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Messages - Mojo

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General Discussion / Re: bonded leather
« on: August 01, 2019, 05:30:03 AM »
The bonded leather will continue to flake off which will release the glued fabric as well. My concern would be as the new fabric and bonded leather release from the polyester core if that will show through with an impression.

Myself I wouldn't do it as it looks like it could be a recipe for disaster. But that is just me and I am not a furniture guy.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Boat business curiosity?
« on: July 30, 2019, 09:56:20 AM »

Our orders are processed by one person. In other words they take the order from start to finish. We have an iron clad rule that we never deviate from. If one person sews an awning, another person checks all measurements and quality standards. This eliminates any awning that may have a quality issue getting shipped. It gets ultra expensive if we ship out an awning that is not correct. On large awnings measurements are checked by 2 people during the production process to catch problems in the early stages. Our tolerances on a 22 ft awning are 1/4 " or less in either direction and from top to bottom. Our goal is always exactness which requires paying attention to detail by the stitcher. Anything over a 1/4 inch deviation from top to bottom on an automatic awning can cause issues with the operation of the assembly. There is a lot of calculating in regards to the gathering of fabric during sewing operations to arrive at that exact number. To complicate things even more some assemblies require a quadratic slope in the center.

In regards to the sewing operation, each stitcher has their own table. Each awning requires different segments or sewing operations. One part of the awning requires a single need run with encased spline while another part of the awning requires double stitching. With 3 tables we can keep 3 stitchers sewing at once and they can all perform various operations on their own tables.

The large size of the tables is needed for layout work. Our largest awnings we make is 22 ft long by 10 ft wide which is why we have a 24 x 12 ft table. Commercial awnings require a lot of space as well because you have fabric and frame layouts to do plus the assembly work.

I can attest to the fact that we do not have machine failures because the people who sew are very easy on our machines. We had one who would take a machine down once a week because she was so rough with handling fabric while it went through the machine. I was constantly retiming machines and adjusting hooks. In fact I had to have a backup twin needle just because she would take them down so frequently. I would be repairing one and she would break the other and I would slide one out, work on it while the fixed twin went back into production. I had one week where I spent 6 hours repairing machines. So glad she is gone. I am convinced that machine reliability is based on how well it is treated and maintained by the operator.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Boat business curiosity?
« on: July 29, 2019, 04:56:03 PM »
We have real large sewing tables. One is 24 ft long by 12 ft wide to accommodate large patio awnings. The 2nd table is 10 x 16 ft long.
Both are dual station tables meaning that a twin needle is setup at one end and sews in one direction while a single need long arm on the other side of the tbvale sews in the other direction. We will building a new table 8 x 16 that will have our serger at one end and a single needle at the other.

Because all of our awning fabrics are double stitch runs the twin needle cut our production time in half. I used to do that part of the operation with double passes. Very time consuming.

We use folders only on the single needles. I should mention that our twins are setup with a 1/2 " gauge. Both of our twins are Highlead's and we have never had one go down. I haven't timed them in 3 years and they run 5 days a week, 5 to 6 hours a day.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Reviews
« on: July 20, 2019, 07:33:26 AM »
Since we are all old timers we can look back and remember what it was like before the internet. Marketing centered around local ad's, the yellow pages and word of mouth.

Today consumers are all geared towards doing research on products and services via the internet and using a host of different methods. Today businesses have to reach as many of these sites as possible and they have to maintain a web presence. I have lost track of the number of potential customers that I talked to who all said " I will check out your website ".

Despite being in this game for many years I am still astounded how readily available information is to the consumer via the internet.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Reviews
« on: July 16, 2019, 07:39:37 AM »
Our online reviews are our bread and butter. Our sales are 70 % internet based, 20 % rally and 10 % walk in. We seem to have a mix when it comes to how sales arrive at our door step ( Google, campground literature, etc. ). Our commercial/residential awning division is all generated off Facebook or Google. Our RV business is all generated off reviews on various RV internet forums.

Once a month I have my Op's manager go through all of the RV forums and find mentions of our company. I track our reviews real close because it is the engine behind our sales. One good review can generate thousands of dollars for us from other RV'ers. Combine that with other good reviews and it generates hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of a year. I can honestly say we have had one bad review over the years.

Unlike Amazon & E-Bay all of our reviews on RV forums are from known customers. I look through the reviews and see the customer names and know they are solid reviews. We do have an E-Bay store and are getting ready to launch an Amazon store for our manufactured products company. That will be interesting.

