The buck starts here

February 1, 2017

Chris Ritsema leads his company by building a strong culture that encourages growth and success for his employees. My vision has always been to grow a company that empowers its employees,” says Chris Ritsema, owner of Canvas Innovations in Holland, Mich. “I want to give people a reason to stay here and build their careers—and …

Sustainable Opportunity

January 1, 2017

Eric and Angie Riggins create new products and capture new markets to ensure a steady stream of work throughout the year.  We’re always looking for opportunities to grow the business,” says Angie Riggins, co-owner of Alpha Canvas, Charlotte, N.C. “We have to be innovative to set ourselves apart from our competitors—we find ways to meet …

IFAI Expo 2016: advanced textiles

December 1, 2016

Today’s textile testing is challenged with evaluating varied performance qualities for multiple environments. The Advanced Textiles Testing Track at IFAI Expo examined textile testing in light of a new wave of textile developments. Dr. Emiel Den Hartog, North Carolina State University (NCSU) Center for Research on Textile Protection & Comfort (TPACC), focused on a “multi-level” …

Analyze this

Ed Skrzynski automates production, encourages teamwork and documents processes to deliver quality marine and shade products. There is a common thread with custom manufacturing—it’s very labor-intensive, very expensive and typically done by artisans and skilled trades people,” says Ed Skrzynski, owner of Marco Canvas, Marco Island, Fla. “When I took over the company from my …

Scheduled Evolution

October 31, 2016

Eric Heischmidt approaches project management with flexibility and an architect’s eye for precision. “Project management means planning ahead,” says Eric Heischmidt, senior project manager, Arizon Structures, St. Louis, Mo. “But more than anything it means being prepared to be flexible, because every project is an evolution. Things change, and you need to react to those …

Pete Weingartner builds a team to deliver turn-key projects and target continued growth

October 1, 2016

Even if projects are going well I try to improve them. I want to find a way to do things better; to do things faster,” says , president of Queen City Awning, Cincinnati, Ohio. “One of the ways I do that is by attending IFAI Expo and reading Specialty Fabrics Review magazine to keep up …

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 …

The Third Dimension

August 1, 2016

John Bland revolutionizes marine fabrication by applying 3-D CAD principles to the design process. Look at the motor industry—you wouldn’t be happy driving a car that was spec’d 20 years ago,” says John Bland, managing director of Tecsew Ltd., Gosport, Hampshire, U.K. “It’s the same in the textile industry. Whether it’s in the finish, materials …

Fabric engineering

June 29, 2016

Ben Fox expands design capabilities for fabric structures, focusing on innovation and education to solve customer problems. “Our company’s roots are unique in that we started out as a construction service and kind of worked our way backward into manufacturing,” says Ben Fox, owner, president and CEO of Legacy Building Solutions, South Haven, Minn. “That’s …

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 …

At the intersection of textiles & technology

May 1, 2016

Qaizar Hassonjee mines market opportunities and forms partnerships to bring smart fabrics to market. “The intersection of textiles and technology is a huge untapped opportunity for the textile industry,” says Qaizar Hassonjee, senior director, business development and partnerships, for adidas Digital Sports. “Market segments such as hospitality, health care and military are really prime for …

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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 …

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Envision, build, repeat

March 1, 2016

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 …

Fabric on the frontier

February 1, 2016

Eric Walton and Devlin Mckee bring fabric solutions to Alaska’s wild and wondrous terrain. “The remote area where we work can be a challenge so we have to be flexible and willing to do lots of different things,” say Eric Walton, MFC, and Devlin McKee, CC, owners of Custom Canvas Alaska (CCA) in Fairbanks, Alaska. …

Back to shore

January 1, 2016

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. …

Charting a course

December 1, 2015

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 …

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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 …

No fear

September 1, 2015

Per Lindstrand sees obstacles as stepping stones as he develops new methods and products for fabric engineering. Never be afraid to stick your head out. I’d rather have my head slapped one time too many than too little,” says aeronautical engineer Per Lindstrand, founder and president of Lindstrand Technologies, Oswestry, U.K. “You get nowhere unless …

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Selling shade

August 1, 2015

Conrad Masterson builds his business by focusing on what clients really want—and what employees need. “The first thing I learned when I entered the shade sail industry was to focus on what the customer really wants,” says Conrad Masterson, president of SHADE Industries, Phoenix, Ariz. “That may sound simple, but it can be easy to …

