A young northwest Iowa man is making a name for himself by making quality products from leather. Matt Fedders is a self-taught craftsman and now he's a self-made businessman.
He's only 19 years old, but there's not much Fedders can't do with leather. He's one of a select few. There aren't too many people in this neck of the woods who do this sort of work any more.
"It's kind of become more of a lost trait and so coming out of high school I needed to learn how to make a living, and I chose to try and make a leather shop," he said.
So far, so good. Matt's work has won him blue ribbons and happy customers. At his business he calls Sioux Leather, Matt cranks out a good stock of go-to products, from gun holsters to cell phone cases, belts to backpacks.
He does custom work too.
"I think one of the uniquest ones I did is I had a gentleman come in with an accordion and he needed new straps for it," said Fedders.
He's also recovered a fire-damaged saddle, and he covered the skull of an elk for a hunter.
"And I made it look like it was actually wearing a glove. It was that tight," he said.
When KTIV visited his shop, Matt was making a foot stool for his mother.
Matt runs his business in a home on his family's farm. It's the home his grandparents lived in until they moved into town a few years ago. There are other family ties to Sioux Leather. Matt's parents helped him with some of the startup costs and it was his dad who first got him interested in leatherwork when Matt was 11 years old.
Of his son's venture, Mark Fedders said, "I'm real proud of him. It's exciting to see him take the business and learn some of the intricacies of how to run a business, how to manage a business and you know, to deal with customers and customer relationships. So, it's exciting to see the business starting to grow and to prosper."
"Funny thing about leather when you make it wet, there's a certain point where it actually tools it best," Matt explained to KTIV's Al Joens.
He didn't learn that in art class. Matt is a self-taught craftsman. And he works with all sorts of hides from cows to bison to horses, even sting-rays. And this is the good stuff: Genuine leather, not the cheaper bonded material you'll find in the discount store. So it does cost more, but Matt believes it's worth the investment.
"My belts, they may cost three times as much depending on the type, but they will last four or five times longer," he said.
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