Gateway Sun

Chade Life was having his boat repaired when he noticed a gentleman who happened to be fixing some vinyl on somebody else’s boat.

Life became curious and struck up a casual conversation with the man, and little did he know that discussion back in the 1980’s would change everything for him.

“I began to investigate [the vinyl repair] market. Through that research I discovered that there were only three individuals in North America known as leather repair and refinishing experts. I determined that could be an excellent business opportunity,” said Life.

In 1988 that excellent business opportunity brought Life from his native Iowa to Southwest Florida where he launched Leather Medic. As its name suggests, the company fixes anything from accidental rips in leather couches to wear and tear on boat seats.

In the early days for Leather Medic it was still a relatively new service that most people had not yet heard of. But the company continued to grow and build a steady clientele.

Just like Life had realized the business potential, other people began to see the opportunity as well. The tables were turned and now other people were having conversations with Life about the leather repair business.

“I started to receive inquiries from individuals from different parts of the country asking if I could train them in the leather repair and restoration field. From that, I realized that I had a great franchise opportunity at hand,” Life told the Sun.

In 2002, the first Leather Medic franchise was awarded in Macon, Georgia. That franchise is still going strong and the organization now has a total of 21 locations.

“We operate two corporate locations – the one here in Southwest Florida servicing from Marco Island to Sarasota, and the branch in the Florida Keys – with 19 franchise locations throughout the US,” said Life.

The Southwest Florida location Life is speaking about is in Lehigh Acres. The ‘we’ that Chade is referring to is himself and his wife Ivette, who is also his business partner. The couple live in Timber Ridge and have called Gateway home for the past 15 years.

Chade and Ivette Life

Gateway residents Chade and Ivette Life

They were profiled in a July 27, 2014 article in the News-Press that covered a wide range of topics including how Leather Medic didn’t lose any franchises due to the recent recession.

And it wasn’t just the News-Press – people in the franchising world are taking notice as well.

Franchise Business Review recently released its list of the ‘Top 200′ franchises in North America and Leather Medic was included in the list. They were in the Services category along with Truly Nolen, Two Men and a Truck and others. FBR rated over 3,000 franchise systems when compiling the list this year.

While Chade and Ivette have every right to be proud of what they’ve accomplished in business, their greatest work may just now be getting started.

They’ve been active in charity work having supported the Harry Chapin Food Bank, the Nations Association in Fort Myers and several animal rescue associations.

And now … “We are in the process of establishing our own foundation called Rescue to Rescue. Its concept is to take refurbishable, donated furniture, [then] restore it, and place it in a network of consignment stores. The profits will be donated to various animal rescue organizations,” Life said.

Whether they’re rescuing your car’s leather seats or rescuing animals, the Life family and Leather Medic have established themselves as leaders in their business field and in the community.

And it all started when Chade Life had a conversation with a man fixing up a boat in Iowa.

Leather Medic has franchises in 15 states including Arizona (in Phoenix) and Oregon (Portland). You can learn more about the company by visiting LeatherMedic.com.

About Jeff Kuntz

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Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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