Tenita Strand launched Status Co. Leather Studio in June 2019 online with handcrafted artisan back packs, duffle bags, eye glass cases, iPad covers, journals, pillow covers, purses and more. Later that year, she sold her products in a shared space in Daleville, Alabama. This summer, Strand moved into Simplicity of Life, a giftshop in Enterprise, Alabama’s larger market.
Status Co. leather products are Veg-Tan, meaning they’re tanned with plant-based dies and oil finishes instead of using a chemical tanning method. Veg-Tan leather is more sustainable: It’s less likely to split and crack, allowing it to last longer for upcycle. “I’m the only retailer of handcrafted artisan veg-tan leather in the local area,” Strand says. “The difference is more environmentally friendly. Leather can last for 100s of years if it’s taken care of. When you’re using natural products that aren’t breaking down the natural make-up of the leather, you tend to get a more durable leather.”
Above: Entrepreneur Tenita Strand. Previous: An example of a Veg-Tan Status Co. Leather Studio Product.
After a family crisis left Strand without a job after a career in Alabama’s food assistance and social services departments, she reinvented herself. Leather proved to be a quality product she could ship easily. “I design and I also curate existing designs,” she says. “I work with global manufacturers and vet the quality, just like a traditional retailer would do. We collaborate on designs.”
When Strand needed a climate-controlled facility to store Status Co.’s inventory, she realized the ones in the area were at capacity. She wrote a business plan to build Status Storage, a self-storage facility targeting small business owners. She envisioned storage facilities for ecommerce and retail inventory with access to meeting space, printing and shipping services.
NCRC Community Development Fund approved a loan for the project. “NCRC CDF was one of the only lenders that understood the vision,” Strand says. “I was able to secure funding with [NCRC CDF] because it was a project that had such a major impact in the community. I didn’t have a traditional background […] but they saw how I’d grown my business in such a short period of time. They saw my capability and the drive that I have.”
Earlier this summer, Strand started the Growth Academy, a nine-week business development program through a partnership between NCRC CDF and Hera Hub’s founder Felena Hanson. Strand is interested in the ever-changing science behind internet marketing. “I want to really understand the best type of marketing techniques,” Strand says. “There’s a science to understanding how you find your customers, how you drive the traffic to your website and convince customers, over a series of communications, to buy your product. And how do you keep them loyal to your brand?”