In 2004, while roommates at Bowdoin College, The Smathers & Branson founders, Peter and Austin, decided to start a company that offered needlepoint belts. They had each been gifted a needlepoint belt from our then girlfriends and became intrigued with these unique accessories. After looking to buy finished belts, they realized that there wasn’t a company that featured these timeless items. From the start, their goal was to make the belts more available, attractive and affordable. They had always shared an entrepreneurial spirit and after discovering a concept that we were passionate about, they started working on the idea that has become Smathers & Branson®. With two Bowdoin alumni co-founders at Leyland, we are extra excited to be working with Smathers & Branson!
Peter and Austin’s biggest challenge at the beginning of their journey was finding and training skilled artisans. With our options quickly running out, they decided to spend the fall in Vietnam. Meeting their stitchers face to face enabled them to perfect our product to meet the high quality standards they set. Without realizing it they had laid the groundwork for a cottage industry that, within a few years, would employ and provide opportunities for thousands of people.
They began testing the market in the spring of 2005, and quickly, the once treasured gift became the engine of a growing business. The positive response to the needlepoint belts allowed them to expand to a full line of needlepoint accessories. Through their licensing agreements, they now offer needlepoint products for many of the nation’s best universities and colleges, Major League Baseball® teams, National Hockey League® teams and fraternities and sororities. In addition, they can create custom products with unique patterns for schools, clubs, and organizations as well as one of a kind Life Belts® and monogrammed products.