Bede and Jemima Aldridge’s commitment to quality and craftsmanship shines through in a leather goods range that blends traditional style with modern needs.
Their business, Saddler and Co is located in Dubbo where products are designed and made in the workshop and sold in the store.
The company started from the Aldridge family’s garage in 2010. At that time, the home workshop predominantly served the horse industry, incorporating saddle making and repairs.
In 2014, they rebranded and expanded their range of regular products to include more heirloom leather goods that are now sold all over Australia.
As the brand grew through the sale of these quality handcrafted items, they moved into a bricks and mortar space which mirrors their intention to have a place that reflects the products.
Co-founder and stylist Jemima Aldridge has both an eye for beauty and immense pride in what is being produced, which includes leather handbags, wallets, belts and saddles.
“We were looking for a thriving country region in which to grow our family and develop our small business,” Mrs Aldridge explained.
“Opening our flagship store in Dubbo has allowed us to create an intimate space and experience for all customers that come through the door.
“We look after all the processes from design to manufacturing and ensuring a holistic customer experience from our store and workshop.
“We love that people are able to look through the window into the workshop and stay connected to the process that creates the beautiful, final leather goods on the shelves in-store.”
This extends to a large social media following who often travel to visit the space in person.
Mrs Aldridge believes that being successful in their chosen trade is about being flexible, resourceful and incorporating quality craftsmanship.
“Success comes through offering value and a personal service to our local customers as well as leveraging income streams from outside the region. This diversification ensures that business can withstand the economic ups and downs with agility.”
While they have not had professional mentoring, the Aldridges have sought advice from others in business and applied themselves to learning from admirable role models in the community and further afield.
This level of commitment extends to sourcing the finest leathers available from America, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.
“We then design, test and manufacture all of our products in-house to ensure a reliable and quality offering,” Mrs Aldridge explained.
Saddler and Co is unique as a thriving manufacturing business in Australia because it uses traditional craftsmanship to create modern pieces that are made to stand the test of time.
Clientele ranges from farmers and horse owners to city dwellers and large corporate companies.
“We have a wide and varied range of clients.
“We distribute Australia-wide through social media, our online store and the shop front.
“We believe we have finely balanced our business between a country and city market; constantly providing for the needs of our customers both local and national, adapting our brand to ensure we are relevant to both of these markets.”
This is achieved by maintaining a personal repair service while also breaking new ground in the leather industry using traditional methods to service modern lifestyle needs.
“We love being part of and supporting a regional community. We keep our local and regional customers at the core of who we are and why we are doing this.”
“We offer a traditional saddle repair service to our local customers as well as a quality handcrafted Australian-made leather goods range.”
Amazingly, Saddler and Co is still purely run by its co-founders - husband and wife team Bede and Jemima Aldridge.
“Our strength is in each other. We are both on the same page and working towards the same goal, each bringing a unique set of skills and perspectives to the business.
“We have developed this into a strong team of locals that work within the retail and workshop space, helping to drive the business forward,” Mrs Aldridge explained.
The couple has also found that their existing customers have provided fantastic feedback about their products.
“We have a wonderful customer base that in turn have become some of our greatest ambassadors for the brand,” she said.
They have also received widespread public recognition and exposure.
“We are so grateful to have been acknowledged and featured in a number of magazines including Country Style Awards 30 most influential in Regional Business.”
Overcoming the pitfalls of being enticed to do jobs which spark joy and interest rather than financial viability, Mrs Alridge said their business is lucky to have endless opportunities ahead.
“We have learnt to consider how we can experiment with these projects and turn these into experiences for brand exposure and recognition.
“Through perseverance and diversification, we can test out new ideas and designs directly to our target market.”
Although the current drought is a threat as people begin to watch their money, Mrs Aldridge said they aim to maintain a tight team and strong standards.
“By developing a small, strong team, we have the flexibility to do what we love, work with other artisans, and create opportunity for growth as the need arises.”
In the future, they aim to continue expanding to customers in ways which will benefit their life.
“Bede also has a strong passion for teaching the younger generation the skills of his trade, which are slowly disappearing, to ensure that Australia maintains a solid manufacturing base and in turn provides a viable alternative to mass produced items.”
Mrs Aldridge’s advice to her younger self would be to remain open-minded about business opportunities.
“Don’t be too narrow focused trying to service just one market. Be willing to diversify.”
Saddler and Co is located at 1a Sterling Street, Dubbo.