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Conversations with Nathan Begnaud

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nathan Begnaud.

Hi Nathan, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
In 2013 an idea popped in my mind: a leather bow tie. So I pitched the idea to my dad, given as he deals exclusively in leather (www.leatheworksminnesota.com). He liked it but didn’t think it was for him. I thought about it often but never acted upon it, largely because I didn’t know anything about leather or how to make anything. But all of that was soon to change.

In August of 2015, my wife and I awaited the arrival of our third child. After Maxwell arrived, we knew life was going to drastically change. Max came to us with Down Syndrome, and just six months into his life, he needed open-heart surgery. Needless to say, all of this changed the “normal rhythms” of life for our entire family.

I couldn’t stop thinking of the needs of my family, as well as leather bow ties. One day I went to get a cup of coffee. It just so happened the sleeve around my cup had an image on it: a bow tie. This was the blossoming of the idea into action. So with the hope that I could pay down medical bills by working from home so I could be available to my family, Madison Street Leather was born.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
From the get-go, I worked in my office at home, not at all the ideal place to cut, punch, pound leather. My wife can attest to the undesirable noises that may have been coming from this small space. But I’ve realized the importance of being opportunistic when starting up anything. After growing a bit, I eventually had enough money to outfit a small space in my garage and set up a more permanent residence for my production.

I think one of the more compelling things early on was the aim to convince people of the concept. I give much deference to those who know fashion and have seen different novelty things come and go, but I was having to convince even people close to me: family and friends. I’ll admit the first few months of making up prototypes may not have yielded anything visibly appealing, but it was helping me find what NOT to do, helping then pave the way for what I eventually came up with.

Great, so let’s talk business. Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I think it is the leather bowtie that I am most proud of. Each piece tells a unique story, from the cow it came from to the tannery that made it, to why I selected it, and so much more. And this is what I have come to see this business is all about: storytelling. I have found as I wear my bowties almost every day, it prompts curious looks from people trying to figure out what it is, or where I got it, or just the uniqueness of it. As a result of this, many impromptu conversations have spun out of it, resulting in the bigger narrative of why I am doing all of this, even for my own son, but also to tell the story of a larger group of people with Down Syndrome who we aim to cheer on and support ($1 from the sale of every bowtie goes to help the Down Syndrome Guild of Kansas City).

Can you talk to us a bit about the role of luck?
I will only say I am grateful to have a dad who has helped me tremendously both with learning how to work with leather as well as inform me on ideas on promoting my products. It has helped deepen my relationship with him. Fortunate to have such access to a great craftsman and businessman and that I get to call him “dad.”

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