Hi I’m Matt Skunda and that’s me in my shop.
I’ve lived in Columbus for the past 32 years, and I’ve always loved working with my hands, whether it be working on cars, motorcycles, creating pottery, or drawing portraits. If I’m not creating or improving something, I just feel out of place.
Why did I start working with leather?
I was a complainer….and needed to do something about it. Let me explain
I began rebinding Bibles in 2012. I purchased a new Bible, and after only a few months, it started to fall apart. I noticed that several of my friends had Bibles that they used daily for the past 25 years. They told me that they had someone in the church rebind their Bibles in leather. After searching in the church and online, I wasn’t able to find anyone to rebind my Bible for less than $250. I complained to my friends about this, and they laughed and said: “Skunda, instead of complaining about it, why don’t you just do it yourself?”
That really struck me because they were right. Anything worth complaining about is worth doing something about. So I did.
I did several months of research on both book binding and leather working. I also came into contact with several leather workers with more than 30 years experience. I then made by first leather rebinded Bible. Since then, I have rebound more than 85 bibles and still counting. I’ve also made leather bags, wallets, journal covers, and gun holsters.
Third Generation Leather Worker
It wasn’t until my first year into working with leather that I found a really old suitcase in my parents’ basement. In the case, I found leather working tools, old designs, and half made wallets. I came to find out that my Grandma and my great-Grandfather were both leather workers. I still use some of their tools to this day.
My Love for the Community Grows
I started volunteering with the youth in Columbus in 2004. I quickly found that I really enjoyed working with kids. For the past six years, I have had the pleasure of working with dozens of like-minded people who have been mentoring at-risk and under served youth in the South Linden area. We have seen our group grow from 2 students to almost 200.
We began to see a trend in the kids we were working with. Although they had the strong desire to succeed at finding a career, they lacked the basic necessary training. Many of them have grown up in very rough home environments and find it extremely difficult to adapt to the work environment.
Combining Work and My Passion
After seeing many of the kids I have personally worked with face extreme difficulty with finding jobs, I began to try to help them. After working with a few of them, I realized that the two biggest problems they face are these.
- They lack the basic social skills and knowledge to find and sustain employment. Many of them had no clue of how to fill out an application. They simply have never had any role models in this area of life.
- They lack the confidence in their abilities to find and sustain good employment. They are hard workers but they have been surrounded most of their lives with role models who could not or refused to keep a job for more than a short time.
After talking with several other people who were seeing this same trend in our kids, we decided that we needed to find a program to help them. I sought out as many experts in the field as I could find and wrote up what I thought a good training program would look like — only to find out that several other programs almost identical to mine have already been in use for years.
After numerous people encouraged me to start a leather company, I decided that the best course of action would be to combine these two passions in my life. I would start a Leather Company with a mission to become a training ground for the youth.
And that’s how Columbus Leather was started.