Smart fabrics, smart move

June 29, 2016

From research to manufacturing reality through the AFFOA Institute. The AFFOA initiative provides an exciting opportunity to enhance the functionality of the fabrics that all of us interact with every day,” says Dr. Julianna Abel, University of Minnesota mechanical engineering assistant professor. These functional fabrics, or “smart fabrics,” can include “multi-material fabrics for medical and …

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The digital marketing leap

June 1, 2016

Asking the right questions before choosing a digital marketing partner can save you time and money. There was a time when digital marketing could casually be left to employees who were interested in dabbling in online options. Now, however, digital marketing has grown up. Every business needs a plan that genuinely integrates traditional marketing efforts …

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Going social

May 1, 2016

Gain an edge over competitors by learning to navigate the sea of social media marketing. The ways in which social media is utilized for business are nearly limitless, but it is especially valuable for building brand equity, highlighting company culture, enhancing public relations efforts, complementing customer service, augmenting business development, developing customer relationships and strengthening …

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Brand new

April 1, 2016

A strong brand identity can drive sales, while a weak one holds a business back. Your business may be keeping up with economic and market changes and be on the leading edge of industry trends, but is your brand keeping pace? There’s no denying that today’s business culture is fast-moving and constantly changing. A leading …

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The future of communication?

November 1, 2015

Social media success requires a strategic approach and an emergency response plan. Social media was once considered the future of communication. Facebook and Twitter™ had unlimited and unknown power. That was 2007; 2016 is approaching fast. Countless connections from person to person to company to person have been made as the applications of social media …

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Explode your business

September 1, 2015

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, …

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Safeguarding ideas

May 1, 2015

Clients may wander to other companies, but your ideas don’t need to go with them. It’s an occupational hazard for event planners and tent rental businesses. You spend no small amount of usually unbillable time developing an event design for a prospective client, only to have that person wander away—your ideas in hand—to a different …

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At face value

April 1, 2015

Despite the hype, it isn’t all about social media. Contrary to popular belief, social media isn’t the only way to communicate with the masses.

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Using agents overseas

February 1, 2015

Before your agent can sell for you, sell your company and your products to your agent. If you are a small or midsize company that sees opportunities in foreign markets, the first and in many ways the most important step will be to find an agent or representative who works in the part of the …

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Global expansion

May 1, 2014

Practical advice from an expert on how to get started selling your products and services internationally. By James Chan, Ph.D You don’t have to be a big company to do business internationally. What you need to succeed are high-quality, niche products or services, management commitment and good timing. The hardest part of global expansion is …

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Solutions in motion

January 1, 2014

 “Make your customers remember you. Make them laugh—but don’t be a salesman,” says Andy Moon, CEO of Baraboo Tent & Awning, Baraboo, Wis. “It’s your presence that makes an impression. Be a problem solver and help your customers out.” Moon grew up in and around the custom awning, canopy and marine business, in a company …

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Design and branding

November 1, 2013

Awnings have long been an effective way to brand a business, but other kinds of shade structures are emerging as an additional option, especially when organizations understand that branding isn’t only about company colors and logos. Shade structures can be a creative option to communicate branding as a message of a company’s (or a city’s) …

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Fabric graphics in “outer space”

September 1, 2013

Fabric graphics: charting new territory—and new opportunities in the exterior marketplace. By Janice Kleinschmidt “Take it outside” is a command that supposedly many tavern owners have barked when customers get riled at each other and start misbehaving. But these days it could just mean those tavern owners want to promote their businesses on awnings, or …

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INDA, EDANA join forces

July 1, 2013

Global nonwovens associations to promote free and fair trade. Two global nonwovens associations, EDANA (Brussels, Belgium) and INDA (Cary, N.C., U.S.A.) have announced that they are joining efforts to promote the free and fair trade of nonwovens globally, starting with an active role in the upcoming U.S.-European Union (EU) Free Trade Agreement negotiations. As a …

