EÓN, GUANAJUATO, Mexico — Dave and Suzette Munson are enjoying great success with their leather business. Saddleback Leather produces some of the highest quality leather bags and accessories.
The company’s slogan promises, “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead.”
With that company motto, it’s not a complete surprise its CEO has a leather coffin in his Texas office.
Dave Munson told CBN News, “My idea was after the funeral that people would be like, I get it, no I get it. Because it was the bag that would tell a story. It’s been all over the world or looks like it anyways.”
Creating Something That Will Last For Generations
“I wanted something that would last forever. I figured if God were to have a leather bag business, He would make high-quality leather bags.”
The family business has gone from selling bags on eBay to major production facilities in Mexico and the Fort Worth, Texas, area. But Dave and Suzette aren’t just counting dollars, they’re changing lives by showing their employees the love of Christ.
For the full story behind Saddleback, CBN News traveled to León, Guanajuato, Mexico. It’s home to nearly two million people, and only about 8,000 Christians.
The Search for the Perfect Leather Bag
Mexico is also where Dave saw his very first bag created. It’s a home away from home for him, his wife, Suzette, and their children.
Recalling those early days, Dave told CBN News, “I was a missionary teaching English down here in Mexico and I had an idea of this bag I wanted in my head. And I thought like Indiana Jones would carry, something like that. So, I started looking around for that and I couldn’t find it.”
“But I found a guy making bags and so I sketched it out for him and said, ‘Hey, can you make this for me?’ And I wanted it to be at the level that when I am dead my grandkids would want it for themselves. No zippers, nothing breakable, I just want this chunk of leather. So he did.”
“And I got this bag and everywhere I went, when I got back from a year of teaching English, everywhere I went people were asking me, ‘Where can I get a bag like that?’ People tapping me on the shoulder, coming out of their offices, and crossing the street.”
‘Real Cool Leather Bags for Sale’
“So, I moved down to Mexico, just to get some more bags made. [I] brought them back up and sold them out of the back of my old Land Cruiser. I had my dog sitting on the tailgate, my old black lab, Blue, and I hung them on the rack, and I had a sign on the window that said, ‘real cool leather bags for sale.'”
What began with just one bag now includes the Old Mexico Manufacturing company. The Mexico-based factory produces Saddleback Leather and employs more than 200 people. But this is no ordinary factory.
One factory worker told CBN News, “The people that I got to know in this business, I think they have a huge heart. It’s not all about business or money. And that is what perhaps changed my life.”
“They [the Munsons] knew me when I got here and the person that was there and the person that I am today. It’s quite different. I have more peace perhaps.”
Dave and Suzette have a great vision for their business and their employees. It begins with paying them a competitive wage; providing onsite child care; and allowing churches to use the company cafeteria for Bible study and Sunday services.
They describe the family business as “a company with a thing for leather, but a heart for people.”
Dave Munson said, “That kind of describes us. A thing for leather, a heart for people. When I was in high school, I used to wander around the mall until I found Wilson’s Leather. And you smell it, hmm, that leather. I think everyone loves leather. But the heart has always been for people.”
“And I was doing full-time ministry, right up until we met because I wanted to reach people. I wanted to let them know what God has done in me and I wanted them to have the same thing. So, it’s just kind of natural.”
Suzette Munson adds, “I am the youngest of ten and my parents always had the down and outers in our home. I would come home and there would be someone that I had never seen before and they were invited to dinner. And I grew up that way. I thought that was quite normal. But it’s amazing because I feel like God has given us a large platform to be able to do it on a broader scale and it really is incredibly fulfilling for us.”
During CBN News’ visit to the factory floor with the Munsons, many of their employees took a break from their work to greet, hug and speak with Dave and Suzette.
Not Just a Company – It’s Like a Church
In between hugs and chats, Dave shared, “I call it my church, sometimes on accident. I feel like these are my people, and God has put me in charge. And we really care for them.”
Fighting back tears, Suzette shared, “And we walk through some really tough times with these families. I got to go into their homes. I visited their homes. We took some supplies and things that we knew they were going to need during these difficult time. So, it’s fresh, it’s very fresh still for me because reuniting with these families yesterday and asking them how are things going?”
“And one of them telling me my son is doing great. And he is in the daycare now. And my wife has a job here now. Thank you so much for the prayers. And him getting emotional and saying things are just so different. We are involved in these people’s lives. It’s not just a job. It’s way more than a job and just giving a job is not enough.”