From Garage to $100 Million in Sales: The Story of Portland Leather Goods

In 2015, a simple idea sparked the creation of a brand that would soon become a household name in the world of leather goods.

From Garage To $100 Million In Sales: The Story Of Portland Leather Goods

In 2015, a simple idea sparked the creation of a brand that would soon become a household name in the world of leather goods. Portland Leather Goods, founded by Curtis Matsko, began its journey in a single-car garage, with a vision to create high-quality, affordable leather products. Today, it stands as a testament to the power of innovation, sustainability, and sheer determination, boasting over $100 million in sales and a cult-like following of loyal customers.

Curtis Matsko, the man behind this success story, is no stranger to hard work and perseverance. His journey began when he crafted a small leather journal for his girlfriend, encouraging her to quit her job and join him in creating a company. This marked the birth of Portland Leather Goods, a brand that would soon redefine the standards of leather craftsmanship.

Portland Leather Goods’ success is not just limited to its sustainable practices and high-quality products. The brand’s growth can also be attributed to its effective use of digital marketing strategies. As one of the pioneers of digital marketing, Curtis leveraged his expertise to build and promote his brand, resulting in impressive sales figures and a strong online presence.

As we delve deeper into the story of Portland Leather Goods in this exclusive interview with Curtis Matsko, we uncover a tale of resilience, innovation, and unwavering commitment to quality.

1. Curtis, can you share with us the origin story of Portland Leather Goods and how it evolved from a simple idea to a successful brand?

From Garage To $100 Million In Sales: The Story Of Portland Leather Goods

In 2015, my girlfriend had a job that made her less than happy. Having graduated a few years earlier with a history degree and no experience, she was uncertain about her future. I made a little journal from some scrap leather and offered her a proposition: if she quit her job, we would work together and create a company.
She asked, “What would be my role?”
I explained that I would design and make leather goods, and we would start by selling them at art festivals. However, I had a tendency to make commitments and then let them slip my mind. I might say things like, “I’ll handle that bill” or “I’ll get back to you on that email,” but quite often, I wouldn’t follow through. And she trusted me.
So we started hand cutting leather and making small products within the confines of a single-car garage. And it worked! We broke records at art festivals and eventually became one of Etsy’s top all-time sellers. This paved the way for our transition to, where we capitalized on the website-driven DTC model and experienced substantial growth.
Throughout this journey, we never hired experts. Instead, we welcomed smart people with backgrounds in English Literature, poetry, and the arts. And as the company grew, they grew.
The idea was beyond simple. Minimalist designs and the best quality leather.
However, let’s not downplay the challenges. There’s a reason why leather goods can carry high price tags. Leather is a natural material and every piece demands meticulous selection, cutting, sorting, matching, stitching, and quality checks.
We found ourselves creating entirely new divisions. While we started as a maker company, we are now a large manufacturing enterprise. Marketing, customer service, logistics, shipping, returns, retail, financing—you name it, we had to develop it.
People often ask me if I knew we’d be successful. Deep down I like to think I did, but mostly I was just a guy trying to impress a girl. Thankfully she was the right girl, so it all worked out.

2. You’ve traveled extensively to source more leather for your products. Can you share some of your experiences and how these travels have influenced your business approach?

When I travel, I have the privilege of meeting incredible individuals—people who are simply better than me. They’re kind, warm, and open people who live life in a different way. My trust and love for these remarkable folks changed everything.
Prior to the pandemic in 2020, we were an artisan company in Portland with 70 employees. Then came Covid. The world shut down. And guess what? We found ourselves saying, “Sorry folks, out of business.”
But here’s the twist: I had crossed paths with some amazing people in León, Mexico, during my leather sourcing escapades. These were people I genuinely trusted and cared for. So while production was halted in Portland, I hopped onto a plane to Mexico with my face double-masked and $9,900 to meetup with Adriana and Fabian. I handed them the money and granted them power of attorney, saying, “Let’s create a leather bag making company, but let’s do it with heart. Let’s operate on kindness, trust, and respect.”
People wondered, “How can you trust them, they’re in another country?” But remember what I said about these people being just better than I am? Trusting them is almost second nature.
With just three sewing machines to start, they built it up to six, then ten. Skilled leather makers from the region who had been laid off were seeking a way to support their families. The word spread that our company treated employees right, covered health care, and retirement. And let’s face it, Adriana and Fabian have an undeniable charm.
Fast forward three years, and we’ve become the largest leather bag maker in North America. Since then, I’ve made several trips to Italy, collaborating with tannery owners and experts there, as well as Brazil. Every trip, each new country introduces me to individuals with different outlooks and experiences that enrich my world. They fill in spaces in my brain and heart you can’t get at home.

3. Portland Leather Goods has impressive sales to date. What do you attribute this success to and how do you plan to maintain this momentum?

