For Dave Munson, founder and owner of Saddleback Leather, furthering the Kingdom of Heaven isn’t just a pleasant catchphrase — it’s a belief he applies to all areas of life.
“I believe in doing ministry wherever God puts you,” he told The Gospel Herald in an exclusive interview. “Study the Bible, and get to know God, seek after Him. And then, whichever ministry He puts you in, whether it’s in a church or bank or accounting office, just be obedient, and He will bless that.”
A former youth pastor and YoungLife leader-turned-CEO of one of the top leather goods company in the country, Munson’s story is anything but ordinary — in fact, it all began in the back of a beat-up pickup truck.
After attending a Bible college in 1999, the Texas native decided to move to Juarez, Mexico to work as a volunteer English teacher at a Christian school.
“You could say it was pretty rough living,” he chuckled. “My dog Blue and I lived in a $100-a-month apartment with no hot water for three years.”
It was there that he discovered a need for the perfect bag: A durable, weather-resistant one that could withstand even the toughest Mexico summer. As Munson put it, “something like Indiana Jones would carry, something that would last forever.”
After sketching his ideal bag, Munson hired a local leather craftsman to bring his vision to life. Once he received it, he knew he’d created something special.
“I took my bag to the U.S. and everyone wanted one. Every day, someone asked me where I got my bag,” he recalled. “So, I went back down to Mexico and had 8 more bags made and just sold them in the back of my Land Cruiser. I just kept getting more and more requests. People were crazy for them.”
For Munson, the goal in selling bags was simple: “I figured, ‘if these bags are popular enough, they could support my ministry.’ That was the mentality behind all of it,” he said. “I really didn’t think it would be so successful. The purpose for designing bags was so that I could do ministry, because I didn’t want to waste my life.”
Munson’s bags began to sell at a rapid rate — and the rest is history. Today, Saddleback Leather — a company with the tongue-in-cheek motto, “They’ll fight over it when you’re dead” — is a wildly successful company. Their bags, wallets, and other leather products have an 100-year warranty, a guarantee reflected in their overwhelmingly positive online reviews. Saddleback Leather has also been highlighted in Forbes, Fox Business, and a slew of other magazines.
Although headquartered in Texas, the company’s Mexico factory employs 260 workers, all of whom have access to English classes, daycare, and other opportunities.
“We’ve had at least 125 people get saved there at the factory,” Munson shared. “You have to love them with two hands; one, with acts of compassion, and one with the Word of God. We try to impact our employees by showing them God’s love. So, daycare is free for our employees. Their children are learning English, learning about the power of God in creation, learning about Jesus and how much He loves them.”
Munson and his wife Suzette, alongside Saddleback Leather, launched a second company a few years ago called Love 41 Opens a New Window — a company dedicated to fighting genocide and poverty in Africa. All of the proceeds from the online store’s sales go to support the work of Africa New Life Ministries as well as JDRF, Mercy Ships, Africa New Life Women’s Center Vocational School, and other organizations.
“If Saddleback wasn’t ministering to people, if the Kingdom of God wasn’t growing through it, if people weren’t being blessed, I would get rid of it,” Munson told GH. “My life’s goal is the Great Commission; it’s to lead people to the Lord and for God to use me. Everything we do at our company is in His name.”
When asked what advice he’d offer young entrepreneurs seeking to start a business in a way that honors God, Munson’s advice was simple.
“If that desire is on your heart, then just start a business,” he said. “God is most glorified when we’re working in the areas where we reflect Him more. Find your strengths and use them. Work is not the result of the fall; we were made and designed to work, so God is glorified when we work.”
He added, “It doesn’t have to be paid by a church or working for a Christian thing for it to be a ministry. Wherever God puts you, whatever that may be, is your ministry.”