William & James Leather Co. is a Cleveland based, small-batch leather goods company focused on timeless, durable and functional design. We interviewed owners Billie (William) and Jimmy (James) DiLella, to learn more about their local business.
Tell us about your business.
We are Billie (William) and Jimmy (James) DiLella, owners of William & James Leather Co., a small-batch leather goods company based out of Cleveland, OH. W&J was founded right around the time that we were expecting our first baby. We saw this business as a perfect opportunity to start something of our own, while giving me the ability to stay home with our son. As many of you know, as first-time parents, we didn’t exactly have all the time we thought we would. Fast-forward a couple of years, another son later, and we finally feel like we have caught our breath. Over the past year, we have focused our time and energy into building William & James into a company that we are proud of.
What drew you to your craft?
Jimmy's family has been in the leather business for over 40 years, which is where he spent the last 10 years of his career. He has always had a passion for bags and accessories, and was inspired by his father's leather carry all that he carried everyday for the majority of his career. We truly appreciate the natural characteristics of leather, how it ages and patinas over time, and we focus on making durable products that will be passed on and cherished for years to come.
What is your favorite thing you have ever made?
We can’t say that we have one favorite, but a large part of our business is now focused on corporate gifting. We have enjoyed creating relationships with businesses and helping them show appreciation by delivering a leather gift that signifies a certain value in their relationship. The same type of value, that we hope each one of our customers feels when they purchase one of our leather goods.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
Jimmy a MLB General Manager; Billie, a lawyer. While neither of those careers are where we find ourselves today, we feel like we have found an even better fit! While some days are beyond challenging, we love having the opportunity to work with each other.
What is your creative process?
Our creative process can sometimes be chaotic and most days never the same. During the day, Jimmy works in business development, and I am home with our two boys, so finding time together to go over projects or product designs can sometimes be difficult. We do have very similar design ideas and we pull our inspiration from classic styles. Each new design always involves a lot of trial and error, from initial design, prototyping and then onto production.
What advice would you give yourself 10 years ago?
Jimmy has always been the adventurous one, me the practical one. So, together our advice would have been that things never go exactly as planned. But that’s okay. Sometimes the best things in life come as a result of the things we didn’t plan and as Jimmy always says, “Never sweat the small stuff!”
Why is it important to support local artists & makers?
Ohio has such an abundance of truly talented artists’ and makers. When you shop local and support a small business, you are taking an active roll in supporting your local community. You are buying more than just a brand; you have the opportunity to get to know the real person behind that brand.
Why do you love doing what you do?
We love working with a natural product that has so much character and can be used in various applications. Which is why you will see such variety in the types of leather goods that we make.
What advice do you have for other people who want to start their own businesses?
There will never be the perfect time or an exact moment when you can say for sure you are making the right decision. Sometimes you just have to trust your gut and make the jump!
What is your favorite thing about exploring Ohio?
We love everything Ohio has to offer. With two small boys, always looking for an adventure, we appreciate the amazing park system and the close proximity to the lake!