We live and die by reviews and all of the mentions we get from the RV forums drives our sales. Here are a couple forum reviews:

" StoneVos by reputation, experience, and just the nicest people in the world. Chris and Ingrid truly help us all "

" I have bought replacement fabric for all our toppers from Stone Vos. I highly recommend the high-quality acrylic fabric that they provide! They will last a lot longer than any vinyl fabric out there! They were able to provide an exact color match for the original fabric that came on the MH in 2002! I installed them myself. Chris can probably provide an installation video for you, or point you to one on YouTube. "

" Installed my second Stone Vos one today and the first yesterday. Two more to go. I ordered the Coachguard fabric for my Girard slide toppers. Still have 6 more to go. "

If you look at the fabric name Coachguard that is the acrylic fabric name we trademarked and branded strictly for our company.
This gives us a double wammy as our name Stone Vos gets branded as well as our fabric. There are literally hundreds of these reviews all over the RV forums and they all drives sales. So if an RV'er searches the RV forums for Coachguard or Stone Vos they find us. In essence we are driving sales off reviews based on our company name and fabric name.


The Business Of Upholstery / Idea's - Product Solutions - Expansion
« on: June 30, 2019, 11:42:23 AM »
Doyle has posted about a few business ideas for expansion and I thought I would add my 2-cents worth to help those
who are looking for expansion into other areas for bringing in additional revenue.

One of our companies is a manufacturer of obsolete RV parts as well as new products that I design myself as add-ons to RV's. Our other company is an RV awning company. With both companies our growth is based on penetrating new markets, expanding existing markets, identifying new products and improving on existing products. I have a goal to manufacture one new product annually. I will explain how I go about identifying the product.

1.) I look for a product that has a viable place in the market.
2.) I then study the market and identify my competition.
3.) I check patents and trademarks to limit liability.
4.) If the product appears viable and we can expect decent sales and the market can be expanded then
I move on to the next category - Producing the product.

1.) What materials can be used and what is the cost of those materials ?
2.) How can I design and enhance the product to find a niche in that product category ?
3.) What is the total cost for the product which includes materials, labor, handling, admin duties, packaging, etc. ?
4.) How many units of the product can I expect to sell in the first year ?
5.) How much marketing time will it take to launch the product ?
6.) Most importantly what is my margin for each unit sold ?

If you go back and look at our 12 year history you will see that I have developed many products, designed enhancements,
created markets and in some cases designed products to retrofit problem areas on RV's. I look at all the shortcomings of
a particular RV and then try and identify what products could replace problem parts with high quality ones that we manufacture.

I readily admit I know very little about the furniture side of upholstery. I also would never pass myself off as a true upholsterer
as I have 20 % of the skill levels you all have with furniture, cars and marine work. My expertise lies in business and marketing.
I have never sat down and looked at furniture upholstery to see if there are areas of expansion. But I can guess there are opportunities for more revenue in your line of work. Upselling thread, foam and fabric types and other things that have to do with furniture. I also see maybe a little opportunity with you guys who also do woodworking in making matching ottomans. For instance I bring a chair to you to be upholstered. You then try and sell me a matching ottoman custom made by you. Maybe one that is simple or maybe one that includes a hinged top with internal storage. Kicking ideas around that can grow your business with a new product offering is always a good thing.

So get to kicking some ideas around in your heads and see where there is opportunity for additional revenue. Brainstorm with your wives or friends. One of our members here RiCat is excellent at upselling his marine products by simply offering upgrades to thread - Poly to Solarfix. He has great margins with that simple upsell. It is ideas like that that can put a few extra thousand dollars a year into your bank accounts.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Is there a market for pet clothing?
« on: June 30, 2019, 11:08:02 AM »

This is one market that is flooded big time. There a slew of Mom & Pop's who make pet clothing and sell
them at flew markets.

There is a vendor who travels the RV Rally circuit that sells pet clothing and accessories. I often wonder how
long they will be around.

I am guessing the margins would be very slim.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Business Expansion - ahead?
« on: June 30, 2019, 11:04:38 AM »
Funny you mention this Doyle. We recently ordered slip covers for our leather chair, sofa and loveseat.

We got them off Amazon and the fit and quality was very good. Were they custom made ? No. But they fit very well
and tight and came with styrofoam inserts that you wedge into the cushions.

Like so many other things they were made in China and the price point was very low making it impossible to compete.
We all need to remember the consumer world we are dealing with now days. While the older generation is still quality conscious
the vast majority of consumers are all about price. Never mind about quality and length of the products service life.
People are accustomed to throwing out and buying new.

Where I could see a market is maybe with the high end client who wants a perfect fit. But again this market I believe would be very small.

Check out these prices:  https://www.amazon.com/s?k=slip+covers+for+furniture+sofa&crid=34Y73D3DZZ37Y&sprefix=slip+covers%2Caps%2C175&ref=nb_sb_ss_i_1_11


We operated our shop out of our home for several years. Never had an issue but then we have 3 secluded acres and are zoned agriculture.

I never liked people coming to our home and to be honest hated having the business at home. I had a very hard time winding down
and felt I needed to be in the shop which resulted in me working some crazy hours. Our current shop is 2 miles from home in an industrial park and I like that arrangement. If this deal goes through on this other building then we will be 5 miles from home.

