OLIVER GREEN D-RING BELTS :: Q AND A WITH FOUNDER, SANDRA OLES
SANDRA OLES is the owner and designer of Oliver Green Belts, a handmade, fabric, D-ring belt company headquartered in Norwalk, CT. I first met Sandra back in 2009 at a show in Fairfield Connecticut. We had the good fortune of being situated tent-to-tent and before long, chitchat gave way to meaningful conversation and eventually, an enduring friendship. Sandra's dedication to building a brand emboldened with her unique and diversified sensibilities has inspired me over the years. She is always ready to "talk shop" and is positioned to leave a legacy by building a company that prides itself on quality, American-made craftsmanship. Enjoy.
What’s your first memory of being crafty?
I remember being seven-years-old and coloring those intricate black and white illustration posters with felt tip markers, as well as crocheting blankets and making pot holders. When I was 10, I had a little store in my basement called the Disco Spot, as well as regular yard sales where I would sell clothing, candy and teach locals about new cool new dance moves and music. In junior high school, I would paint my black boots with white paint to make them my own. In my twenties, I would make shirts, skirts, and thermal long underwear pants with safety pin bandanas over the pee-pee hole in the front (laughs).
What’s your process? How do you create?
While I look at fabric, I can envision it in belt form and buy based on my ability to “like” the visualization.
Describe your workspace.
My workspace contains shelves of fabric remnants, bolts of material, a ton of threaded spools, and my trusty television where I DVR all sorts of movies, documentaries and programs that work as a catalyst for me to craft even longer. This is especially great when I have a craft show coming up and I need to work long hours to re-stock my inventory.
What do you want people to know about being an entrepreneur and your company, Oliver Green?
I began Oliver Green Belts about 10 years ago, believing that the public needed high-quality, sophisticated conversation starters and classic belts. I was right and now, years later, Oliver Green is going strong and I am still invigorated by creating exceptionally tailored belts. There are other hand made D-ring belts on the market, however, they haven’t become a brand and are unmatched to Oliver Green in quality, design and durability.
What do you want to share with people about being an entrepreneur?
My first word of advice is to make your idea even if others are making similar items because your individual stamp of sensibility, workmanship, and personality behind your brand is YOU, which cannot be replicated. Second is to have “stick-to-it-ivness”. It is probably the single most important element, as it takes time to build awareness, perfect your marketing strategy and to find your loyal client base. Do not be afraid to approach retailers to carry your product. Match up accordingly and understand that they are entrepreneurs as well, and you are essentially partners who are helping one another to be prosperous.
What is handmade?
Everything is handmade, even if it’s made in China. However, in a factory setting, each person has their task and doesn’t deviate from it, which creates a disassociation from the product’s final outcome. When someone makes their products alone, handmade is incredibly important due to the personal investment, financial commitment to reduce waste, and the overall sense of achievement and pride associated with the product. Handmade items tend to be better and more carefully crafted, unique and special. I find it very satisfying when a customer buys one of my belts. I know I made it and it’s always marvelous when I get to be out in the field and receive positive emotional reinforcement and quality feedback from my regular clients and various people attending craft shows and specialty boutique bazaars. Being in front of your customer is invaluable and listening to them sell your products to newbies in your tent, or as I like to call it, my "mobile store", keeps me fueled for the not-so-busy months. This type of direct selling also creates a great opportunity to interact with and talk to clients, and maybe obtain new ideas as a result.
What advice do you have for someone starting his or her own handmade business?
You will spend long hours creating, producing or manufacturing your product and quite often, it will be alone. It’s helpful to love what you do, as the hours snap by quickly. Mounting product is a satisfying visual reward for me; I'm a results-oriented person and always seek a sense of completion, so this works well for me—as does vacuuming my home (laughs). But, if you have an idea, can visualize yourself having fun while making something, you might want to consider creating a business out of your hobby or love of craft.
What's the most satisfying aspect of what you do?
I am incredibly happy to have created such a fun, inspiring, and creative business. I am also grateful for having an interesting sensibility that satisfies all different styles of consumers. I enjoy mixing a couple or even a few different looks within one outfit. A belt is such a great way to express yourself without fully committing. It gives the onlooker a glimpse into one of the many facets of your personality, interests and personal style which is why one should choose a belt that feels right for them and them only.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration in the fabrics. I also find it watching my customers search for their individuality while picking a belt. I always want people to buy a wilder belt or something they can’t find anywhere else because it will be a conversation piece, fun to wear and will make them feel that they can assert an element of their personal interest or taste in a way that isn’t overly intrusive or makes them feel self-conscious. A belt is a small but major way to tell the world a little bit about yourself without it being the main component of your look. It can be whimsical, decorative, sensible, fashion-forward, or dorky. I love every element of sustaining a look with a belt and I wear all kinds of prints depending on the day, the look I wish to achieve, or my own “level of rebel” in any given moment.
Where can we find more of your products?
You can find my products online at www.olivergreenonline.com and my newer creations on Instagram. Not every new print makes it to my website, they are mainly for my craft shows.
Thanks for your time, Sandra.