Rawhide Custom

Carving a niche market through customisation, personalised detail, and social media

Posted by Liverpool John Moores University

Fri 08th, Feb

This is the third of a series of articles from the Liverpool Business School, Liverpool John Moores University, featuring contemporary issues for businesses.

Max McDonough, owner of Rawhide Custom (https://www.rawhidecustom.co.uk/) is a passionate manufacturer of leather goods in Liverpool, who is carving a niche in an extremely competitive industry. While studying for his law degree at Liverpool John Moores University in 2012 he became drawn to the manufacture of customised leather items that today include wallets, belts, lanyards, traveller notebook and card wallets, hip flasks, and dog collars.

Reflecting on those early days, he recognises that “it seemed a no-brainer to get into this industry, and take on the traditional stuffy, bloated leather goods market, where if you are not in in Knightsbridge in London with a fancy shop you’ve got no chance… Let’s do the things that they can’t, but we can by definition of size, attention to detail, and customer service.”

That focus on the customer is one of the key strengths of Max’s business, where he can provide unique, customised products in limited numbers, distinguishing him from competitors.

Max’s baptism of fire occurred while knocking on doors with a former business partner to procure customers. A visit to a Liverpool hotel provided a significant opportunity to manufacture hundreds of leather room key tags. This experience tested Max’s ability to adapt and cater for different customer needs.From the beginning, Max recognised the importance of social media and continues to look at ways to enhance his social media platforms, particularly highlighting the quality and symbolic value of his products: “I am using social media to document every little step… to get the word out there about things.” It certainly pays off as he receives international orders from enthusiastic individuals, such as one for a leather bag for a Mexican barman to store bar tools.

The combination of customisation, traditional manufacturing methods, personalised customer service, and social media helps convey very strong messages and interactions with consumers. To cater for individual tastes he uses a rigorous system of made-to-order, which helps to differentiate him from other, larger manufacturers, and allows him to gain competitive advantage. This fuels further orders and repeat sales.

Reflecting on the importance of social media for his business, Max also acknowledges the value of the reciprocity that this medium offers: “When I am sitting there, thinking that the cave man way of making leather products has never changed… that is really only true to a certain extent. Because without all the other things in the background, the customer would have never found the product and I would never have got the sale or had the feedback. The product would have been taken off the shelf and that would have been the end of it.”

Max McDonough has supported the Liverpool School of Business’s Business Management Program, conducting business presentations since 2016. Max’s engagement has not only benefitted students but also allowed his business to gain exposure, and in the process help him expand and widen his customer base. The team has also worked with Max to map a number of business development options, innovation and expanding his product mix.

The research team, Dr Abel D. Alonso, Dr Seng Kok, and Dr Seamus O’Brien, have completed a range of projects nationally and internationally (Western Europe, Oceania, Latin America) since 2006. Their research predominantly focuses on family, micro and small businesses in the areas of international business, innovation, socioeconomic development, and sustainability. For more information contact: a.alonso@ljmu.ac.uk

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