How it all began
Years back when I founded American Programmers Independent, LLC., my motivation was to become less dependent upon other people giving me a job and more capable of protecting and supporting myself and my family. Over time we must evolve or we die. This is even more important today in the present political and economic environment. API started in 2007 offering contract 1099 or business to business temporary computer or web programming services and technical writing, with both of which I was already acquainted. Over time I have noticed other areas in which we could also build expertise, and when they look appropriate, I add those to my repertoire.
In my work with Adult Life Training, Inc. we help displaced older workers re-enter the workforce through training, mentorship, and example: we hook them up with computer training for basic “hard” job skills and tutor them in classes or individually on computer skills until they can get employed. We have done this for more than a decade now, for free.
One of our biggest challenges at Adult Life Training has been in identifying the kind of work and job each person is reasonably able to do to earn their own living; frankly, when you are helping people who are over 55-70 years old, some of whom have lived in generational social dependency all their lives, this can sometimes be a challenge. I was brought to one very practical answer to this perpetual riddle through a problem I personally developed last summer — my water shoes wore out.
Yes, you heard me right — the little $1.50 rubber-ish discount store shoes that I wear at work so my feet don’t hurt. They wore out. The soles fell out. I was tripping more than walking when I wore them. After a while I was forced to face the obvious: I needed new water shoes. The real problem was, I couldn’t find $1.50 replacements anywhere — not in the clearance rack in stores, not in the shoe department, not online (for a fair price anyway). And this left me high and dry without my water shoes until about December 2012.
It was during another futile web search to buy water shoes — any water shoes — that a thought struck me. I used to be a Boy Scout, and we made moccasins, and there are probably still Boy Scouts in town, who still make moccasins, and someone must sell them the kits. Moccasins, water shoes, at this point frankly moccasins will do, if only I can find them. And as it so happens, there was ONE place within driving distance of Fort Wayne — driving distance meaning within a few days travel at this point — that sold moccasin kits. Tandy Leather Factory, an old established company based in Texas, had exactly what I needed.
It’s a really fine shew
So I went to the Tandy Leather Factory store in Fort Wayne which is located beside the Great Wall China Buffet (3822 W. Jefferson Blvd, Unit A, Ft. Wayne, IN 46804 phone: 260-432-6761) and the people were nice, helped me find a moccasin kit, and even showed me some nice moc kits that were in the clearance bin for cheap. So I grabbed some moc kits and went to visit family over Christmas, where the little flu I had before turned seriously ugly. Most family members, thought they loved me, would really prefer that I keep my germs to myself, so I spent a lot of time alone in pain and made up the discount kit when I was conscious. Well most of the way: someone saw it and bought it from me before I got the last leather string in the top piece. I turned my attention to the Scout Moc kit, and had a similar experience, but I got it back home with me.
So I tried the leather crafting idea with the adults I was trying to teach *any* salable job skills. The group I tried it with couldn’t lace up moccasins — so that idea went bust. However I was hooked.
A new business
Over the last several months and with the help of much on-line training and consultation with the Tandy store experts, I have learned to craft some leather goods. I also have figured out some how to make some other things just because someone asked me to make them one. ID badge holders, money clips, phone cases, belts… My customers have been quite happy when they get their custom made stuff. As it turns out, leather is supposed to be the “in” fashion accessory this year.
So my underlying philosophy of adapting to fit market opportunities has lead us to add custom hand made Belts, Key FOBs, Smart Phone Cases, and some other things to our product line, along with our web programming skills. I got a replacement for my water shoes and made new friends by providing custom leather apparel that they can enjoy for many years to come. Here are some photos of work I have done to give you an idea how they are made.