No more cheesy corporate gifts - how Saddleback Leather changed the trade show experience at Acumatica Summit

Profile picture for user jreed By Jon Reed February 25, 2020
It's a trade show ritual: get tacky free stuff you don't need - discard the junk. At the Acumatica Summit, Saddleback Leather bucked that trend with leather backpacks for every attendee. But they didn't get to this point overnight.

Saddleback Leather - Acumatica Customer

Been to a few trade shows? I'll bet your cupboard is well-stocked with unused thermoses and quickly-forgotten pseudo-backpacks.

Got a stack of languishing USB sticks? How about an awkwardly branded mug or two? I know my mother has a lifetime supply of corporate socks.

At the Acumatica Summit 2020, the schleppy schwag routine was disrupted by Acumatica customer Saddleback Leather.

Through a special design agreement with Saddleback Leather CEO Dave Munson, all attendees were provided with a genuine leather, lightweight pack (Munson is pictured right with the spiffy bag). Saddleback Leather has taken this further, via a classic marketing video for their corporate gifts program, Finally, a corporate gift they'll keep.

From the back of a Land Cruiser to a Mexican factory

Today, Saddleback Leather is a thriving manufacturer, big enough to need a midmarket cloud ERP solution, with an imaginative factory in Mexico. But it wasn't always like that. Behind every successful startup is a gut check moment. In Saddleback Leather's case, those gut check moments lasted for years, with Munson practically living out of his vendor truck.

Munson told me the origins of Saddleback Leather go back to 1999, when he was teaching English in Southern Mexico. Needing a bag for his gear, he commissioned a craftsperson to fashion an Indiana-Jones-style backpack. That bag felt right:

I roughed it up a little bit and then sanded it, oiled it, got the shine off of it, and it was super cool.

Munson wasn't expecting the demand, though.

Everywhere I went people were going, 'Where'd you get that bag? Where can I buy a bag like that?'

So he went back to Mexico and had eight more made. He hung the rack of bags off of his old Toyota Land Cruiser and put the tailgate down. He and his dog Blue went to work:

He would just hang his paws off and I sold them on the street all in just a few hours.

Munson journeyed through Mexico and Acapulco in search of the right spot, before settling in Juarez. He would travel by bus to El Paso, and use a friend's mechanic shop at night to sell his bags on eBay.

In the corporate history of Saddleback Leather, 2008 is a big year. That's when Munson and team established their factory in Guanajuato, Mexico:

We started the factory in 2008, and it's just been growing ever since. I didn't know how to do business or anything. I got a degree in Theology... I have some really sad stories about making mistakes in business. Getting took a million times. I've been cheated every which way you can imagine. But that's how you learn.

Fast forward to today: Saddleback Leather is now based out of Fort Worth. The factory in Guanajuato now employs more than 250 people.

Munson's wife has her own brand, Love41 for women. His son has his own line, Hogsback: "Lighter, tougher and better than Dad's." The factory has the Munson family's stamp on it as well:

We have a daycare at the factory free daycare. We have an elementary school. The kids are speaking English to us, and hopefully breaking that cycle of poverty. We have marriage classes; we have parenting classes; we have financial classes; we have counseling.

What we're trying to do is change the way that employers in Mexico think about their employees. Because they don't always have the best conditions. They don't always invest in their people. And so we're trying to give them an example of what that looks like. And it's not hard. It doesn't cost that much, and it's long-term change.

Saddleback Leather's cloud ERP adventures

So how does cloud ERP enter this picture? Awkwardly, you might say. Prior to Acumatica, Saddleback Leather had six years on NetSuite. To say it didn't work it out for Munson would be an understatement. So in January 2018, Munson began looking around. A fellow CEO recommended Acumatica. From the get-go, Munson liked the Acumatica vibe: "It was all kind of open sourcey feeling; anyone can program it, that sort of thing."

Munson was happy with Magento e-commerce. The goal was to move to Acumatica, and tie Magento in. The Acumatica go-live happened on October 2018. Munson says it wasn't easy going at first; they had a lot of fine-tuning to do. Details like ensuring all incoming orders receive a "we got your order" autoreply might seem small, but they aren't trivial to customers. Same thing with ensuring Saddleback's gift certificate functionality was integrating properly.

But with the help of Acumatica partner Kensium, Saddleback gradually got the nits sorted. Offsetting those nits were some early wins. Munson:

Our organic traffic immediately went up, because the site was fast again... Google was withholding traffic from us. And so when that got speed got up, that counterbalanced it.

As they worked with Acumatica to fine tune needed functionality, fellow Acumatica customer Shoebacca was a great resource. Swapping tips and tricks has paid off; Munson tells me that Saddleback Leather's business is back on the rebound now. "We had a great end of the year," says Munson. Documented results with Acumatica are piling up:

  • 45 percent increase in organic web traffic
  • ease of remote access to software by users boosting productivity
  • improved visibility of financial data in real-time
  • $750,000 reduction in IT costs

That last one caught my eye. Munson told me after moving to Acumatica, they've been able to reduce their ERP systems team from 14 to 2.

But if Munson really wants to put a dent in cheesy corporate knickknacks, he has work to do. He says Saddleback's next campaign will be "We left your box in the woods." What's that about? Well, after you get your iPhone, you probably toss that box - and its smaller compartments - in the bin. But with Saddleback Leather, now your corporate gifts come in a lasting presentation - no box needed.

We tell people, "Sorry, about not having a presentation box for you to open. We left it in the woods."

Better gifts -> less landfill junk.

Giving quality gifts is also better for the environment, because you're not going to throw those into a landfill either. I would be really curious to see know how many bags are in the landfill here in Vegas. Like if someone could tell you, "There are 17,234,419 convention giveaway bags in the dump."

Alas, I'm afraid that's an underestimate. But let's see what Munson and team can do.

Image credit - Photo of Saddleback Leather's Dave Munson at Acumatica Summit 2020 by Jon Reed.

Disclosure - Acumatica paid the bulk of my expenses to attend the 2020 Acumatica Summit. Acumatica is a diginomica premier partner.