, we developed our product portfolio. And with training and practise, we also perfected our crafting skills along the way. In addition to these, we also acquired a deep knowledge about leather and possible sustainable and durable sources. We learned about the types of leather, and which types of leather to source for sustainable and eco-friendly making processes.
Currently, we get highest quality leather from responsible sources, we make a wide range of leather items and we are praised by our customers for the excellence of our hand-crafting processes. We sell our item in a wide variety of channels including shop, markets and online platforms.
What do you consider to be your most popular product?
Although this changes from season to season and over time, when we think about the complete journey of our business, our cable organisers have been our most popular product. They are simple and beautiful in design along with being extremely functional by preventing the headphones from getting tangled in pockets or bags.
Tell us a little about a piece you are the proudest of?
Again, possible changes over time but we very proud of our artists roll organisers, as the design requires precision and time devotion to come up with the perfect item. It takes hours to finish the stitching as we solely do hand-stitching for superior strength and durability. The end product is very functional, storing a good amount of stationary items (or travel or make-up items depending on usage purpose) and looks even more beautiful when filled with personal belongings.
Do you have any past accomplishments you wish to share?
The thing that comes to my mind straightaway is the time when the University of Edinburgh reached out to us asking for a special alumni product line for the University Visitor Centre. When they said they were looking for a local leathercrafts business and we were spot on for them as they love our work, we felt that we really made our place at the hearts of local people in here. Our products are still among the university alumni line and can be shopped at the University Visitor Centre.
How did you find out about SDX? And what made you apply to sell with us?
We are always in the search for platforms that support local and independent makers as it is very hard for us to showcase our work to people. From fellow makers, we heard SDX as one of such platforms, full of beautiful work made by local makers.
We have visited the shop and fell in love with it, thinking that our work should definitely be among the fantastic products exhibited there. And we sent along an email and got a straightaway helpful and positive reply which made our day.
What would you consider to be the most challenging aspect about being a working artist/designer?
In line with the question above, I think I would say to be able to reach out to your prospective
customers. Because as independent artists/designers/makers, we are our own bosses and we do
what we love. So there is no problem about creating/designing/making new items. However, finding people that will want your items is the hard part for one-person businesses (well, two-persons in our case) as we have very limited resources for advertise our work. We don’t have the financial and communicational resources that the bigger businesses have to put their products in front of people. We have to struggle a lot to reach out to our target customers and platforms like SDX are the best solutions for us.
What have you found to be the most challenging aspect to your business since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020?
The pandemic made it even harder for us to find platforms to showcase and sell our work. With the lockdowns, online shopping platforms have been mostly preferred by the prospective customers and it is even harder for local and independent small businesses to showcase their work online. Big businesses dominate the online advertising platforms and small businesses stay hidden from the eyes of customers. So, when there are no platforms to showcase and sell work, it has been very hard to get to the end of the month financially. It is a miracle to be able to continue your work as an independent maker after the 2020 pandemic and government grants have been very helpful to us in that sense.
How have you spent your time during lockdowns, any new hobbies or passions discovered?
We mostly designed new items and enlarged our product range. We also refreshed our look on the online platforms. However, we still had the time to hop on our car and discover new places around Scotland and northern England. We also did loads of home cooking. And also looking after a baby then / toddler now also has been a full time passion
How do you think the pandemic will affect shopping habits and the retail industry moving forward?
I would think that people would get used to shopping online and start to abandon physical shopping platforms but the research says that’s not the case. Although people got the habit of shopping online throughout the pandemic, they also missed physical shopping and understood how much more fulfilling it is compared to online shopping. So, people are eager to do physical shopping and it will increase a lot with the decline in Covid cases. This is very promising for independent makers as we thrive much better in physical shopping platforms such as markets and independent shops.
What do you hope to gain from working with SDX going forward?
We are rather very new at SDX, however, we hope it to be another strong selling channel for us. We also believe it will increase our brand recognition.
If you could share just one piece of advice to aspiring artists/designers who want to make a living from their creative talents, what would you tell them?
I think they should be aware that it is not just creating/designing/making the items which is the best part. There is a business side to it which involves financial and advertising aspects and takes a lot of time, as much as creating and maybe even more.
Tell us your favourite inspirational quote or best advice YOU were given.
I have lots, but when it comes to running your small independent business, this one might be quite inspirational:
,"You are not defeated when you lose. You are defeated when you quit." - Paulo Coelho
Thank you to Melike and Sinan for participating in our blog! You can support their business and SDX by purchasing their products at our George Street, Edinburgh shop