By Jim Mundorf- Branding Ring Owner
I’ve been making koozies out of leather for around 11 years. I started my first business, The Drover House, in 2005 and as I put together the highest quality Longhorn mounts and furniture I ended up with a lot of leather scraps. The leather was beautiful and I couldn’t stand to throw it out. In 2007 I had moved in with a friend who let me set up shop in his garage and basement. One day, after I had picked up a bunch of t-shirts that I had, had my Drover House logo printed on, we were sitting in his back yard enjoying some beverages wrapped in cheap foam koozies and he says to me, “You should make some koozies.” What he meant was I should have my logo printed on some koozies, but I come from a long line of farmers on both sides of my family, and when you have farmer blood coursing through your veins and someone tells you to, “make something,” you don’t think about having some one else make it. You think, “how the hell could I make a koozie?”
Instantly my mind went to the boxes and boxes filled with my beautiful leather scraps. I sewed a few together, put them on the website, and they sold. Before long I was out of scraps and buying whole hides to cut up for koozies. My main business was Longhorns and the koozies were never a product I really pushed, but I didn’t have to. I just had them and they sold themselves. And the people who bought them loved them and treasured them.
I had my own branding iron that I used to brand my logo and information onto my work. I also used it to brand leather koozies that I could give away to customers and friends. Over the years, I began to realize how valuable these were as a promotional item. Koozies I had given away or sold 5-10 years ago were still being used. Customers loved them and kept careful track of them. A quality piece of leather is something that everyone wants to hold on to. Over the years the number of regular customers increased to the point that koozie sales were rivaling Longhorn sales. Around the same time I became aware of the machine that was now available that could put virtually any brand, no matter how intricate into a piece of leather. I pulled the trigger and bought it, brought in some help, added products to sell. Since I felt that koozies didn’t really go well alongside my Longhorn artwork, so I decided to branch out and start the Branding Ring.
What is a Branding Ring?
One of the hardest things to do when starting a new website is to come up with a name that hasn’t already been taken yet. Luckily I stumbled across a name that was actually a tool used for drawing brands, which is exactly what we do here. In the old days of the open range the only way to show ownership of cattle was to brand them. Cowboys and cattle thieves both would carrying what was called, running irons. They were small branding irons that were shaped in a way that you could draw any brand with them. Cowboys that found a stray that hadn’t been branded, could put a brand on him, but a thief could alter brands with them also. So running irons eventually became illegal to carry in the 1880’s. After that both Cowboys and thieves would carry what was called a branding ring.
Of course if a stranger was caught with a branding ring he would be suspected as a thief, so what cattle rustlers started doing was using a ring from their saddle called a cinch ring. This is depicted in one of the most iconic paintings of the old west. Charles Russell’s The Cinch Ring. If you look close you can see red hot ring.