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Beyond the competition

July 1, 2015

Patty and Charly Smail build their business by learning from each new customer—and finding gaps in what the competition offers. We’ve always been service-oriented people. That’s our style,” says Patty Smail, president of Shelter Structures Inc. in Philadelphia, Pa. “We wanted to find markets where they valued quality over price and where we could provide …

Form & function

June 1, 2015

Dr. Maureen MacGillivray uses her functional apparel expertise to design and test textiles and teach those skills to the next generation. By Sigrid Tornquist People sometimes feel like all the good ideas have already been thought of and nothing new can be created,” says Maureen MacGillivray, Ph.D., professor of apparel merchandising and design at Central …

From surviving to thriving

May 1, 2015

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.

Good better best

March 1, 2015

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 …

Trendsetter

February 1, 2015

Vern Schaefer is what is known as an “early adopter,” trying new equipment as soon as it’s available. As he transitions company leadership to his daughter, he’s still setting trends. “I don’t believe in being locked into one way of doing things,” says Vernon Schaefer, MFC, CEO of Glawe Awnings & Tents, Fairborn, Ohio. “If …

Rest stops on the road to success

January 1, 2015

David Snoad implements systems and empowers employees so his business can flourish—and he can take a vacation. “I’ve been away six months of this calendar year and we’re about to have our most profitable year ever,” says David Snoad, managing director of Pinz Pty. Ltd., Seaton, Australia. “Because of my time away, I’m more productive …

Everything’s connected

December 1, 2014

Mr. Sadao Izumi moves the tent industry forward—by keeping the big picture in mind. “There are two Japanese characters that make up the word ‘manage’—and these characters represent how interdependent the process of running a business is,” says Mr. Sadao Izumi, owner and president of Izumi Co. Ltd., Toyoma, Japan, and chairman of the Japan …

The human factors

November 1, 2014

Dr. Aris Makris and his team keep their sights on the end user when developing personal protective equipment for Soldiers. “A lot of the necessary skills for this job grow from being in contact with the end user community,” says Aris Makris, Ph.D., vice president of research and development (R&D) and CTO for Med-Eng in …

Boldly genuine

October 1, 2014

Bob Jacquart uses the “power of pluck” to expand his company and build a strong brand identity. “If you’re going to really ramp up your business you have to have that world of brand strategy experts look you over,” says Bob Jacquart, CEO of Jacquart Fabric Products Inc. (JFP) in Ironwood, Mich. “You have to …

Entrepreneur in action

September 1, 2014

Steve Frost advances his company by standardizing processes—and being willing to change. We try to develop best practices and focus on repeating them, which includes making lists and standardizing problems,” says Steve Frost, president of Stamford Tent & Event Services, Stamford, Conn. “But you can write all the forms you want—they’re not going to cover …

Trust the process

July 1, 2014

James Gallagher manages projects from conception to completion–by paying attention to detail and practicing transparency. By Sigrid Tornquist At the end of the day our work isn’t only about making a sale; it’s about engaging in relationships where we understand client application, identify and capture projects’ needs and then see them all the way through,” …

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The next steps

June 1, 2014

Carol Racine takes on one challenge after another as she and her husband build a business and make plans for a sewing school. “I know my limitations—but I’m always challenging those limits,” says Carol Racine, president of Racine Design in Jacksonville, Fla. “I don’t let the fact that I haven’t done a certain type of …

The structure of success

May 1, 2014

Jeremy Calhoun builds strong dealer networks to support customer service. By Sigrid Tornquist Our strength is in our structure,” says Jeremy Calhoun, president of Calhoun Super Structure Ltd., Tara, Ont., Canada. “And that structure includes our diligent pursuit of excellence in product design, manufacture and supply—and also our ability to build long-term, long-standing relationships with …

Seven steps to success

April 1, 2014

A professional shares his formula for improved sales and customer relationships that last. By Bill Foster There is certainly no lack of advice on how to increase your sales success. Books and seminars can be counted by the hundreds, and many of these are quite good. Firsthand experience working for others in sales positions and …

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Sharp focus, broad impact

Hal Lapping tightens his company’s focus to make quality products affordable. We remain focused on our core products, and because we stay focused we offer the best quality products at the most competitive prices,” says Hal Lapping, president of Economy Tent Intl. (an Anchor company), Miami. Fla. “And part of that mind set is that …

