Sakura Spotlight Series: Tom Schell
Spotlight Series Q&A for Entrepreneurs
Tom Schell is the owner and talented designer of Richard Paige, a growing business that sells handmade leather goods. He came up with the name of the business by fusing his and his wife’s middle names together, which is just as beautiful as the handbags he creates.
- Tell us a little bit about your business and what you do.
Richard Paige officially became a business in 2016. After being a personal hobby for a few years, my wife and I decided that we needed to jump in and make it official after I started spending more and more time producing bags and designs.
We are a fine leather goods company making both lines of bag and wallet designs, along with bespoke made to order leather goods. Each product is designed, sourced and is 100% handmade by me. One thing that separates our products from our competitors is that we hand-sew almost all of our bags and wallets. This is a much more laborious process, but in the end produces a much stronger and longer lasting stitch.
At this point we are in the process of building out another studio workshop and upgrading some of our manufacturing processes to allow for a higher output in the following years.
- What made you aspire to be an entrepreneur?
It’s funny but I don’t really think of myself as an entrepreneur even though obviously I somewhat am! It really wasn’t something that I consciously thought about becoming, but was rather something that happened organically. Around the time I was starting Richard Paige, my wife and in-laws owned and operated another business locally, so I already had a taste for small business but didn’t plan on starting something myself. Previously I have always worked as an employee to someone else, but the idea of working for myself was a pretty enticing thing, and does allow for a very interesting albeit challenging work lifestyle!
- What is the one thing you wish you had known before starting your own business?
I don’t have one particular thing that I wish I had known before starting Richard Paige, but I would say in general the ‘business’ side of running a business is something that I would have loved to have had guidance with. The creative and artistic part of having your own business is the easier and more interesting part, but the most important portion (back of house) requires just as much effort. Setting up the business, keeping records, accounting, pricing, wholesaling, shipping and other elements are just as important as making bags, and no matter how pretty a bag or wallet is, unless you have these in place you are going to start falling behind!
- What are the aspects of your business that you enjoy the most?
I would say the freedom of creation is something I really enjoy. I love being able to take something from conception in my mind, to paper and then finally to the creation of a 3D product. This is especially enjoyable when you can see a customer using that product and it fills a need of theirs. This can also be a trying element though, as the buck stops with you! As both the business owner and designer, you are the one who is tasked with every portion of the creative process.
- What do you love doing in your free time to refuel and have fun?
Free time is a constant struggle that you have to deal with when owning your own business. The work/life balance is a tough one! Knowing when to take time off, or stop is a very tough skill to master, but in the long run will actually help with productivity and longevity. I think that a major aspect that helps with this is delegating and relinquishing control. Being able to have others help or take over aspects will allow for a much more productive business in the long run.
When we have free time, we are most likely at the beach, seeing as we live in a beautiful beach town. Our small town has tons of local events that keep us busy, but we also love traveling (and if you can make it a work trip then even better!) around the US.