The momentum and energy to double every year stems from a combination of my personality and an amazing team that somehow tolerates me. I am unflinchingly optimistic, unjustifiably confident, biologically hyper-focused and brimming with energy. And I’ve purposefully surrounded myself with exceptional people. They embrace my strengths and weaknesses that fuels our growth, and when the entire team buys into the vision, that’s when the magic happens.
Growth isn’t a smooth road; it’s filled with obstacles that can seem insurmountable—whether it’s logistics, marketing, customer service, or production. When challenges arise, anticipated or not, our team figures out a way to overcome them quickly. Our growth thrives because we absolutely believe we are going to move forward, always.
Our problem solving skills are so damn good, proven over time, that we always move with confidence. We can take bold steps, understanding that mistakes are not roadblocks, but rather indispensable and unavoidable steps toward growth.
Why is this so crucial? Because to grow at the rates we do, you often need to make pivotal decisions before you have all the information. Waiting for all the data, waiting until the path is clear, if often too late and will put you behind.
Perhaps this isn’t the response you expected, but it’s genuine. We’re a mix of naivety, unwavering confidence, and a dash of good fortune.

4. You have a background in digital marketing. How has this experience helped you in building and promoting Portland Leather Goods?

Great question.
I am a true marketing guy, that is my core and I approach everything from the marketing point of view. Whether it be design, hiring, sourcing, training or focus of company assets, my view is always marketing first.
Yet, let’s be real. Marketing is just marketing. Even though I was among the pioneers of digital marketing, that gives me very little edge. Don’t let myths of complexity fool you into thinking there are technological intricacies and digital marketing secrets out there that only people with experience with online marketing have and others do not. I know top marketers and CEOs from successful companies, and I promise you, they are successful despite their deep knowledge of technology, not because of it.
The Internet, much like television, newspapers, or the carnival barker of old, is merely a medium to briefly capture a flicker of someone’s attention, spark an interest in how your product can make their life better, grow a connection based on understanding and trust, and ultimately deliver them a product that fills them with happiness—enough to share with a friend and come back for more.
In our case, it’s about love. Yes, we’re investing over $20,000,000 in online advertising this year, but the real truth is that more people will hear about us through word of mouth—friends and family—rather than from Google. And that isn’t an accident. It’s a result of my marketing background but anchored in the understanding that creating a quality product that people love has an enduring impact.

5. Your brand has a cult-like following. What do you think is the secret behind this customer loyalty and what advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs who are looking to find their community?

Everybody wants there to be a secret, so here it is…
It is kindness, connection, magic, patience, and smiles.
Cult-like? Heck, it may be a straight out cult.
Back when my partner and I started, we spent our weekdays making leather journals and hit art festivals on weekends. After toiling away for 15-hour stretches in the garage, those precious moments meeting people face to face were pure gold. People approached us with smiles and kindness, expressing their love for our products.
We started with journals; little treasures that hold so much value. People often buy journals for important milestones—graduations, birthdays, anniversaries—or even to capture something special like a parent’s life story. What really touched our hearts was the stories they’d share, the hugs they’d give, and the gratitude they’d express.
And we were absolute softies. We’d lend our ears to their tales. If a child held a journal, we’d chime in that it was a gift from us. After people decided to buy and we were ringing up their purchases, we’d randomly knock $10, $20, or even $40 off the total. This wasn’t a tactic; we just really adored the people, and it felt right.
Funny thing is, the kinder we were, the more we gave, the more our success multiplied.
We jumped from $3000 weekends to $5000, but guess what? The next year, we’d circle back to the same event and boom—$15,000 or $20,000. We’d pull all-nighters, driving back to Portland to restock our van, and the next day, people would line up, arms filled with our leather goods.
Ok, but that’s in-person magic, right?
So, we stepped into Etsy’s world. Online my partner would send kind and thoughtful replies to even the most simple questions, treating every email as if she were engaging with the real, wonderful people we met at events. Of the millions of stores on Etsy, we become a top 100 all-time seller.
Now our website sales double each year. Folks from around the globe flock to our flagship Retail Store and the new Outlet & Showroom in Portland.
Our Facebook groups, the Portland Leather Insiders and the Portland Leather Groupies, have hundreds of posts and thousands of comments daily. Sure, they talk about their love of our leather bags, but they’re just as likely to rally behind someone grieving a loss, applaud a job well done, or offer words of encouragement on a rough day. These groups are a community of people who uplift one another and who have made true connections. We did not set out with a plan to do this. It just happened, unfurling naturally.
So as I said, the secret is kindness, connection, magic, patience, and smiles.
Oh, and the product is absolutely amazing. Nothing short of spectacular!

To learn more about Portland Leather Goods, visit their website at

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