An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Have confidence in yourself and listen to your instincts. At the beginning I would second guess myself and not trust that I knew what was right for myself and by extension my business. So I learnt a few things the hard way.
As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline Strecker.
Caroline Strecker’s Rag of Colts is a brand borne out of family history, love for British heritage and a passion for repurposing leather saddles that would otherwise be discarded in a landfill.
A few years ago, Caroline was having dinner with her friend David de Rothschild, when engrossed in conversation about bridle leather (the leather used in equestrian grade tack) she came up with the idea to create dog collars and leads made of repurposed leather. Born and raised in a family of artists and makers, armed with a childhood fascination for saddlery leather (Caroline’s great grandfather won the Gold in polo in the 1920s Summer Olympics) and entirely self-taught, she started experimenting with cutting and stitching until she created her first bag; out of necessity, just for her. A prototype was made. More bags followed, different shapes and styles for different clients, some well-known.
At Rag of Colts, Caroline makes everything by hand, from the very first cut, to the very last burnish. Each leather saddle is transformed into a unique bag, aged to perfection with its own one-of-a kind patina. The bags are each named after a family ancestor.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?
I grew up on my grandmother’s farm in Perthshire, Scotland. My grandmother was a force of nature and had very strong beliefs on how children should behave. She was a fierce disciplinarian but we also enjoyed incredible freedom and responsibilities some parents (myself included!) would probably consider beyond our years. Screens barely existed and were definitely banned anyway. We were kept very busy, and to some extent, put to work on the farm. She taught us all (my brother and my cousins included) to knit, to mend, to cook, to iron a shirt, to skin a rabbit, light a fire… to ride the farm ponies, take care of her flock of Jacob sheep.. the days were long and we spent almost all our time outside. It rains a lot in Scotland though so any inside time we were also occupied .. making things, mending things — sometimes we would spend hours just unravelling balls of tangled wool. She couldn’t stand ‘idleness’ and I think this really instilled in me a drive ‘to do’
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My grandmother’s favourite quote and her take on just about any situation was ‘do as you would be done by’ and it’s something I always aim to live by.
Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Without wishing to seem ridiculously cliched, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is a book i return to and dip into often.
Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?
For me the idea for my business ( https://www.ragofcolts.com ) wasn’t a sort of ‘light bulb moment’ if that makes sense. It was gradual and organic. I started making bags almost by accident — then friends placed orders, then friends of friends .. and that was when I realised I might be able to make a business from what I was doing.
Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?
Sometimes I think too much research can be very inhibiting. I can only speak for my own creative experience- I did some research online, on Instagram etc. to see if anyone else was doing something similar to my idea — and there are hundreds.. thousands probably — of independent leatherworkers out there hand making bags .. but i couldn’t find anyone else using old saddlery and I also had confidence that the designs I was creating had merit.
For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.
This probably isn’t relevant to me because I haven’t done any of the above! I had the idea and just worked and worked until I got it right. I am still learning everyday and developing my craft. The joy of making is how continued experience and continued practice yields genuine results. I manufacture the bags by hand, myself and have kept everything in house. I have an assistant who I trained myself and I handle all the retail and distribution.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why?
I’m not sure I have five but I’ll try! Have confidence in yourself and listen to your instincts. At the beginning I would second guess myself and not trust that I knew what was right for myself and by extension my business. So I learnt a few things the hard way.
Value your own time — I think it’s easy to forget your own worth when you spend so much time investing every fibre of yourself into something — for free. I try to always have in mind what it would cost me to employ someone else to do what I do.
Take a break. I am a perfectionist and I find it hard to step away from my work and take time off. Even when not in my studio I am always mentally engaged with it — so it takes quite a lot to snap out of that head space. I have learnt that it’s really important to take time out. Not only to rest but also to refresh one’s perspective.
Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?
Make it! Do it! Create a prototype … you learn so much in the process.
There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?
I think that probably depends very much on the person and on the idea. I think it’s important to know your strengths and limitations. I think the most important thing is to have confidence and be willing to try. It’s ok if it doesn’t work!
Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?
Gosh I’m not sure I’m quite at that level but I do what I can! I choose a charity each Year to donate to — last year I supported Project Mama who do amazing work taking care of pregnant and post-partum displaced and refugee women. This year I am supporting Alzheimer’s Association.
You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
Be Kind … as my grandmother always said… do as you would be done by.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.
I’ll have to have a think about this one !
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Making Something From Nothing: Caroline Strecker Of Rag of Colts On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.