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Breaking ground in Africa

A big, wide-open market equals growth opportunity for the tent business. By Barb Ernster Having grown up in Uganda until age seven, Nick Lavy, managing director at Röder UK Ltd., says, “There’s something about the lure of Africa that brings you back. It gets in your blood.” From his office in Cambridge, U.K., Lavy can …

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European textile exports increasing—outside EU

The eurozone crisis and fiscal belt-tightening by European Union (EU) governments are decreasing demand for European textiles and clothing within the EU, according to Textile Outlook International (Issue No. 161), a report from Textiles Intelligence. The latest data show EU textiles and clothing exports to countries outside the European Union increased in value by 6.3 …

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European nonwoven production growth

EDANA, the international association of nonwoven industries, delivered its European annual statistics on nonwoven production and deliveries for 2012, and the news was better than predicted. Overall growth of 2.2 percent occurred, despite friction and crises within the European Union. Total deliveries reached 1.9 million tons, with spunmelt processes accounting for 45 percent and fiber-based …

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Miller Weldmaster scores an ‘E’ for exports

Miller Weldmaster scores an ‘E’ for exports Miller Weldmaster scores an ‘E’ for exports The Presidential “E” Awards for Exports are the highest recognition any U.S. entity can receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports. U.S. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank presented Miller Weldmaster, Navarre, Ohio, with this prestigious …

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NCTO, NTA, AMTAC merge

June 1, 2013

Three key textile trade associations unite for a stronger voice in Washington. The boards of the National Council of Textile Organizations (NCTO), the National Textile Association (NTA) and the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition (AMTAC) have announced that their respective organizations will formally merge into one broad-based industry trade association, to be headquartered in Washington, …

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Custom RVs: homes on the road

As sales of RVs trend upward year after year, so do the opportunities for fabricators in custom shops. By Carla Waldemar The news for custom shops that tap into the RV market just seems to get better. Shops that connect with this group of ardent road enthusiasts could enjoy a comfortable niche—and a boost in …

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Raising the bar from tent rentals to event services partner

Dan Nolan III expands services to bring clients what they need and want. By Sigrid Tornquist “We don’t want to plan your event; we want to support your event,” says Dan Nolan III, managing partner of Tents Unlimited Inc., Marietta, Ga., and chairman of IFAI’s Tent Rental Division. “We offer turnkey services so clients don’t …

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Ron Houle builds a bridge to the Capitol

May 1, 2013

Ron Houle works for defense procurement funding at the highest levels of U.S. government. By Sigrid Tornquist “To be successful in defense procurement it’s important to understand what the Department of Defense (DoD) needs, how to design to that need, how projects get funded and how they are justified in Congress,” says Ron Houle, vice …

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Water sports apparel market struggling?

The global economic crisis and changes in water-sports participation have thrown cold water over businesses that market water sports apparel, according to Textile Intelligence’s Performance Apparel Markets, Issue No. 43. Major companies in water-sports apparel are cutting back on operations and re-evaluating, as they see declines in their valuation. Large corporations and private equity groups …

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Avoiding seven common mistakes of website design

April 1, 2013

By William J. Lynott Deciding to create a website for your business was the easy part. Virtually every business now has an online presence. The tough part is finding a way to make the site generate profits as it educates and informs potential customers. The first commercial websites were designed by early computer experts. These …

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Tracking social media payback

December 1, 2012

It can be done—sort of—but watch out for the downside. By Marc Hequet What’s the first thing a couple does when they get engaged? These days, they probably go on Facebook and tell all their friends. And, of course, this newly engaged couple will probably need a tent for their reception. So if you happen …

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Turning competitors into partners

October 1, 2012

Marine fabricators discover how working together has benefits for both. By Maura Keller Working with a company that meshes perfectly with your vision—one that’s organized, effective and delivers on promises every time—can be downright startling. That company is the one you turn to time and time again because of its exceptional products, services and business …

