1. Tell us something about yourself
My name is Leandro Rosas Jr, and I’m the founder, Brand Director and President of Rolling Projects. I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in the town of Redwood City. I grew up in the automotive industry where I got my first job as a sweeper (literally with a broom) in my Dad’s body shop when I was 15, which is where I really found my passion for cars. I’ll get into this more later. I received my education from Junipero Serra High School in San Mateo, and my business degree from Santa Clara University. While in school, I studied a semester in London at Imperial College and worked as an intern in the London Financial District. After college, I went into the Tech Industry working in sales. It was here that I realized I wanted something different out of life and decided to follow my heart and do what I was good at: Building cars.
2. Tell us more about your vision for your brand/yourself.
This is a great question because I really see Rolling Projects as an extension of who I am. RP started off as a hobby and something I did after school. My Dad owned a towing company, salvage yard, and body shop so I always came across donated or abandoned cars and trucks that needed fixing up. I would pick the ones I knew were special or different and buy them from my dad before cleaning them up a bit and then selling them. Most of them didn’t run which is actually where the name Rolling Projects came from. Project cars that didn’t run. They rolled! Enough to get them onto a trailer for someone to take home and restore. Over time I began restoring them myself and the name took on a new meaning: Vehicles that assist you in life’s projects. My goal was to always take on cars and trucks that were different and cool, but my vision quickly gravitated more towards foreign cars, specifically SUVs like Land Rover Defenders, Range Rover Classics, Toyota FJ’s of all periods, as well as Mercedes. I still bring in quite a few one-off projects outside of those, but that’s really my bread and butter because I have a deep love for them. Nowadays, we really focus on the Land Rover side of things although I really do have a love for all cars, especially the ones that stand out in a clean and minimalist way. Why drive something that everyone else has when you can “Roll Different” (our company motto). In a nutshell, I take vintage vehicles, usually Land Rovers, and I redesign them. I do this in a way that’s minimalist and modern while still maintaining its original luxurious and retro look and implementing contemporary technology and safety as well. My builds are meant for daily driving in urban areas and cities as well weekend getaways.
3. Where do you find inspiration in your craft?
This is my favorite question because it shows in my work. But I can’t start talking about inspiration in my work until I mention my Dad. He came to the US from Mexico when he was a baby and started his company in my grandfather’s garage when he was 16. He’s the hardest working guy I know and when something needs to get done, he does it. It’s crazy how he’s able to make things happen.
As far as what I gravitate towards when it comes to my build style, I combine a lot of my passions into my trucks and it starts with travel and culture. I’m a dual Citizen holding passports in the US, Mexico, and working on Italy (my mom’s side). So, yeah, other cultures really inspire me. No offense to the US, but we are so young in comparison to other parts of the world who have really figured things out. I think of my favorite cities, which are Paris, London, and Capri, Italy when it comes to my lifestyle and picturing myself driving around in those places in a fully sorted Range Rover Classic. The architecture and fashion in those places are a dream. I also take inspiration from the Japanese who make everything better. They are just so much more efficient. But they don’t just add features to things. They delete them. I love this minimalism. Seeing them take things we have and making them easier to use is pretty amazing. I’d recommend going to Tokyo or Osaka just to see how they go about daily life. It’s next level.
The trucks themselves also have to be mentioned. Take the Range Rover Classic. The lines, the leather, the ease of driving one. They were truly ahead of their time. No one ever imagined someone creating a vehicle that can traverse some of the harshest landscapes in the world while doing it in comfort. It’s original luxury and it’s beautiful. A little known fact is they were designed so beautifully, that the Louvre in Paris displayed one for a while. Finally, I love movies. Movies help my imagination. Sometimes it’s not even directly related to the cars but more the lifestyles I want my trucks to be part of. My favorites from that standpoint are the Talented Mr. Ripley, Gone in 60 seconds, The Gentlemen, Ronin, The Phantom Thread, and James Bond. I highly recommend checking these films out simply for the fashion, artistry, lifestyle and, of course, cars.
4. What are your daily essentials?
This one is easy. You will very rarely find me without my “notepad”. Everyone who knows me knows I can’t stand typing on my phone so keeping electronic notes is not for me. I carry a vintage leather index cardholder that allows me to carry it like a wallet in my pocket. I use it constantly to write down my ideas. Along with that I carry a compact mechanical pencil (a collaboration with Supreme and Kaweco in a leather sleeve), Air Pods, as I’m constantly on the phone and they allow me to multitask, laptop, a portable charger, sunglasses, a Hydro Flask, chewing gum, hand sanitizer (even before Covid-19, I always had it on me), and most importantly, work gloves (I carry some from Snap-On. I’m very hands-on with my builds, but at the same time I’m in and out of meetings so I try to stay well-kept). I keep it all in a vintage leather briefcase or tote, or a more modern The North Face backpack.
5. Describe your daily life routine.
My daily routine varies from week to week as I travel between LA and San Francisco every other week. The Bay Area is where I’m from and it’s also the current HQ for Rolling Projects. When I’m there, my days are non-stop. I wake up at 6am and it’s really full speed ahead from the moment I get up. I go straight to my office and check on each of my builds and the checklists and see where we are with each of them. I take note of what needs to get done that day and move on it. I’m usually ordering parts or picking up parts with tons of client calls in between. I get a lot of DM’s on social media asking me questions and I try to get back to potential customers quickly. My days are pretty diverse as far as what my goals and objectives are so I try to get the important things out of the way early. I end my day with some kind of workout.
