Creatively Pleasing

February 1, 2017

Phyllis Mitchell is the owner of Phyllis Mitchell’s Island Style Marine Canvas & Upholstery in Kemah, Texas. Since its opening in July of 2013, the company has been specializing in the design and fabrication of all things sewn on a sail or powerboat. Here, Mitchell shares her thoughts about the industry, the challenges her company …

Tax law changes

How the Trump Administration may affect businesses. Any change in Washington, D.C., brings the possibility—and the likelihood—of tax law changes. The election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States is no exception. In his campaign, President Trump highlighted several goals of tax reform that included reducing the official corporate tax rate …

Keeping up with the Joneses

January 1, 2017

Stephan Kåmark is president of Oxnard, Calif.-based Advanced Canvas & Upholstery Services. The Channel Islands Harbor shop specializes in flooring, enclosures, covers, solar power and repairs in the marine, industrial, aviation and military sectors, offering quality fabric and hardware from the U.S. and Europe. Here, Kåmark talks about his biggest influence, the rewards that come …

Good people, bad choices

December 1, 2016

Even the most well-intentioned employees are vulnerable to slipping into unethical choices when their lives lack balance. Ask an average person, “Would you voluntarily do something that is unethical or illegal?” Generally, he or she will reply something like, “Heavens, no!” People naturally prefer to do the right thing. However, when faced with enough pressure, …

Northern niche

November 1, 2016

Kate Mitchell is the owner of NOMAR, a Homer, Alaska-based company that develops unique items to serve the local industries. NOMAR first opened its doors in 1978 as Mitchell’s Marine Canvas & Upholstery. Today, it employs 15 skilled employees and offers American made clothing, ‘Laska Luggage,’ fisheries gear, parachute bags, upholstery and canvas boat tops. …

The Halo effect

Threading carefully to minimize damages from patent infringement. The smart textile industry continues to respond to customer interest in interactive fabrics that meet a variety of needs, including the monitoring of athletic performance and the improvement of tissue reconstruction. This growth drives new approaches to solve problems, pushing the textile industry to draw on advancements …

Shading for land or sea

October 1, 2016

Sandy Sturner is the managing director of Marine Tech LLC, a St. Thomas, Virgin Islands-based sail and canvas shop that thrives on challenging and unusual projects. Established in 1999, Marine Tech focuses during the winter “high” season on marine canvas with an emphasis on mega-yachts, and during the balance of the year concentrates on awning …

Blair Belluomo brings a strong and appreciative management style to the family business

September 1, 2016

I went to school with many kids whose parents had businesses, and they thought that just because their parents ran a successful business, they could just step in and be successful as well,” says Blair Belluomo, owner and president of Belle Isle Awning in Roseville, Mich. “So many of them failed because they hadn’t had other …

Test of time

Bea Heinz, owner of Jefferson Tent & Awning Co., St. Louis, Mo., has a bit of experience in the custom canvas industry—51 years to be exact. Established in 1911, the majority of Jefferson Tent & Awning’s business consists of the custom manufacture of commercial and residential canvas awnings as well as all types of canvas …

Providing “shady deals” since 1972

August 1, 2016

Debbie Lacy, general manager of The House of Canvas Inc., Glendale, Ariz., takes pride in her family owned and operated custom awning business. From residential and commercial window awnings to shade screens and roll curtains, everything from start to finish is done in-house. Here, Lacy shares her thoughts about the business, her predictions for the …

Who’ll mind the store?

