Heads-up - this isn't going to read like a typical rosey start-up story. Why? Because it's real, and real stories are better. As we built Allegory we often saw other brands growing and "making it look easy" but then when we spoke to founders we always heard of struggles and challenges that brought them to the brink of failure multiple times on their path to success. We chose not to leave those parts of the story out.
It all started when...
We (Jess and Chad, the husband and wife team that started Allegory) were working together at a technology company that closed at the end of 2011. The company was a startup, so we had been working for lower salaries and our savings were in stock options which had just become worthless. Our first son, Liam, was two months old.
Time to get creative...
While we both got job offers reasonably quickly, we're both only children with aging parents who needed our support. So relocating for a job was a difficult option to consider. Chad's father had recently taught him how to make wooden pens, and the idea to create them from woods with compelling stories led us to Kickstarter. Our hope going in was just to buy time for us to find local jobs.
Our first day in business was spent watching what seemed like an inconceivable amount of support come in from the Kickstarter community. We had only made 3 pens before making the prototypes for our collection, but the stories connected deeply with the young and growing Kickstarter community.
Our second Kickstarter project, launched later that year, generated nearly three times as many sales in the same time period as our first campaign had because we learned SO much from that first Kickstarter. We ended the year by foreclosing on the home we had purchased when we were in the tech space so that we could downsize our personal finances in order to invest in our growing company. Lot of change, ups and downs, but we had started a journey that would change our lives forever.
When you switch from the digital world to making physical products with your hands, craft becomes addictive real fast. The feeling of seeing raw materials transform quickly sparks a drive to keep creating. After some experimentation we settled on leather goods as the perfect compliment to our writing instruments. Initially we were using basic quilting machines and Kangaroo leather to make small items like wallets and notebooks. But soon that expanded as well.
By chance, we met Jose Jimenez at a trade show in Chicago and learned of his Incan-style handwoven fabric. Chad saw an opportunity to fuse another amazing story with the new leather goods line. After an all night design session, the concept of the Macana bag was born. Creating this product gave us the skills and supply chain to expand our leather line into what it is today.
Stretching & Growing
Over the course of the next 6 years, we moved our home three times, and our business six times. Had another baby. Began caring for our elderly parents. Grew our product line from a few pens and a couple small leather goods to a full catalog of over 60 pens and leather goods ranging in size from basic cable ties to messenger bags. Juggled start up cash flows, production space and equipment demands, and staffing challenges. These were years of growth in so many ways - not always comfortable!
In the end, we settled our family, our parents, and Allegory in a lovely little neighborhood about an hour outside of Chicago. We call it "the compound."
We have a full slate of new leather goods we're releasing over the next couple years, including a refresh of our Macana Messenger Bag, a briefcase, and an expanded everyday carry line of leather goods. We also have a few new limited edition pens made with historical woods up our sleeve so stay tuned! Join our email newsletter for updates about new products and great deals.