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Creating a brand

May 1, 2012

Your company, and your products, should have a distinct identity for your customers. By William J. Lynott Take a moment and think of one of your favorite brands. Whether it’s a professional product for use in your business or a favorite personal product, chances are you chose it because you’re comfortable with it; you have …

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Small Business Administration offers several advantages

April 1, 2012

Selling products and services to the U.S. government? It’s a big market, and potentially a very lucrative one; in fact, Uncle Sam buys nearly 100 billion dollars worth of goods and services from small businesses each year. Selling to the government, however, is different from selling in the commercial sector. The Small Business Administration (SBA) …

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Integrated marketing strategies

March 1, 2012

The branding battleground moves to customers’ hearts. By Anne M. Berg Modern marketing is in a state of evolution—driven by a power shift of nearly seismic proportions. Today, true brand power exists not within the environs of the manufacturer or service provider, but within the hearts and minds of the consumer. Companies can seek to …

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Re-tooling online reviews

February 1, 2012

New tech provides an added punch. By Joe Dysart New free tools from Google™, Bing™ and Twitter™ are making it virtually effortless for businesses to solicit a positive review from a satisfied customer—and then instantly redistribute that review to the customer’s online social circles. The technology, essentially a recommendation button that is clicked to indicate …

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Creatively competitive strategies

January 1, 2012

Strategies that are paying off in today’s marketplace. By Barb Ernster Competition can be stiff in this economy, but business owners are dealing with it in a variety of creative ways. Some face competition from cheaper products coming from overseas, others from cheaper products coming from the U.S. Although they are feeling pressure to meet …

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Fabric graphics companies read the signs

December 1, 2011

Companies in the banner and signage industry adapt to the prevailing business climate. By Janice Kleinschmidt Increasing competition, a volatile economy, new technology, changing standards—just surviving in business these days, let alone flourishing, demands the qualities of a nursery rhyme hero (“Jack be nimble, Jack be quick”). In Jack’s time (the early 1800s), jumping over …

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Jim Miller unleashes innovation

November 1, 2011

Jim Miller experiments with improbable concepts until they become a reality. By Sigrid Tornquist “We love working with architects because they often have great ideas and challenge us more than anyone else,” says Jim Miller, president of J. Miller Canvas Inc. in Santa Ana, Calif. “Sometimes I think we should probably say ‘no’ to some …

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How to market retractable awnings

By Jamie Swedberg Some shops make a good living selling retractable awnings. They have managed to make retractables their bread and butter, while others simply maintain a thriving retractable awning trade as part of a larger custom awning or patio furniture business. Yet across the specialty fabrics industry, many sellers find retractables troublesome. Some say …

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A guide to trade show networking

September 1, 2011

By Galynn Nordstrom Business events and trade shows offer one of the best opportunities to make yourself known within your profession or industry. The converse is equally important: trade shows offer a unique opportunity to get to know people in your industry—the professional contacts who can help you become more successful. If you go in …

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Invigorate email marketing with social media

August 1, 2011

Each effort should include an element of the other. By Joe Dysart Specialty fabrics businesses trying to get a handle on social media as a promotional tool have found one easy solution: simply integrate the medium into existing email marketing programs. For some, this fusion of social media and email marketing seems inevitable. For example, …

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Bringing products from lab to market

June 1, 2011

Careful planning and tenacity take a new product from the idea stage to successful commercialization. By Barb Ernster From grassroots efforts to sophisticated business processes, companies are finding the means to bring new technologies and products from the lab to the marketplace. Those that are successful in commercializing their ideas have done their homework well, …

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Brand success

Smart branding helps to build strong connections with customers. By Brenda Haines What prompts a customer to choose one company over another? For many companies, the frustrating answer is price. To avoid competing exclusively on price, companies must build a strong emotional connection with customers and prospects. Effective branding will help them look beyond price …

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Mark Mordecai discovers new business opportunities