I still have an office at the shop but only go in once or twice a week for a few hours. I have an office at home I work from and since I am doing admin and phone/technical support it works out good for me. We carry $ 2 mil liability insurance which covers us anywhere are at including shows and events which always require liability insurance.

I will know this week if the bank buys our deal or not. I am hoping and praying as I am pretty much over this rent crap and putting money in someone else's pocket every month. I would rather own an asset like a building then help someone else own one.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Buying a Building
« on: June 23, 2019, 07:03:25 AM »

May & June are my " financial review months ". I go over the products we manufacture and sell and then do cost studies on each one.
July 1st is our price increase/decrease month based on the numbers I have crunched. ( Yes I have done price decreases if I feel market pressure ).

Once your sales start growing and your company expanding and more employees come aboard it is a necessity to review and study your products, production and pricing strategies regularly. It allows the business owner to calculate the rise in material, labor, building and other costs to make sure you are maintaining the right margins. We manufacture a total of 4 different products 2 of them being made from 304 stainless steel, 1 of aluminum and the fourth plastic. Obviously 3 of those have seen wild price fluctuations over the last 18 months because of tariff's requiring us to absorb the costs which in return hurt our margins. I just am completing new price increases for July 1st on all products with the exception of the plastic parts.

In regards to our awning company, we also have to review costs and prices there as well. We just experienced a 20 % price increase on some fabrics we use which required me to go back to our supplier and renegotiate based on volume pricing. When your biggest material costs comes from one or two areas you do all you can to minimize those price increases. We have a great deal of competition in the RV fabric replacement business so we constantly feel the pressure on product end prices. We are doing a price increase due to a rise in material costs but we are essentially tapped out on pricing and raising our prices anymore will hurt our overall sales numbers. That is why staying on top of material costs is so important, especially considering we burn through thousands of yards of fabric per year not to mention cases of Solarfix thread. Negotiating just a 50 cent reduction in fabric prices can result in thousands of dollars more in our pocket.

One other cost issue is labor. We pay our employees ( I think ) extremely well and this represents our biggest cost. We are approaching a $ 1/4 million annually in payroll and yes it hurts big time but it is part of the overall headaches that business owners have to deal with. We budget every year for pay increases and sometimes that hits our margins and requires us to ramp up our prices. With some products we are able to hold our prices and take a hit because we have such huge margins which allows us to hold our prices steady. On other products we have to revisit a price increase.

Interestingly and one item that Doyle will appreciate is when we look to increase our margins we sometimes do that through more efficient production. We are always looking for ways to speed up production and because we have awesome employees they too are always looking for new ways to cut production time by using new methods, new tools or changing a process in order to increase efficiency.   
I admit though that boosting margins with the type of production we do is much harder. Automakers and other industries can do it through automation, robotics, etc. but we do not have the money do employ those things.

With all that said we also have to consider the price increases in everything else which several of you stated above - rent, taxes, utilities, machine parts, etc. Once a business owner starts digging into all of his costs only then can he really price his products or services fairly.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Buying a Building
« on: June 19, 2019, 07:33:32 AM »
It took us a year to find the right property that we could afford. Our requirements were wide roads, easy access, big enough to park buses on and turn around and a large enough building to maintain our business for 3 to 4 years. If we get this building then we will start looking for vacant land closer to I-75 sometime next year. I would like 10 acres so we have room for expansion as well as being able to develop 2 new companies / operations on.

I have always used a strategic planning process for business. I do 1 year, 3 year and 5 year strategic plans and then develop our operations to achieve those goals. We will be pretty much stuck in this new building for 3 years and once we can develop a new property from scratch then we can move and then rent out the other building.

Our next development is going to take some major bucks but will include several new businesses, all RV related. I am still shocked at the prices of commercial property around us. Even rent is crazy.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Buying a Building
« on: June 11, 2019, 12:06:35 PM »
I wished it was 40,000 sq ft. It is 4,000 sq ft.

My best friend and running buddy is guiding me through the building purchase. He owns commercial buildings, burger kings, Jack in the Box, Popeyes and Dairy Queen buildings all over the USA. His wife is a CPA so she will guide us on the tax stuff. They are always doing deals and have had an excellent track record over the years.

My tech and shop foreman and I went over every square inch of the building yesterday and made note of a few issues. It is a well constructed building and laid out great. I think it will work great for us for 3 to 4 years until we expand into other businesses and build a complex of our own. At that point the building we are trying to buy will revert to rental property for us.

I am pretty amazed at how the local bank handles these deals. They have been awesome so far. Much easier to work with then the big National bank outfits.



