Founder Stories: Yusuf Perens On Building Galen Leather Co.

In today’s Founder Story, we feature Yusuf Perens, Co-founder of Galen Leather Co.!

Read on for lessons he has learned from launching and marketing his business.

1. Please introduce your business and share your role. 

Galen Leather Co., founded by myself, Yusuf Perens, and my late sister, Zeynep, is a testament to the timeless craft of handmade leather and woodwriting accessories. Based in Istanbul, Turkey, our brand uniquely blends traditional craftsmanship with modern needs, catering to enthusiasts of writing and stationery. 

Our vision is to keep the art of leather and wood crafting alive, providing products that not only appeal aesthetically but also serve a functional purpose in our customers’ creative and daily lives. 

2. What’s your backstory, what kind of challenges did you face, and how did you come up with your business idea?

The inception of Galen Leather Co. was born out of a simple passion for crafting. Zeynep’s fascination with leather goods and my own interest in woodwork converged to form the basis of our brand. The biggest challenge we faced was balancing tradition with contemporary trends, ensuring our products resonated with both old souls and modern users. 

Another significant challenge was Zeynep’s untimely passing in 2019, which tested our resilience as a brand and a family. The idea for Galen Leather emerged from our desire to create products that we couldn’t find in the market – durable, aesthetically pleasing, and imbued with the spirit of Istanbul. 

3. How did you prepare for, and go about your launch? 

Galen Leather Co.’s story began in the face of adversity. My sister, Zeynep Perens, was diagnosed with cancer, which unfortunately impacted her ability to speak. This life-altering event led her to leave her sales career and pivot towards an online business, where she started selling leather goods and vintage kilims on Etsy. This new venture was more suited to her condition, as it allowed her to communicate with customers exclusively via email.

She and I, Yusuf, started exploring the creation of our own leather products. We dedicated ourselves to learning the art of leather crafting and eventually crafted our first custom product. This milestone was the foundation of what would become Galen Leather Co.

Our journey wasn’t without its challenges. A significant hurdle arose in 2016 when PayPal ceased its operations in Turkey. This obstacle pushed us to innovate and establish our own e-commerce platform using Shopify. This move was crucial in allowing us to continue serving our growing customer base and expand our business.

4. Since launching, what types of marketing campaigns and designs have worked best to attract and retain customers?

Since the establishment of Galen Leather Co., our most successful marketing approach has been forming partnerships with micro-influencers on YouTube. These collaborations have played a crucial role in vividly showcasing our products, offering viewers an authentic experience through detailed unboxings and practical usage demonstrations. This method not only underscores the exceptional craftsmanship of our products but also crafts an engaging story around them. Additionally, embedding these videos on our product pages has led to a notable increase in both customer engagement and sales conversions.

Alongside our work with influencers, we have placed significant emphasis on Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to broaden our reach to those searching online. Our comprehensive SEO strategy involves refining our website’s content with targeted keywords, optimizing our site’s structure for search engine compatibility, and generating high-quality content that resonates with our target audience. 

By integrating these SEO tactics, we’re focused on enhancing our visibility in online searches and drawing in potential customers actively looking for niche products like ours.

5. What have been the most influential brands for your business? Whose branding and marketing do you aspire to and why?

Our motivation doesn’t stem from the influence of other brands. Instead, our primary focus is on preserving the traditional art of leather crafting and supporting the interests of our customers who are passionate about their creative pursuits. Our goal is to keep the heritage of leather-making alive, ensuring that this age-old hobby continues to thrive in the modern world.

6. What are your favorite marketing platforms/tools?

Our favorite marketing platforms are YouTube and Instagram. YouTube allows for comprehensive product showcases, while Instagram helps us engage with our community on a more personal level. We also utilize CM Commerce to manage our email marketing to keep our audience informed about new products and stories.

7. Who or what inspires and motivates you?

Our primary source of inspiration is our customers and their stories. Seeing how our products fit into their creative processes and daily lives fuels our passion for what we do. Additionally, the rich history and culture of Istanbul, along with our commitment to preserving traditional crafts, continually motivate us. 

8. What are some lessons you’ve learned along the way that you would share with entrepreneurs hoping to launch or who have just launched? 

The key lessons we’ve learned include the importance of authenticity in your brand story, the value of customer feedback, and the need for patience and consistency in growth. It’s crucial to find your niche and focus on building a community around it.

9. What do you believe are the qualities of a good entrepreneur? And what makes a team successful?

A good entrepreneur is adaptable, patient, and passionate. Successful teams are built on trust, open communication, and a shared vision. It’s about complementing each other’s skills and working towards a common goal.

10. Let us know where we can go to learn more!