A Pattern for Success

Entrepreneur Scott Halter follows a surprising pattern to sew together a successful new business

We all have that one thing in our lives we feel is the embodiment of who we are. It is often an inanimate object; irreplaceable for the memories it carries, the people it represents, and the once-in-a-lifetime moments it has witnessed. For one it might be a baseball glove, worn smooth from a thousand afternoons on a diamond studded field.   For another it could be a dog eared, smudged book; or a shotgun glowing with a patina borne of generations of hands.  For Scott Halter, it is a golf bag.

The feel of the butter soft leather against his hand carried him back twenty years; back to a young, golf teaching professional who scrimped and saved up $450 to buy himself a leather walking bag.  It was an outrageous extravagance at the time, but it served the Walterboro native well as his career took him from a golf course in New Jersey all the way to Kiawah Island, where he would help develop the resort’s current caddie program.  It also rode his shoulder as he went from single life to that of a married man with a young son.

The years had taken their toll on the well-used bag, and Halter knew that it was time to retire it from play.  When a night of searching the internet for a comparable bag confirmed that a replacement wasn’t in the family budget, his eye fell once more on the companion that had accompanied him over hundreds of miles of greens.  Halter was struck with an idea.  “I can do that,” he thought.

Stroking the worn leather one last time, he took out his pocket knife.  Stitch by stitch, seam by seam, he began dissecting his beloved golf bag. Zippers, brads and pulls were examined and catalogued.  Panels and pockets were marked and set aside.  When morning dawned, Halter’s wife Lainey awoke to 23 pieces of leather laid out on the dining room table.  With her enthusiasm and his determination, they embarked on what Halter refers to as, “the family carousel of crazy ideas and costly mistakes.”

Having an initial pattern was critical, but it was only half of the battle.  The heavy duty sewing machine they purchased was useless without someone capable of sewing the intricate construction the bag would require.  Neither Scott nor Lainey knew their way around the machine, but Lainey’s mother, Marsha Huggins, was an accomplished seamstress, and she was willing to take on the challenge.  It was in the den of her home in Summerville, amidst bolts of calfskin, scattered brass brads and zippers that the first bag came off their improbable and impromptu assembly line.

If they could make one bag, they could make more, Halter reasoned.  In May of 2011, Eliott Bag Company was formed and named for the young son Halter hoped would share his love of the game.
The company quickly outgrew his mother-in-law’s den.  Setting up in a workshop behind his West Ashley home, Halter searched for someone who could sew a larger volume of bags and customize them to suit the needs of a steady stream of clients.  Ironically, his search led him to a professional upholsterer just a few doors down from his home, whose skills were a perfect fit with the detailed work Halter had in mind for his upscale golf bags.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Halter hard at work in the backyard workshop, where he himself has now learned to sew, filling orders for clients around the world. Both individuals and clubs contact him regularly for the vintage-styled walking bags produced by his company.  From Australia to Singapore, California to Florida, clients have come calling, as word of the Eliott Bag Company’s quality and craftsmanship has spread. Prestigious club names like St. Andrews, Askernish and Crystal Downs adorn bags created for an impressive list of businessmen, professional athletes and golf pros.

“You can’t believe it – people send private jets to pick up their orders,” Lainey says. “Our bags travel in style!” There are several styles of bags to choose from, in either leather or waxed canvas, and each is fully customizable.  One client’s blog chronicled his custom bag’s journey from basic Holstein cowhide to finished bag.  The result was a fabulous and quirky one-of-a-kind black and white golf bag, personalized right down to its silk lining.

Despite the national and international acclaim his bags are garnering, Halter’s operation is still primarily a family business.  The couple both have full time outside jobs, and he works an additional 30 to 40 hours per week out back in the shop to help fulfill orders.

His canvas bags start around $500 and leather bags can run close to $2,000 depending on the customization.  In addition to the golf bags, the company produces shoe bags, and head covers and a ladies leather tote bag. “We’re growing slowly and carefully,” Halter says, “and we’re only adding pieces, products and people when they are a great fit, and will contribute to our reputation.”

Halter looks at his calendar, reminding himself that he’ll be meeting a client who is flying in the next day.  “He wanted to meet me at my shop,” Halter laughs.  “It’s hard for some people to grasp that my ‘shop’ is in my backyard, and that we don’t operate out of a factory or big warehouse somewhere.”

Halter looks outside to Eliott playing just outside the door of his workshop.  He is quick to acknowledge that it is the sacrifice, support and love of those around him that have brought him this far.  Recently, an order for 200 head bags kept both Halter and his wife working long into the night on several consecutive days to complete.

The long hours and hard work are worth it to Halter.  “We’re small and really Southern,” Halter says. “We’re all about tradition and building relationships.”

It is a philosophy that is working for the entrepreneur, assuring that success for Halter and his family is most certainly in the bag.

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By Susan Frampton