Student Sews Together a Handmade Success Story

Published: June 30, 2014 | Author: Jessica Young | Read Time: 3 minutes

Tyler Condie with Rugged MaterialThe rhythmic sound of scissors cutting emanates from the 15x15 feet workroom and thick leather stretches across the cramped workspace as Tyler Condie meticulously snips through the material. With the stained leather now in pieces, Condie’s calloused hands begins to steady the heavy cloth beneath the pulsating needle.

Within minutes the once disordered fabric takes shape and Condie piles the now functional leather bag in a large pile of other goods, all branded with his insignia, Rugged Material.

Condie, founder and CEO of Rugged Material, has taken his passion for American made goods and made it into a business, which has exploded. Within 18 months, the company is receiving a new workshop and his leather goods — ranging from belts to wallets, even satchels and backpacks — are being shipped worldwide.

He’s no Vanderbilt, but this train is making hay for the Cedar City native and Southern Utah University engineering student.

Growing up maintaining his father’s century old saddle, Condie has a passion for products that can last a lifetime. So when it came time to fill a requirement for an engineering class, he sat down in front of his prized leather and made a knife scabbard and then an additional five more to get the design perfect.

Family and friends began to purchase the scabbards, so Condie started making phone and tablet leather cases, and when those flew off the shelves Rugged Material was born, a company that sales handmade leather goods directly to the consumer at a fraction of the cost, all because Condie cut out the middleman.

“Everyone should have access to American made goods that come with a lifetime guarantee, but typically those items are so outrageously expensive that most people are unable purchase those products, so I had to find a way around that,” Condie states.  

But this Henry Ford of leather is taking it a step further, the items are created so one can take it to school with a laptop inside then to the trails with it loaded with climbing gear. And it doesn’t stop there; all items are completely weather resistant, just like his dad’s aged saddle.

Rugged Material received its biggest break in these last few weeks with a campaign on Kickstarter, an online resource for creative projects to gain a broader base of support beyond one’s own community. Condie began his campaign to raise $15,000 and within a few days the goal was reached. By the time the campaign finished, $84,250 was raised.

Now with capital beneath his belts, Condie and his business partner CJ Rowley, who he met in a college math class, are now able to upgrade to a new workshop, purchase new equipment and hire a full-time employee.

“I have always looked for ways to become self-employed, and now I can be. Creating my own business is giving me the ability to provide for myself and my family, I can’t think of a better way to live,” explains Condie.

He went on to say that his goals with Rugged Material are all being met, especially with the help of SUU’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) —a resource for southern Utahans to facilitate business growth and gain entrepreneurship education — where he took a class on how to better manage his growing company.

Craig Isom, executive director of the SBDC, said of his successful student, “Tyler has been able to carve out a niche and he has hit it out of the ballpark. His business is growing at a nice rate and creating jobs, with his attitude and energy the future bodes well for him.”

This idea of creating jobs is a huge characteristic of Rugged Material, and according to Condie it’s a main goal. “We love Cedar City and are focused on keeping our manufacturing here so we can create opportunities for the community to grow.”

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