Home » Q&A: WKU alumni started thriving leather business Clayton & Crume in college

Q&A: WKU alumni started thriving leather business Clayton & Crume in college

Tyler Jury, left, and Clay Simpson launched the now thriving Clayton & Crume out of their dorm room in 2012.
Tyler Jury, left, and Clay Simpson launched the now thriving Clayton & Crume out of their dorm room in 2012.

When college students Tyler Jury and Clay Simpson started creating leather products in their Western Kentucky University dorm room in 2012, they didn’t know it would ultimately turn into the very successful Clayton & Crume, well known for its university-inspired leather goods. Clayton & Crume has four full-time employees, including Jury and Simpson. The Lane Report learned some of their keys to success.

TLR: I hear you started Clayton & Crume in your dorm room, and now you have multiple employees. Did you imagine it growing like this?

TJ: The idea of C&C was first imagined in our dorm room prior to our graduation in 2012. After leaving college and pursuing other ventures, we reconvened that winter and set the wheels in motion for the establishment of our business in December 2012. We knew we enjoyed the craft, but weren’t entirely sure where it would go. What we did know is that if we could focus on making a quality product right here in Kentucky, people would most likely enjoy it.

TLR: How did you come up with this business?

TJ: I’d be willing to bet that Clay can out-sew most people’s grandmothers. He’s insane. Our products began with the fraternal and collegiate markets – belts and key fobs fully-backed in leather. As recent college grads at the time, we saw a need for quality, branded goods for our fraternity and university. This initial step led to us experimenting more with leather and developing products as we saw needs in our own lives.

TLR: Now that you’re out of school, has the line changed?

TJ: It’s been interesting to see our product line follow our career development, with preppy and collegiate-inspired goods to start, then with more of a focus on leather goods as we have progressed professionally. I’m married and Clay is dating, so the ladies’ encouragement led to our development of a women’s line this past fall. As a homeowner, I’m seeing that influence the direction of some of our newer/upcoming products.

TLR: Did your business hit any economic milestones in 2015?

TJ: We took on our first commercial lease in the popular Highlands neighborhood of Louisville. Having our own shop space, rather than a spare bedroom, to work out of was transformative to our business.

TLR: Where do you see your business in 10 years?

TJ: We’d love to have a small bricks-and-mortar and a large online web presence and solid distribution throughout the U.S. We also are focusing more on larger products like duffels, satchels and furniture, which prove our ability and help us define ourselves as true masters of what we do. We’re fortunate to now to have a small team that really believes in our vision.

TLR: Did either of you ever need to get other jobs, in addition to C&C?

TJ: Clay was in sales and I was in dental school when we started C&C. After nearly a year of night and weekend work, Clay went full-time and I was in the shop almost every day after clinic.

TLR: What advice would you give young people who want to start a business?

CS: Successful business aren’t built in a night, or a month, or even a semester for that matter. It’s easy, while busy with school or another job, to adopt the idea that things will simply fall into place eventually, once there’s more time to devote to the business. It’s easy to forget that every great temple is built a single block at a time. Every hour spent developing your product or exploring your niche is one step closer to success. Fight for those steps and take them at every opportunity.