When a Central Florida financier's $500 leather wallet fell apart after just a short stint, he decided to take matters into his own hands.He learned leatherworking himself."I had worked in finance for a while, was a stock broker, and went through a lot of luxury items," said Ed Ratanun of Hellbrand Leatherworks."In 2011, I wasn't happy with my job. I didn't feel fulfilled," Ratanun said. "I enjoyed this, and it was kind of a natural progression for me."So Ratanun traded his high-pressure, suit-and-tie life for more casual clothes in a somewhat slower setting. It's been seven years since Ratanun started trying his hands at leather work, hiring help to teach him the basics. He set up shop in a small Winter Park loft. "It was more of a hobby, and a lot of my friends were telling me I needed to start selling stuff."So he did, online at first, but then he realized he was outgrowing his space. He moved to a storefront in College Park, naming the place in honor of the Melbourne man who gave him his start."And that's where the Hellbrand comes in, his name was Hillebrand," Ratanun said. "I kind of took out the middle 'e,' shortened it a little bit. Kind of like an homage." Now, Ratanun has mastered the old-world leather techniques and applied them to making new world products, from wallets to belts to duffle bags -- all by hand. "The time it takes to construct a piece varies. Wallets, anywhere from two to three hours. A messenger bag takes about the same. A briefcase can take 30 hours." Ninety percent of his sales still are online."I want to obviously build the brand further, get into other shops and boutiques across the country," Ratanun said. So, he's working harder, and doing more to build his brand even bigger this year.
For more information on Hellbrand Leatherworks, go to HellbrandLeather.com.
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