Leatherman Tool Group: Tim Leatherman Most entrepreneurs expect it will take at least a few years for their businesses to gain traction. But Tim Leatherman waited 7 years to make a single, $175 sale. In the late 1970s, he had set up shop in his brother-in-law's garage, scavenged some metal from old appliances, and built a tool that he'd dreamed up a few years before: a foldable pair of pliers with several other tools tucked into the handles. Tim worked for years trying to market his design to knife and tool companies, but none of them were interested. Was it a tool? A gadget? A knife? Eventually he was able to convince mail-order catalogs to sell the tool; and within the space of a decade, he went from selling a single knife to a million every year. Today Tim's company is worth over a $100 million and his last name has become a household brand: the Leatherman.
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Leatherman Tool Group: Tim Leatherman

Leatherman Tool Group: Tim Leatherman

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Tim Leatherman is founder and Chairman of Leatherman Tool Group.
Scott Everett for NPR

Most entrepreneurs expect it will take at least a few years for their businesses to gain traction. But Tim Leatherman waited 7 years to make a single, $175 sale. In the late 1970s, he had set up shop in his brother-in-law's garage, scavenged some metal from old appliances, and built a tool that he'd dreamed up a few years before: a foldable pair of pliers with several other tools tucked into the handles.

Tim worked for years trying to market his design to knife and tool companies, but none of them were interested. Was it a tool? A gadget? A knife? Eventually he was able to convince mail-order catalogs to sell the tool; and within the space of a decade, he went from selling a single knife to a million every year.

Today Tim's company is worth over a $100 million and his last name has become a household brand: the Leatherman.

This episode of How I Built This was produced by Kerry Thompson and edited by Neva Grant. Research help from Katherine Sypher. Additional support from Jeff Rogers, Casey Herman, J.C. Howard, Julia Carney, Elaine Coates, Farrah Safari, Liz Metzger, Harrison Vijay Tsui, and Margaret Cirino. You can follow us on Twitter @HowIBuiltThis, on Instagram @HowIBuiltThisNPR and email us at hibt@npr.org.

Special Series

How I Built This

For all new episodes, go to the How I Built This page on Wondery.com Listen early and ad-free on Wondery+ Listen on Amazon Music