July 29, 2016

Internship programs are an untapped resource for finding the next generation of leaders for specialty fabrics businesses. After decades of building businesses within the textile industry, entrepreneurial baby boomers are entering a new phase of life. As CEOs, business owners and managers consider transitioning out of their leadership positions, they’re dealing with a lot of …

Tips for building a strong management team

July 14, 2016

Training staff to be empowered, involved and empathetic means success in the present and in the future. Although it was years away—10 to be exact—from when Jerry Grimaud, president of Lawrence Fabric & Metal Structures Inc., St. Louis, Mo., became the company’s sole owner in 2005, he didn’t waste any time considering an exit plan. …

Foundations built to last

June 29, 2016

Mal Maher is the CEO of NC Carpet Binding & Equipment Corp., a Newark, N.J.-based company that manufactures machinery and offers supplies for the flooring trade. Founded in 1947 by his uncle and grandfather, Maher got his start in the family owned and operated business in 2000. Here, Maher shares his thoughts about production challenges, …

A succession solution

How to determine if an employee stock ownership plan is right for your company. An exit plan is generally not at the forefront of a company owner’s mind, especially at the height of career success, but it’s no less important than any other business strategy. When the time comes to step down, a comprehensive exit …

Tents, trends and technology

June 1, 2016

From RFID to GPS, Mike Holland uses all the newest tools to keep Chattanooga Tent Co. at the leading edge. “We embrace technology here,” says Mike Holland, president of Chattanooga Tent Co., Chattanooga, Tenn. “Especially when it comes to material handling, we’re always looking for anything that can help us work smarter and be more …

Stretching tent technology

Anton van Druten’s knowledge of the stretch tent industry spans the globe, literally. As owner of Swift Tents, a Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada-based business that specializes in the installation of stretch tents and in the training of riggers and event crews, van Druten became familiar with the tent industry while living in South Africa. Here, …

Leading the third generation

May 1, 2016

Ryan Chism, estimator and project manager at The Chism Company Inc., San Antonio, Texas, is the third generation working in a family-owned and managed company. Founded in 1951, the company has grown from a small home improvement business to a recognized industry leader in fabric and metal shade and protective solutions. Here, Chism shares his …

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Ideas in harness

April 1, 2016

Michael Lester doesn’t shy away from a challenge. He builds a team of fellow innovators and comes up with tensioned fabric solutions. “We’re always innovating,” says Michael Lester, managing director of MakMax Australia Pty. Ltd. in Brisbane, Australia, a world-renowned company building custom membrane structures and manufacturing a range of shade products. “We’ve always got …

Against the elements

Donald Franks is the owner of Shade One Awnings, a Toms River, N.J.-based awning company that specializes in residential and commercial awning sales, service and installation. Franks started the company in 2002 and has since set himself apart from competitors by focusing on motorized retractable awnings. Here, Franks talks about how he got his start, …

Collecting sun and rain

March 1, 2016

A pair of dynamic fabric structures bookend the Taiwan landscape. From the northern most tip of Taiwan, where capital city Taipei is located, to the southwest coast, where Kaohsiung City, the country’s industrial center, greets the setting sun, two new installations showcase the capabilities of tensioned fabric. The north-south oriented island nation of Taiwan (population …

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Sailing the ocean blue

Leo Pohlmann, owner and designer of Uncharted Marine Canvas, Gulf Breeze, Fla., has been serving the Gulf Coast’s boat canvas and marine upholstery needs for more than 25 years. Recognized by the Marine Fabricators Association for his achievement in design, Pohlmann’s business objective of providing customers with cutting-edge material and design products has been a …

Recent tax changes

Tax savings from another late law. Once again, lawmakers waited until late in the year to pass another “extenders” bill. The new “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015” retroactively extends quite a few tax-saving provisions, many of them quite narrow in scope such as those for film and theater producers, NASCAR® racetrack …

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Envision, build, repeat

Michael Catalano treats his clients as strategic partners—and that keeps them coming back. “We have a saying here: It’s not about the first job. It’s about the next job,” says Michael Catalano, CEO of Capitol Awning Co., Jamaica, N.Y. “And probably 90 percent or more of our work ends up being repeat business.” Michael Catalano …

Connecting with students

Opportunities for the next generation. As businesses and industries transition and evolve, more professionals recognize the importance of continually connecting with the college and university students who may be interested in learning more about the specialty fabrics industry. Just ask Stephanie Cizinsky, marketing manager at Glen Raven Inc., Glen Raven, N.C. She explains that a wealth …

