Q&A with Makesupply: A Leader in Leather, Manufacturing and Social Media

Here at TYKMA Electrox, we make an effort to keep up with the latest trends and technologies in manufacturing. Part of this effort includes maintaining a social media presence on Instagram while also finding great manufacturing accounts to follow.

One of these accounts, Makesupply, is a great example of innovation in the industry – in ways of both manufacturing and social media. Makesupply offers many leather products, templates and tutorials for its customers while also upholding 23,000 Instagram followers.

To learn more about the business’ background, products, social media strategy and more, we interviewed Justin Kilcher, Makesupply’s Owner and Operator:

  1. Where did the name Makesupply come from and how did your business begin? The business actually started as a small message board that wasn’t intended to be a business at all. I was a part of a leatherworking discussion where craftsmen would show off their work and discuss techniques, materials, and tools. For some reason the company that ran the message board decided to shut it down and all the members had no place to continue discussion.

    I have a background in web development and setting up websites so I quickly created a new place for us to continue the discussion. This was back in the fall of 2012. The new message board kind of faded as time went by and I forgot about the whole thing.

    After six months to a year I thought about reviving the website but in a different format. I wanted to change it into a blog where it had instructional leathercraft content as well as inspirational. I started by creating a downloadable PDF template for a project and made a (terrible) video on how to complete it. I noticed people were interested in the templates so I started designing more.

    Fast forward to summer 2015 when I decided I needed a radical change in my professional life. I wanted to go out on my own and start a business. I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it on downloadable templates alone so I got access to a laser cutter to create acrylic templates as well. I used to purchase acrylic templates for all my designs from other sources so I knew there was at least some demand. I took a huge risk by quitting my day job and pursuing this venture full time. It was a little shaky the first year but I have been growing ever since!

    As for the name, it was just an on-the-spot decision since I needed a domain for the message board. I never thought it would be more than a little message board name.

  2. Why did you choose to revolve your business around the leathercraft community? It’s what my background and interest is in. I don’t have very many hobbies and leathercraft is most important to me.
  3. How did you determine which products you were going to make and feature within your shop? I had designed a lot of stuff in the past, so for the first year I was just pulling things out of my files. After a while I started basing new designs on what people would email and ask me about. I get a lot of inquiries about bag templates so going forward that will be an area of interest.
  4. Some of the products you sell are templates that customers can put together themselves. Why did you choose to manufacture these types of products in addition to your line of pre-made leather equipment? I wanted to give people as many options as possible when it came to using our products: quick and cheap PDF templates to download, durable acrylic templates, and even pre-cut leathercraft kits if you don’t have any leather tools at all.
  5. At TYKMA Electrox, we specialize in laser marking and manufacturing. With some of your templates being made via laser cutting, what are some of the biggest benefits you’ve seen that come with using various laser cutting materials? Honestly, without the laser cutter, I wouldn’t have a business. It’s the most important tool I use on a daily basis. I use cast acrylic for all of my physical templates because it’s such a perfect material for the application. I’ve tried a couple other materials but nothing works as well across the board.

    Also, the ability to swap between cutting acrylic and leather quickly has been great. I have all the settings for each application written down so I can cut orders seamlessly.

  6. Social media is a great way for manufacturers to share their products with customers and with each other. What are some of the other advantages you’ve seen within the business by being active on social channels such as Instagram? Without Instagram, I don’t know where my business would be at this point. The bulk of my stock template and custom template business comes from Instagram. It’s the most powerful tool for modern marketing today as long as you learn the landscape of how to use it properly.

    I think a lot of old school businesses that move on to the platform struggle because the rules are different. You can’t apply the same marketing techniques as you did in an offline environment – it just doesn’t work. Instagram is free; you just have to put in a little time to learn the platform and what people want to see.

  7. What advice would you give to manufacturers who are just starting and want to provide positive social media exposure for their business? Start by auditing what platforms you are on and which make the most sense for your business. Where do you think your customer base is consuming content? That also requires being honest with yourself. If you are in a cut and dry B2C vertical, maybe a visual platform like Pinterest or Instagram isn’t the best for you.

    Instead, focus on producing quality written or video content for LinkedIn, Medium, or YouTube. Blogging to show subject matter expertise is still very valuable. If you do decide to become active on these social platforms don’t be robotic. People like to see the human side and behind the scenes stuff even if it seems mundane. Just keep in mind that social media will always be more about brand recognition, which in turn can turn into sales if you connect correctly.

Which Manufacturing Business Would You Like Us to Interview Next? Let Us Know!

If there are any specific laser cutting and/or manufacturing businesses that you’d like us to interview and learn more information about, just let us know by contacting us today.

We’d be happy to hear from you!

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