Tony O’Geen, owner of Tony’s Canvas and Leather in Massena, has been selected by the New York State Small Business Development Center as Manufacturing Entrepreneur of the Year.
He will receive his award at a recognition dinner on May 24 as part of the SBDC’s annual conference at the Crowne Plaza in Lake Placid.
The 1984 SUNY Canton graduate started Tony’s Canvas and Leather at his home in 2001 after recognizing the demand for local sports equipment repair services. He traveled to Montreal to learn the art of re-palming hockey gloves from Eagle Hockey and began posting flyers in the local hockey arenas and sports facilities. His grass-roots efforts paid off and he quickly expanded to manufacturing and repair of sports bags and equipment. He soon began repairing hockey equipment for local colleges, including SUNY Canton.
SUNY Canton SBDC Director Dale Rice said that O'Geen “saw a need in the market and found a way to fulfill it, beginning as a part-time, home-based business and growing gradually to become a force in the global marketplace.”
O’Geen began working with the Canton SBDC in 2008 on a variety of business development initiatives. Over time, he amassed an impressive menu of services worthy of his slogan, “You Rip It, I’ll Stitch It.”
He gradually expanded to work on leather saddlebags, boat and trailer covers, tack repair and shoe repair. He also began creating custom printed and embroidered apparel, fire bags, hunting bags, signs and banners.
Several years ago O’Geen worked with the Northern Adirondack Trading Cooperative to develop his website, www.tonyscanvas.com. It immediately gave him access to a global market. In recent years he has attracted customers from as far away as Australia. His success is even more notable considering that up until this year the business was a part-time venture in addition to his full-time employment as a corrections officer.
When he retired from that job earlier this year, O'Geen set out to further expand his company by seeking grant and loan funding through the St. Lawrence County IDA. The funds allowed him to purchase new equipment for his logos and signs services.