CRM programs run the gamut

February 1, 2016

There are dozens and dozens—maybe hundreds—of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software programs on the market. And it seems that most are difficult to use. In terms of navigating the programs, many CRM packages seem to be rated along an arc of complexity, from user-unfriendly to totally impossible to use. One well-known program, Salesforce, is often …

Out of this world

Brent Anderson is a partner and engineering manager at Aerospace Fabrication & Materials, a Farmington, Minn., company that specializes in the design, fabrication and installation of Multi-Layer Insulation (MLI) Blankets for use on spacecraft, launch vehicles and cryogenic applications. The company’s MLI blankets have been used on AMOS II and SCISAT I spacecraft as well …

When employees leave: fact finding

Mine the hidden resources of departing employees with a thoughtful exit interview. When it’s time to hire that new employee, you pull out all the stops: a complete review of duties and responsibilities, a tightly crafted list of desired skills and careful interviews. You make the hire—and hope that you’ve made the right choice. Now …

Person to person

Meeting face-to-face with overseas customers brings a wealth of benefits. I’ve been traveling to Asia, including China, since 1981, promoting U.S. products for more than 100 firms. One vitally important lesson I’ve learned is the value of talking with overseas customers in person. Face-to-face conversations with prospects and customers bring tremendous and unexpected orders—and they …

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Keep moving

January 1, 2016

For most businesses, change is an essential part of long-term success. Ongoing innovation, in products, processes, service and value, is the best way to beat the competition. Innovation. It’s the essential ingredient in any company’s ability to thrive and stay viable for the long haul. Innovative companies are restless explorers, constantly searching for and testing …

Payroll perils

The Internal Revenue Service may be relentless about collecting income taxes, but mistakes in withholding and paying payroll taxes to the IRS can mean real trouble for a business. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be tough on collecting income taxes, but mistakes in withholding and paying over-withheld payroll taxes can be even more painful, …

Back to shore

Jeff Schmitt balances the reality of off-shore manufacturing with how to bring production back to the U.S. “At the end of the day we’ve got to figure out ways to be competitive,” says Jeff Schmitt, senior vice president of operations for The Coleman Company Inc., Golden, Colo. “As the person responsible for both the U.S. …

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Tapping into innovation

December 14, 2015

Innovation doesn’t always come easily, but creating a culture that fosters creativity can improve the process (and results) of continuous improvement. Every company knows that innovation is vital, but knowing how to innovate is a different matter. Why are some companies able to launch one new idea or product after the next while others stagnate? …

A six-letter word

December 1, 2015

Fabricators take a dim view of extending credit to customers … sort of. On the surface, it seems like a slam-dunk decision for a shop not to extend credit. “Let’s see, when you write off thousands and thousands of dollars—maybe even $100,000 over the 30-year life of the company—you start to think about giving anybody …

Charting a course

Incoming IFAI board chair Katie Bradford takes the helm, using business expertise and networking know-how to lead the association. “I believe good leadership encourages participation and embraces differences,” says Katie Bradford, MFC, IFM, incoming chair of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and owner and president of Custom Marine Canvas, Noank, Conn. “IFAI membership is …

Inventing the game

The Last Word Inventing the game Sy Hyman, company founder and retired CEO of Herculite®, is a long-time member of IFAI and became an Honored Life Member in 2014. He shared with us some insights about the challenges of marketing laminated synthetics with a start-up company when no market existed: about learning from customers, production …

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Demand + supply = prevail

October 1, 2015

Robert Cole brings decades of experience and common sense to the time-honored but always evolving economic model of supply and demand. One of the great things this industry has to offer is the quality of its suppliers,” says Robert Cole, IFAI Honored Life Member (HLM) and owner of Goodwin-Cole, Sacramento, Calif. “They’ve kept our industry …

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Navigating the seas of social compliance