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Positively powerful

March 1, 2014

Kisha Moldovan builds relationships with sincerity and enthusiasm to boost business and advance the industry. “I don’t think about other awning companies as competition or in any way as a negative, because the more people who are spreading the word about awnings, the more we all have an opportunity to be successful,” says Kisha Moldovan, …

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The failsafe questions

February 1, 2014

John Conroy ensures project success by asking the right questions. “We design projects by thinking about how they could fail,” says John Conroy, owner of House of Canvas, Ottawa, Ont., Canada. “By considering all the things that could possibly go wrong, before even starting the project, we minimize surprises.” While in high school, Conroy began …

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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 …

Dave Clarke’s good business

December 1, 2013

Dave Clarke’s vision for The Industrial Fabrics Association International starts with strengthening its market-specific groups–known as Divisions. By Sigrid Tornquist “Generating new revenue streams without losing focus on your mission is a challenge for any organization but it can be done,” says Dave Clarke, incoming chair of the Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) and global …

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Sales support driving the way

October 1, 2013

Alex Kouzmanoff translates customer service into customer satisfaction—by listening. By Sigrid Tornquist “When someone is totally incentivized by sales, there is no backup after the sale is made,” says Alex Kouzmanoff, vice president, Aztec Tents, Torrance, Calif. “We wanted to focus our sales efforts on service and making sure that, whether or not the sale …

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Win/win success through teamwork

September 1, 2013

Andrea Lampson and her husband Mark join with employees to retool a struggling business into a solid and vibrant enterprise. By Sigrid Tornquist “I remember the first time I walked onto the production floor and thought: ‘Oh, my.’ There was no water cooler, no refrigerator and no air conditioning,” says Andrea Lampson, executive vice president …

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Dave Elliot shows strength in economic turmoil

August 1, 2013

Dave Elliot distinguishes his business from the competition by slowing down and keeping strict standards. By Sigrid Tornquist “The past years’ economic challenges have not been a problem for my business—in fact, I think they’ve made my business even stronger because I’ve separated my business from the competition,” says Dave Elliot, owner of David’s Custom …

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Turning engineering into art: the heart of passionate design

July 1, 2013

Nic Goldsmith uses his architectural vision to design innovative fabric structures. By Sigrid Tornquist “I think there are a lot of areas where fabric technology could be applied and it’s not,” says Nic Goldsmith, FAIA, LEED, AP, senior principal of FTL Design and Engineering Studio in New York, N.Y. “Part of my role as an …

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Raising the bar from tent rentals to event services partner

June 1, 2013

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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Cindy Boersema adapts to the unexpected—and succeeds

April 1, 2013

Cindy Boersema takes an unexpected partnership dissolution and builds a sound sole proprietorship. By Sigrid Tornquist “I think the most significant lesson I’ve learned over the past couple of years is not to get too comfortable,” says Cindy Boersema, owner of The Nautical Needle in Holland, Mich. “Being a business owner is not about relying …

Michael König plans the next move

March 1, 2013

Michael König focuses on business planning and growth—every week. By Sigrid Tornquist “You have to know where you’re going in business. You have to have a plan,” says Michael König, president of OFPANZ, New Zealand’s branch of IFAI; and owner and president of Sunshade Group NZ Ltd., incorporating Rainbow Shade Products, 0800 Sunshade and Douglas …

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Fred Tracy brings creative solutions

February 1, 2013

Fred Tracy brings creative solutions to his work in the tent industry. By Sigrid Tornquist Change is our company strategy,” says Fred Tracy, owner of Fred’s Tents and Canopies Inc., Stillwater, N.Y. “You can’t be like a horse in a harness race, with blinders on—you have to keep your eyes open and find ideas you …

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Kevin Kelly turns process to profit

January 1, 2013

Kevin Kelly increases productivity by implementing forecasting, planning and process strategies. By Sigrid Tornquist “Once we started opening our eyes to process, we were really able to take a big leap forward in productivity,” says Kevin Kelly, MFC, IFM, CPP, president of Globe Canvas Products Co., Yeadon, Pa. “Today we’re able to build more product …

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Marc Shellshear puts shade expertise and management skills to work

December 1, 2012

Nicknamed Dr. Shade, Marc Shellshear is an employee who thinks like a business owner—putting shade expertise and management skills to work. By Sigrid Tornquist “If you can’t put yourself in the shoes of the person speaking you’re not going to understand what they want,” says Marc Shellshear, IFM, senior vice president of administration for USA …