Boda Skins is a global fashion brand, founded in Manchester and exporting to clients in global markets including America, Europe and Australia.
The business is famous for its leather jackets, which are handmade overseas and sold via its website. Boda Skins jackets can be seen on international talent from all over the world including Justin Timberlake, Winnie Harlow, Khloe Kardashian, Oliva Palermo, Candice Swanepoel and Johnny Depp.
Founder and CEO, Nathan Alexander was born and brought up in Manchester. He moved to Turkey for love in his early twenties, but his relationship broke down while he was there – and it was going through this tough time that he was inspired to start his business.
Struggling to pay his rent and make ends meet, he started experimenting with Turkish leather and produced a small number of sample of leather jackets to sell in the UK via eBay.
Such was its success that Nathan launched Boda Skins in 2013; it is now a £3.5m turnover business, built without any outside investment. Nathan has just invested £0.5m in new premises in Salford and employs 30 people from around Greater Manchester, including apprentices who receive specialist training.
How long have you been running your business and what does your business do?
I launched Boda Skins in 2013 and have grown it, through influencer marketing and international pop up tours,into a business that sells fashion to clients around the world.
It all started with leather jackets but since then I’ve added a jewellery to the range and there will be a new collection launched in November that includes clothes and accessories such as caps, scarves, t-shirts, sweatshirts, belts, jewellery, jeans, bags, backpacks and shearling jackets.
What or who was the inspiration for the business current path you are on?
I’ve been into clothes since I was a child and it was always a dream of mine to design everything I wore.
When I was seven, my mum brought my brother and I two amazing quality leather jackets back from New York and they were the coolest things I’d ever seen. While he quickly grew out of his, I had mine till I was 14 – there was an emotional connection to it and I felt indestructible wearing it.That sense of a leather jacket being something you love for a long time and an item of clothing that really lasts the years stuck with me.
This started my love for leather jackets but, in addition to this, I really dislike fast fashion and hold a strong belief that people should have fewer, but better-quality clothes in their wardrobes. Leather jackets are sustainable items that can be worn with everything and don’t need much washing, so they’re a brilliant piece of fashion to own.
Is there one bit of advice you wish you’d been given before you started your business?
Good question! It would be – know your tribe.
I wish I had been more focused and had a demographic in mind before launching.
Instead of trying to please everyone, especially when gifting, I would like to have chosen a tribe of people I could really speak to and cater for, for example, the café racers.
What happens when you try and speak to a very wide audience is that the messaging can be difficult. We sell Boda Skins to everyone from 18-year-old girls to hardcore bikers – and they don’t speak the same language!
If I had been more confident at the beginning and did less second guessing myself, this is what I would have done, but it’s got be said, things are turning out really well.
What is the one most important thing you’ve learned during the experience of running your own business?
Surround yourself with people who are more skilled than you. I may be the CEO but I certainly don’t think I know everything, and I appreciate learning from people with more experience and/or expertise.
Running a business is a big learning curve and I’ve learned to be humble and listen.
What do you see as your future business challenges?
Brexit will disrupt the free flow of our jackets to European countries and import taxes will undoubtedly affect our customers, the majority of whom are in Europe and the US. The main concern is that this will affect sales, so we will set up a distribution centre within Europe, most likely in Germany, which accounts for 15% of our business.
The other challenge continues to be managing such a fast-growing team, with all their different quirks and personalities. Obviously when it comes to their work we need to ensure that the whole team is working cohesively, but we have rock solid systems in place that keep everything running smoothly.
What would you like to leave as your business legacy?
Above all, if I could encourage people to stop buying throw away fashion and help persuade them to buy less, but better-quality items, that would be amazing.
What would you say is your biggest business achievement or success so far?
When famous people wear Boda Skins it is a real honour. These people have access to any clothes they want in the world in order to look their best on stage, and price isn’t an issue, so when they choose to wear our jackets, it’s a brilliant feeling.
When I started out, I was broke and sleeping on friends’ sofas, so it feels like I’ve come so far when I see people like Justin Timberlake up on stage during his world tour,wearing a jacket I’ve designed.
When you are not running your business, what do you do to relax?
We want our team to feel like family and we want a culture where people are healthy, happy and fulfilled in their roles.As we’re getting busier, it’s harder to find a work/life balance but it’s important and something we encourage here at Boda Skins, so I try and lead by example.
I plan my holidays out at the beginning of each year so I can visit all the places I want to and in my free time I listen to audio books, walk my dogs, cook, spend time with family friends and keep fit by playing tennis and swimming.
What is your biggest achievement outside of business?
Finding and marrying the woman of my dreams. I met my wife in Marylebone five years ago and we recently got married in Turkey. I can’t imagine doing anything else! I enjoy what I do so it doesn’t really feel like work.
To find out more about Boda Skins visit their website
Of follow Boda Skins on Instagram @bodaskins