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How a Mercer freshman balances college and an award-winning company

Luke Kolbie working on project for Entrepreneurship class. Photo by Blossom Onunekwu.

Luke Kolbie working on project for Entrepreneurship class. Photo by Blossom Onunekwu.

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Managing a small business, going to school, and having a social life is difficult. Luke Kolbie, owner of Kingfisher Leather Co. and Mercer freshman, said he believes that it is possible to manage all of these moving pieces in his life.

“My strategy has been to go hard all week with school and business in between classes, and then use the weekends for social activities,” Kolbie said. “Business obviously has to take a back seat in most cases to maintaining my academics, so it takes a lot of planning to figure out when the best times for certain business tasks are.”

Even though his education is his main priority, Kolbie continues to take pride in his leather creations and his company. Kolbie’s luxury leather brand provides custom pieces, such as bags, purses, gun cases and wallets. He said he works hard to make sure that his customers are pleased with his handmade creations every time.

“For me, the relationships that come as a result of owning Kingfisher and the satisfaction of our customers is the best part of being a small business owner,” he said.

Not only does Kolbie love making sure that his customers are happy with their products, he also enjoys making every piece from scratch by hand. He said he focuses on the details of every product, so that he can personalize each order himself.

“My favorite times are spent in the nitty gritty details of size, shape, function and aesthetics of each rivet and stitch,” he said.

Kolbie realized he had a talent for making things by hand at the age of 12 when he made his first bag. From there, he started accepting orders from people in his hometown of Dublin, Ga. and began to grow his business.

He kept making new items in order to develop his skills, and in 2016, he started selling his products in a local jewelry store in downtown Dublin.

As he continued to take more orders and make more items, he started learning about the logistical side of owning a business. In 2017, he was awarded the Young Entrepreneur award by the National Federation of Independent Businesses. He was also selected as one of the top 100 Young Entrepreneurs on the National Federation of Independent Entrepreneurs’ list that same year.

“In the next 15 years, I plan to build Kingfisher into one of the top American luxury leather brands,” he said. “I want Kingfisher to represent American quality and craftsmanship in the sporting, travel and professional markets.”

Kolbie said that the key to owning a business is to be self-motivated and determined. He said that people who want to start a business, especially while balancing college, should plan and take advantage of their available resources.

“My greatest suggestion would be to thoroughly flesh out your business idea with local business people and get their advice. Use the resources available to you, like the Mercer Innovation Center,” he said.

Kolbie said that like any business owner, he has learned to continuously work toward improving his business. He strives for a balance between “achieving” and “maintaining.”

“When I set out on this adventure, I had a vision that I have adhered to, but I didn’t know where it would lead. Even today, I look at the future as a time of working to be prepared for the right opportunities,” he said.

 

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