Go Forth Goods owner Nathan Martin and his employees hand produce beautiful and practical leather goods, but for Martin the business is about something bigger than sales. "At the core of my being, I love to help others and give back. It makes me feel alive. I also love to encourage others that, no matter who you are or what your sphere of influence, you can make a difference in the world around you." Nathan Martin, Go Forth Goods (Check them out at GoForthGoods.com)
Over four years ago, Nathan Martin was in his basement learning a new skill--leather working. He'd never worked with leather before when he began this new creative outlet. Martin, who has lived most of his life in Georgia, had started a marketing company when he was 21 but was ready to do something different. This "something different" evolved into a new career complete with an online store and physical retail space and employees. Though this sounds like everyone's dream, Martin believes that a person must be willing to work harder than they ever have before to make their dream work and has some advice for those who want to start a new venture.
So, how does one go from picking up a new creative outlet to making it a full-time job? Well, at first, not everyone believed that it would be a new career. "My wife at first just said, 'Ok sweetie, have fun,' I don't think she really thought at that time that it would work as I had never even worked with leather before."
All of that changed, however, when Martin made his first wallet, sent out some pictures of the product to some close friends and immediately received orders for 10 wallets. At that point, his wife was on board. "After showing her the first wallet I made, she was super impressed and said, 'YOU made that?!?!, Wow! I'm impressed!' - That is when I knew I had something!"
At the beginning, it was just him in his basement making all the products in the evenings every night after the kids went to bed. Martin says it was "exciting and exhausting at the same time. "
I have always been creative and liked working with my hands," Martin explains, "so I started the company with the full intent of making it my full-time job as soon as possible."
So, how did he transition from working out of his basement to having retail space and employees? He explains, "I made it super low risk, so if it didn’t work, no big deal, just move on to the next thing. As the company grew and I took on employees and a retail space, there are new things to consider like paying all the bills, growing the company, etc., but I handle those by having faith in God. He is my Provider. I have also learned to make smart, calculated decisions with minimal risk."
The company started with smaller items like wallets, belts, and key fobs, and grew to include a full line of bags. Now they are adding to their product offerings every few months selling through both their retail space, at arts shows, and online. (Check them out at goforthgoods.com.) But they don't intend to stop there, "We will continue to add new products and improve our customer experience. The goal is to be a household name in leather goods one day," Martin tells Fresh Paths.
The name Go Forth Goods goes along with Martin's mission in starting the business in that Martin wants to encourage others to do exactly what the name says. "I wanted to name the company after something I'm passionate about, something more than just Nathan Martin Leather. At the core of my being, I love to help others and give back. It makes me feel alive. I also love to encourage others that, no matter who you are or what your sphere of influence, you can make a difference in the world around you."
Since starting Go Forth Goods, Nathan Martin has had success with his company and has never looked back. "There has not been a time with this company where we were not doing well and growing," he says.
Would he do something like this again? "I would do something like this again without changing the process. I would just get to where we are now a little quicker with knowing how to do it. I’ve had to figure it out trial and error style to get to where we are." Martin is quick to say, however, that starting out on a new venture is not for the faint of heart. His advice to would-be dream followers and business owners? "First, know what you're getting into. If you think its going to be easier than your current job, just stop now. You will never make it. To make it, you have to realize it’s going to take an amazing amount of hard work, grit, determination, will power, money, and not giving up. And then, even with all that, you may not make it."
"Save your money; you will need it," he continues. Most folks I know take out loans and take big risks hoping it will pay off. Save your money and test your idea with minimal investment. If it sells, invest a little more. If you aren’t able to first sell it to your friends and family and people you know, most likely getting it out to a larger audience won't make a difference. So, start small and, once you have found traction, then you can scale it."
Martin adds this final bit of advice, "Last thing is you have to be good at adapting and changing to be successful. You have to be aware of your market and notice when it's changing and be able to change with it."