How Hull’s Leather Repair Company is supporting a new generation of artisans

He rubbed shoulders with one of Hollywood’s top directors and started a business in a garden shed that secured a worldwide clientele.

Richard Hutchins has always believed that it pays to think creatively. From an early age, he showed a flair for spotting a business opportunity.

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“I always wanted to run my own business,” he said. “When I was a kid, I went to the local woods and collected wood which I sold to local stores. When other kids did a paper trick, I made three.

The Leather Repair Company, based in Argyle Street in Hull town centre, was founded by co-owner Richard Hutchins in his garden shed in 1987. His wife Carolynne joined the business in 2003.

The Leather Repair Company was founded by Mr Hutchins in 1987, repairing “things that people could post”, such as jackets, handbags, shoes and motorbike and car accessories.

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It was created with the aim of protecting the environment by extending the life of quality natural materials. Today, the company describes itself as inhabiting a “sweet spot” given the public’s appetite for avoiding waste and the renewed interest in craftsmanship. She has long sought to operate ethically in the products she creates and the way she packages and ships them.

Although he never shone in the classroom, Mr. Hutchins always had a burning ambition and a strong work ethic.

“I left school and quit at 14 because I have dyslexia and didn’t fit in at school,” Mr Hutchins recalls. “I wanted real-life skills, not classroom banter. My manager told me I was a complete failure, but I’ve always been artistic and hardworking.

As a teenager, Mr Hutchins was lucky when he got a job with Briggs’ Timber, a company that sold lumber and also had a collection of luxury cars.

“I worked for the timber side of the business after leaving school, but fell in love with the vehicles,” Mr Hutchins said.

“I took the opportunity to work for the company in the United States, where I met John Frankenheimer, the famous director.”

It apparently made a strong impression on Frankenheimer, whose political thrillers were synonymous with the darkest days of the Cold War. According to Mr Hutchins, Frankenheimer offered him the chance to audition for a role in 52 Pickup, a crime drama.

“I didn’t audition because I wanted to drive around America and look at cars!” Mr Hutchins said. “It was a fantastic opportunity to meet famous people.

“We bought, sold and restored cars. This work required great skill.

Upon returning to Hull, he was determined to leave his mark on the business world. But the first days were far from easy.

“When I started the Leather Repair Company, the early years were tough,” he said. “Most people who run a business have times when they feel like throwing it all away. There were even times when I didn’t have enough money to provide fuel for my car.

“Today, the company is in full expansion. We set up distributors in America and Taiwan. We plan to take on four or five more staff which would bring our total staff to 11 or 12. Turnover this year could reach £600,000.

“We had record sales during the pandemic as people were spending more time at home, raising awareness of leather goods in need of repair.

“They realize that it is worth saving money by fixing them. The environmental impact of what we do is of paramount importance to us.

“Over the next four to five years I hope to get to the point where we have 30 staff and a turnover of over £3million.

Richard’s wife, Carolynne, joined the business in 2003 and the company’s innovations include a color matching application called Restorers Help, which can accurately match and blend colors for leatherworking.

The couple also created a water-based leather treatment solution, which removes color from leathers as part of the restoration process without using harsh chemicals.

The couple developed the business as a one-stop-shop for all things leather, offering a repair and restoration service for everything from car interiors to designer clothing; as well as manufacturing and selling their own treatment products worldwide.

They also offer leather restoration franchises across the UK and overseas, and train other specialists in the intricacies of leatherworking, both in person and via video calls streamed everywhere from India in the United States.

“As soon as a customer walks through the door, I make them feel like they’ve known us for years,” Mr. Hutchins said.

“And without my wife, this business would be absolutely nothing. She controlled all the finances and brought us to where we are today,

“Carolynne had to do it because I’m dyslexic. With my passion for perfection and craftsmanship, we make a great team.

“We currently have three franchisees, in the West Midlands, Suffolk and London, and are running an advertising campaign to bring in more in different locations.

“Training is an important part of our business and in addition we have over 100 freelance technicians across the UK. These are skills that our country has lost, but we want to get them back. These are things a robot could never do.

The leather repair company, based in Argyle Street in Hull city centre, was founded by co-owner Richard Hutchins in his garden shed in 1987, repairing ‘things people might post’ – items in leather such as jackets, handbags, shoes and motorcycle and car accessories.

Since then, the firm has grown and now counts television celebrities among its clients.

Mr. Hutchins’ wife, Carolynne, joined the company in 2003. The company currently serves distributors in France, Belgium, Norway, the Netherlands, Israel, Finland, the United States and now in India.

Its franchisees are currently based in the West Midlands, London and South East, and Suffolk

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