Keeping a weather eye on your supply chain. Container ships are the life blood of the global apparel and textile trade. Every year, thousands of vessels traverse the oceans loaded with billions of dollars in ready-made goods waiting to be claimed by eager consumers. The process by which these goods are transferred from ship to …

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Managing cyber security

Don’t fall asleep at the computer. The recent headlines about Internet hacking and high-profile security breaches have focused on large retailers such as Target, Neiman Marcus and Home Depot, and big banks like JPMorgan Chase & Co. Unfortunately, fraud and financial data losses are not limited to retailers or even to one industry. Small businesses …

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Estimating for profit: Where to begin

September 1, 2015

Understanding the customer’s unique wants and requirements goes to the heart of successful custom projects. Larry Schneider, owner of Homestyle Awning & Upholstery in Bay View, Wis., recently worked on a project that seemed fairly simple—adding screens to a car trailer so the customer could sleep in it. After talking it through with the customer, …

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Explode your business

Is your company growing as fast as it should? Over the years, you’ve built a reasonably profitable business; but lately, sales and profits have either increased only slightly or have remained flat. You know your business has far greater potential, but you’re not quite sure how to make it happen. To get that process going, …

Should you extend credit?

August 24, 2015

Fabricators stress caution when extending credit to customers. On the surface, it sure seems like a slam-dunk decision for a marine fabrication shop to not extend credit to customers. “Let’s see, when you write off thousands and thousands of dollars—maybe even $100,000 over the 30-year life of the company—you start to think about giving anybody …

As the ACA stands

August 1, 2015

Despite legislative and legal challenges, now is the time to prepare for new requirements in 2016. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been around since 2010, despite more than 50 Congressional attempts to repeal it, its shaky financial footing may do it in. The ACA’s sharply increasing health care costs were highlighted in the …

Business and pleasure

July 1, 2015

Attending trade shows is a valuable part of business strategy—with tax benefits. Self-employed specialty fabrics professionals—the owners, managers and employees of an industrial textiles and products business, even shareholder-employees—have long been allowed to claim an income tax deduction for the expenses of attending trade shows, conventions and meetings. Thanks to federal tax laws, the government …

Generations at work

May 1, 2015

We’re not from different planets, though sometimes it seems so. There are ways to work together effectively. When you interview that candidate, do you invite the parents? Forty- and 50-something jaws might drop, but executive recruiter Eric Herrenkohl says two of his big-company clients want to talk to Mom and Dad at the interview as …

From surviving to thriving

Dan Hooks propels his organization to new heights by maximizing regional opportunities and building a management team. “Surviving the latest recession taught us several lessons about the financial health of our company and what we needed to change in order to go from surviving to thriving,” says Dan Hooks, CEO of Party Reflections Inc., Charlotte, …

Productivity paired

April 1, 2015

Father and son team Stewart and Ross Brown embrace the challenge of change by making the most of their strengths.

Your taxes at work

March 1, 2015

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014.

The passage of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 late last year retroactively extended 54 tax breaks—but only for the 2014 tax year. The so-called “tax extenders” law opens the door for specialty fabric professionals to claim many of these popular (but temporary) tax incentives when 2014 tax returns are filed, or even after they have been filed…

Good better best

Charles Webster uses lean techniques to continuously improve production and efficiency. What we try to do better than other companies is give our customers more than they ask for, sooner than they expect it, in higher quality than they’re used to,” says Charles Webster, president and CEO of DOWCO® Inc., Manitowoc, Wis. “When we are …

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State of the Industry 2015: Part 2

It was a year of respectable growth in the specialty fabrics industry and hope for an even better future, grounded in promising statistics. IFAI surveys specialty fabrics industry end product manufacturers (EPMs) once a year to learn how they are doing and what they anticipate for the future. All but one of the traditional end …

Your taxes at work

The Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014. The passage of the Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 late last year retroactively extended 54 tax breaks—but only for the 2014 tax year. The so-called “tax extenders” law opens the door for specialty fabric professionals to claim many of these popular (but temporary) tax incentives when 2014 …