Jamaica Gleaner - - FLAIR FEATURE -

IT MAY not shine like di­a­monds, or feel as soft and smooth to the touch as silk, but leather has had an en­dur­ing ap­peal for the fash­ion-for­ward. Whether as jack­ets, or hand­bags, in cars or all manner of items, leather has al­ways be­stowed the owner with in­stant cool pres­tige, and that lit­tle hint of re­bel­lion.

It’s that type of al­lure that has drawn for­mer con­struc­tion head Ro­han Aik­man. Ja­maica has a long his­tory of cre­at­ing qual­ity leather prod­ucts, from Leder Mode to Brid­get San­dals to sou­venir ar­ti­sans. Aik­man formed RLY Leather Ap­parel to take up the man­tel, con­tinue Ja­maica’s rich tra­di­tion, and tap into the mys­tique of brushed, cured, and stretched an­i­mal hides. The com­pany pro­duces hand­made leather prod­ucts such as belts, bags, wal­lets, cuffs/bracelets, gun hol­sters, watch bands, and watch band up­grades, and a plethora of other goods.


The com­pany also does cus­tom or­ders, of­fer ser­vices in re­pairs, clean­ing, re­con­di­tion­ing, re­con­sti­tu­tion, ‘leatheri­sa­tion’ of leatherette prod­ucts, to name a few. Aik­man said he plans to add a cloth­ing line, along with san­dals and shoes. “The pos­si­bil­i­ties are great with this busi­ness con­cept,” he shared.

And there’s good rea­son for his op­ti­mism. The world’s lead­ing fash­ion houses all charge big bucks for leather clothes and shoes, with US$3,000 for a pair of high-end men’s loafers cer­tainly not un­heard of.

But it will take lots of ded­i­ca­tion and se­ri­ous plan­ning and man­age­ment for Aik­man to scale those lofty heights, and that’s what has brought him back – for a sec­ond time – to face ‘The In­no­va­tors.’

There is noth­ing in­her­ently wrong in chang­ing busi­nesses, and en­ter­prise his­tory is re­plete with ex­am­ples of com­pa­nies – even big ones like IBM and Nokia – that ei­ther changed their busi­ness mod­els or their core busi­ness fo­cus (or both). But for com­mu­ni­ty­based solo en­trepreneurs, it is a path fraught with chal­lenges. Eric Ries, the cre­ator of the ‘Lean Startup’ method­ol­ogy, cau­tions such busi­ness own­ers. “Don’t get caught trav­el­ling as you jump from idea to idea with­out ab­sorb­ing lessons learned along the way,” he said.

Ro­han Aik­man orig­i­nally gar­nered the at­ten­tion of ‘The In­no­va­tors’ dur­ing the in­au­gu­ral sea­son while run­ning his start-up con­struc­tion busi­ness. Then, he


Gary Mat­alon and Ya­neek Page, hosts of The In­no­va­tors TV show, with Ro­han Aik­man.

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