When I’m in LA I’m usually working from home. I wake up at 7:15am, which is a little later for me, but I’m not going into an office so I give myself a little extra sleep before I start my day. I give myself almost a full hour to catch up with news and have a coffee. I skim the Wall Street Journal to see if anything catches my eye. Once I’m all caught up, I get a run or a workout in before starting my daily phone calls. In LA I’m more focused on the planning side of things since I don’t have most of my builds in front of me. I’m either working on my evolving business plan, thinking of new ideas, brand development, as well as doing most of my project hunts where I’m constantly on the lookout for potential builds. I’m a bit looser when I’m in LA and I get a lot of my inspiration while I’m there. I live at the beach and I surf almost daily so I try to get in the water either around lunch or at the end of the day.
6. How do you define work/life balance?
Good question because it’s kind of a blur. When I’m working I’m working, and when I want to take off and do something else I do. The truth is I’m always in a place in between. Even if I’m on vacation my brain is always thinking of new ideas or ways to implement others. I think it’s important not to take yourself or life so seriously. It’s great to be successful and build something you’re excited about, but I’m a believer in trying to enjoy myself no matter what I’m doing. I try not to pay attention to the societal norms a lot of people feel they need to adhere to. I think people sometimes get caught up in what they are “supposed to be doing”. I kind of do what I want when I want. It’s important to keep a fair balance though because as an entrepreneur, if I’m not working on my craft, I’m not making money.
7. Describe your passion for art and design.
I talked about it a bit earlier, but I get a lot of my inspiration from other cultures. My examples were the Japanese making everything more efficient and the Europeans creating beautiful architecture, fashion and art. I love other cultures because each one has a different style of art and design and that alone is beautiful. When you can create something that is inspiring and unique, while also fully functional, that’s the goal (at least for me). That’s how I like to build my trucks. I take inspiration from various cultures, types of art and design styles. There’s a book I own and have read probably 50 times called Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon. It’s a short read and I would highly recommend everyone read it. It discusses how no ideas are truly new and how everything is in some way “stolen” from something or someone else and made their own. I think art is one of those things that inspire everyone differently and that’s what is so cool and why it’s so important to have artists and designers constantly creating.
8. What has been your most treasured accomplishment?
This is a hard question. I’m proud of a lot of my accomplishments, especially starting this business from scratch and going through major adversity along the way. I love the people I’ve met through RP and have been inspired by my cars. That is a huge honor for me. I’ve also worked with some pretty popular brands and even have had a few celebrities as clients. But ultimately, my biggest accomplishment has to be turning my passion into a lifestyle I want. I feel like I’ve reached the point where I don’t feel like I’m actually working. Getting paid to do something you love is sincerely one of the best feelings in the world. I’ve sacrificed a lot and risked more than you can imagine to get to this point, but to be where I am through all of that is something no one can ever take away.
9. Any tips for aspiring artists?
Absolutely. I love talking to people who have ideas and don’t quite know where to start. (In fact, I’m currently working on something called “Createur Brands” that will help artists and creators accomplish their own business goals.) But my first piece of advice is to do what you want. Work on something you love. Don’t pick something because it’s popular or you feel there’s more money there. I’m a firm believer that you can be successful at anything. If your favorite thing to do is play video games, you can build a successful brand or business around that. If you love sports you can build something around that. People used to say that you can do anything you set your mind to. Today, a lot of people will tell you that’s a lie and give an example of being a professional basketball player. Yes, maybe you can’t “will” your way into being 7’0 with a jump shot, but you can easily be successful around basketball in some way. If you work hard at something you love, it won’t feel like work and before you know it you’ll be where you want to be. But like they say, you miss 100% of the shots you never take. Take a chance on something you love and the success will come (if you put in the work). In my mind there is ZERO chance that you will fail at something if you really work at it long enough. It just depends on how much you want it.
10 . What do you collect? Why did you start collecting these?
I feel like I’m a collector of all things obscure, but if I had to narrow it down, I’d have to say my biggest ones are vintage leather goods, vintage designer clothes and luggage. Leather bags, wallets, passport holders, etc. are some of the things I can’t get enough of. There’s something about the timeless style, the craftsmanship, the history and even the smell of worn-in leather. I also love vintage designer and luxury clothes. Anyone could go and spend $5,000 on a new Saint Laurent Jacket, but how many people have a wearable vintage Christian Dior trench coat? And luggage. I’m a big fan of Rimowa especially. They wear their dings and dents like scars that tell a story. They’ve been places. Even if I’m not traveling through a beautiful French city or sitting on a beach off the Amalfi Coast, I can look at a piece of my luggage and visualize where it picked up a certain dent or flaw. It’s all about inspiration and these things have a story to tell. They inspire me to want to create new memories.
On one final note, I’ve always found it very important to surround yourself with people who elevate you and make sure you treat them well. I have put together a great team with people I admire and trust. Success is meant to be shared and Rolling Projects wouldn’t be what it is without the people involved with it. So with that, I’d like to give a special thanks to my Dad, Lee, who has helped me build a company I am proud of, AC who has been instrumental as of late in helping me grow our online presence, and the rest of the team of craftsmen at RP. Also thanks to my support team outside of the business like my Mom, Sister, and Brother who inspire me and support me. I love you all.
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