March 1, 2011

Mark Mordecai engages customers and employees in the process of creating high-performance products. By Sigrid Tornquist “Keeping product lines relevant is really a question of how we can harness the energy and talent of our whole team to make that happen,” says Mark Mordecai, director of business development for Globe Manufacturing LLC, Pittsfield, N.H. “It’s …

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Riad Shakeer builds his company with diversification

February 1, 2011

Riad Shakeer moves his company forward through product diversification. By Sigrid Tornquist As soon as my business started to grow, I started looking for something else to produce,” says Riad Shakeer, owner of Calypso Marine Canvas Ltd. and Calypso Fabric Architecture Caribbean Ltd. in Chaguanas, Trinidad. “I’ve always had that intent to go further. What …

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Expanding business internationally

There’s never been a better time to expand into an international market—if you are patient, committed and open to new ways of doing business. By Jill C. Lafferty When Walt Disney songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman penned “It’s a Small World (After All)” for a ride at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, they couldn’t …

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Bob Campbell gets it just right

January 1, 2011

Bob Campbell ignores the competition and focuses on his best small business strategies. By Sigrid Tornquist I don’t worry about the competition. They can do whatever they want to do,” says Bob Campbell, MFC, president of Mt. Lebanon Awning in Presto, Pa. “They can be more expensive than we are. They can be less expensive …

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New media presents new opportunities

Get your online lexicon in order. By Richard Ensman So what exactly is a “vlog” and what does it have to do with you? Can you really use podcasts to promote your products? And just how do you get your business on Facebook without sounding like a friendless geek? Businesses need to go where their …

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Marco Sánchez is on a roll

December 1, 2010

Marco Sánchez turns a thesis project into a thriving business. By Sigrid Tornquist “Of course starting the business was a risk,” says Marco Sánchez, general manager of ML Ingeniería and Azoteas Verdes in Mexico City. “It was very complicated at first and we were very close to broke, but by the end of the first …

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Tony Marsh creates a package deal

November 1, 2010

Tony Marsh bundles products to offer clients valuable versatility. By Sigrid Tornquist One of the benefits of packaging product lines is that you can offer value and continuity to clients,” says Tony Marsh, managing director and owner of L.H.Woodhouse & Co. Ltd., Nottinghamshire, U.K. “We’re not the cheapest, but at the end of the day …

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Tap into expanding government markets

October 1, 2010

One of the biggest markets to tap—and likely to expand—is the federal government. By Barb Ernster With its myriad agencies, the U.S. government offers the makers of specialty fabrics and fabric end products ample opportunity for those who learn to navigate this market. Consider the needs of just one agency: Department of Homeland Security (DHS). …

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Dispatches from the wired world

August 1, 2010

A checklist for making your e-mail more effective. By Richard Ensman By most accounts, e-mail has become the most prevalent form of business communication today. But because e-mail is so easy to prepare—a few clicks on the keyboard and a press of the “send” button—many e-mail messages go out without a lot of care and …

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Ken Jacobs gets his company noticed

July 1, 2010

Ken Jacobs combines custom innovation and targeted advertising strategies to generate sales. By Sigrid Tornquist “That’s always the challenge—keeping the phones ringing and customers coming in the door,” says Ken Jacobs, owner of Raymond Brothers Ltd. in London, Ontario, Canada. “We get repeat business but it’s not weekly or yearly—it’s years down the road.” Like …

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Change your approach to promotional strategies

April 1, 2010

Promotional ideas that actually work. By Ron Rosenberg These are difficult times in the specialty fabrics industry, as in most industries. Customers are becoming more demanding; revenues are down; and promotional strategies that worked in the past aren’t as effective as they used to be. The good news: It doesn’t have to be that way. …

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Estimating for sales and profits

March 9, 2010

The quality of your estimates has an impact on your bottom line. By Shelby Gonzalez Estimating job costs is one of the cornerstone skills of running a successful marine fabrication business. The more accurately you can estimate the amount of labor and materials a given job will require, the better the job will go, and …