The Business Of Upholstery / Buying a Building
« on: June 10, 2019, 07:07:46 AM »
We wrote an offer on a commercial building a couple weeks ago and have been going through the financial process with the bank.
I had no idea what a royal pain in the ass buying a commercial building was.

We had an hour long meeting the other day with the commercial loan director. The records we had to supply was horrendous. Personal
records and then 3 years from each company we own of P & L's ( Profit & Loss ) & year end balance sheets. Then tax records for the last 3 years for ourselves and companies.

Everything is completely different with commercial buildings. I asked about the inspection and he said " If you want one go ahead. The condition of the building you are buying is all on you ". If the deal goes through then we start the headaches with the Government agencies and insurance company. The city has to inspect the building and then give an occupancy permit. The fire department has to inspect the building and give approval. The insurance company sends a risk manager to inspect the building as well.

What was different was that the bank is pushing us to form a 3rd LLC which will own the building. The 2 companies will then lease the building back from the holding company. This setup is used to provide an additional liability barrier in the event of an accident or claim/lawsuit by a third party. There are also some tax benefits as well.

In the end, if the deal goes through then we will have a much larger building that we desperately need for growth. Currently we are tripping on each other in a 1,600 sq ft building. The new place is 4,000 sq ft which will really allow us to work with more room, allow an additional 10 x 24 ft sewing table, a larger table for serger sewing, more parts inventory space and provide us with larger offices.

Should know soon if the deal flies or not. If not then back to the drawing board and looking for another building.


The Business Of Upholstery / Re: Interesting Concept
« on: June 03, 2019, 07:02:12 PM »
The vast majority of RV upholstery work is done on the driver/passenger seats as well as love seats and sofas. Most RV'ers will take their seating to a car upholsterer or one of the RV renovation companies. Also, many are just throwing out their old seats and buying new.
I had to make a decision early on whether I wanted to add that service and declined. Instead I shove all that work to RiCat who has the expertise in auto upholstery. I admit I do not.

I have a good friend that owns one of the largest RV seating companies in the USA. He does a real brisk business. They do not do recovering but rather sell new seating, mainly Flexsteel seats. Alot of his customers simply come in, dump their old seats on him and buy new.

I just cannot see having cushions done without having the arms also done. In the hundreds of coaches I have been in it is the arms of the driver/passenger seats that gets the worse abuse as well as the arms on sofas and love seats. Because many RV companies use cheap vinyl, fading is a big issue as well. My drivers seat in our own bus is 3 different shades because of the sun. You have to remember the living area of an RV is all windows so UV damage is prevalent ( not to mention the ill informed owners who use harsh cleaners on upholstery vinyl. )

In regards to this companies website, I always advised clients back in my business consulting days that your personal views and opinions on life do not matter in business. Keep your mouth shut, keep your religious or political views to yourself and deliver to the customer what they want. If you cannot do that then shut down your business and open a church or run for political office. I see these massive companies take a stand on social issues and cringe. Look what happened to Dick's Sporting Goods when they quit carrying guns as a social issue. The gun owners revolted and now Dick's sales are dropping and they are headed for financial trouble.

For every one person you connect with by taking a stand on religion, politics or social issues you run the risk of pissing off 2 other people who will never step foot in your business. So my advice to this company and others is to shut the hell up and just deliver high quality customer service and products. In other words, do your job and save your public grandstanding for your personal time away from the business.


General Discussion / Re: Still Recovering Hide-A-Beds?
« on: May 27, 2019, 06:34:27 PM »
I do not mind the gators as they are big and you can spot them most times. It is the damn snakes down here that always gets my attention when on a walk in our woods. Most of the coral snakes left our property after I cleared out the underbrush but I still have a few around. I wear snake chaps if I am going into the woods to work. I got bit by a pygmy rattler on my arm 3 years ago......... Not fun and caused all kinds of blood issues for me but nothing like a strike from an eastern diamond back. The pygmy though is one nasty little rattle snake. He actually hit me twice before I could get my arm out of the way ( one was a dry bite ). They wont kill a human but will kill pets. Their venom is a hemotoxin and not a neuro toxin.

Speaking of water, float down the back waters of Florida rivers in a canoe and you have to worry about water moccasins hanging from the tree branches above your head. Had a buddy end up with one in his boat. I wont get into the scorpions or brown recluse spiders.

But Florida is nothing like Australia. Everytime we go back to see her family it is like stepping into the food chain. So many creatures there that want to kill you. Jellyfish, octopus, sea snakes, bull sharks, Taipan snakes, croc's, King brown snakes, Red Belly snakes, Death Adder snakes, red back spiders, Funnel web spiders ( can be deadly ), Stone Fish, Emu's and yes even a pissed off Big Red kanagaroo will gut punch you to death and open you up like a can of sardines with their razor like hooves. I think of my time in Australia where every move I made on my in laws 10 acre property was a calculated move and it makes Florida more pleasant for me. :)


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