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| | |-+  I Got an Entry-Level Job in... Upholstery (?!)
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: I Got an Entry-Level Job in... Upholstery (?!)  ( 1364 )
BobbyD
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« : March 29, 2014, 05:03:26 PM »

To make a long story as reasonably-unlong as possible:

I started getting into the trade a while back on my own; I got some valuable advice on here about sewing machines (got a great old singer from Bob Kovar) and staples... was hoping to ease my way into doing it as a business, though I admit I found the prospect a bit daunting.  Had been muddling along with a day job in the meantime, but when that was suddenly gone, I was scrambling to figure things out.  Looked up "upholsterer" on a list of jobs from a career center, and lo and behold there was actually one listing!

Here is the deal: I am in the Springfield MA area, and Springfield is a city that has had its struggles.  Once a thriving industrial area, it has been fairly blighted for quite a while.  A plan was hatched by an economist/public policy guy at UMass Amherst to develop a new framework for economic development by creating cooperative, worker-owned businesses in the city.  He did research to try to figure what might be good options, and one was commercial upholstery.  The idea is to get some of the vast cashflow of local "anchor institutions" like universities and hospitals to stay in the city rather than flowing out of it.  Thus was the Wellspring Upholstery Cooperative born, the first of what is hoped to be a number of other cooperatives.

To start the Upholstery Coop, a partnership was formed with a local custom/high-end upholstery shop of high repute, Alliance Upholstery.  The owner of Alliance has been in business for over forty years and runs a three to four person shop.  He guides the workers that Wellspring brings in, and teaches all aspects of the trade while getting jobs out the door.

I came in in the unique position of actually being into upholstery, unlike the others for the most part.  So since October I have been toiling away, getting paid a modest but at least decent wage, and having the security of knowing that state funding is backing my employment and education in the trade for at least a year.  It seems I am incredibly lucky to have found this opportunity (inasmuch as I wanted to learn the trade).  My knowledge and capability has increased dramatically from being in a big successful shop, working and learning each day.

So I thought this all might be of interest to the folks here, especially having read the thread about taking on new learners to the trade, and in terms of the trade's future in general.  We had an official ribbon-cutting/press conference this week, and I had the extremely interesting experience of being accosted by a television camera crew and being interviewed for the evening news!

Thanks to any that got through this marathon post.  Should any of you incline to such things, I would be extremely grateful if you could "like" us on facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/WellspringUpholsteryCoop

or peruse the Wellspring website:

http://wellspring.coop/

And I would be interested to hear any comments you folks might have, and be glad to answer any questions.  Thanks!
MinUph
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Mainly furniture. Tarpon Springs Fl.


« #1 : March 29, 2014, 09:29:58 PM »

Now this is what I like to hear. Teaching a trade to people. Wonderful news. Thanks for the post.

Paul
Minichillo's Upholstery
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sofadoc
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All types of upholstery.....except cars and boats.


« #2 : March 29, 2014, 10:02:23 PM »

It all sounds very promising. Please keep us posted as things develop.

The whole "worker-owner" thing after 1 year is a little fuzzy to me. Can you explain the details? It seems like at some point, you'll have too many owners.

Is there a day coming when state funding will expire, and the co-op will have to become self-sufficient?

Ideally, is the intention of the program to prepare the workers for solo careers? Or can Wellspring continue to grow indefinitely?

America needs more programs like this one. Everybody can't make a living sitting behind a keyboard. The number of skilled workers in all trades is getting dangerously thin. 


"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
SteveA
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« #3 : March 30, 2014, 02:38:10 PM »

Bobby
Working with your hands is a satisfying profession;   I didn't hear your age,  however reading through your composition skills there should be numerous opportunities for you both in the trades and administratively.
Working in the trades means hours upon hours of your life and exposure to dust, and pollutants  - at least for the first 35 years so make sure you know what your getting into. Customers will be difficult so I hope criticism rolls off you easily. Otherwise WELCOME !  - no regrets here but you must have tough skin -

SA
BobbyD
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« #4 : March 31, 2014, 03:44:17 PM »

Thanks for the comments guys.

Sofadoc: The worker/owner thing is a bit fuzzy to me too on some levels; but the main idea is that the workers will, indeed, all be owners.  So as you can imagine, democratic processes will be required for decision-making.  Of course it is not always optimally efficient to be democratic about everything, so not every decision will be voted on!

It is certainly intended for Wellspring to become self-sufficient.  What further funding may lie in the future is an open question... certainly to me anyway.  So far it has been a challenge getting work in the door, so I have been spending some of my time cold-calling.  Fun!  Fortunately right now we have a job doing some booths for a restaurant, so busy at least for the moment.

The intention is for the Coop to grow at least to a dozen members.  Whether there is growth anticipated beyond that I don't know.  The specific plan is for the trainees to be part of Wellspring, but I think it is understood that if some people gain skills and then use them elsewhere in the area, that is a good thing as well.

Steve: Thank you for the kind words.  I am 39, so I don't know if I can consider myself young, or should just give it up and call myself old!  But I am certainly aware of the pollutants and toxins all around, from materials and clients!  I am pretty good at dealing with people, so I hope I can handle that.  I am not sure how long I will be strictly working in the shop, or if I will look to branch out in various ways in the future. But for now I am grateful for the opportunity I've been given, so I feel a responsibility to see it through as far as I feel my presence is a help to Wellspring.
Steve at Silverstone Fabrics
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silverstonefabrics.com


« #5 : April 02, 2014, 11:48:38 AM »

BobbyD, I love what you are doing and you have come to the right place for information and encouragement.

Good Luck. Steve
Steve at Silverstone Fabrics
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« #6 : April 04, 2014, 02:01:10 PM »

BobbyD, I took the time to look at your website and Facebook page. I was impressed with Wellspring's mission.

I just got off the phone with Evan at Wellsprings and we had a very nice conversation.

He was kind of shocked when I told him I was going to send Wellspring a roll of Morbern vinyl for free. I responded that, in my opinion, America could use a lot more programs like Wellspring and that my company is in the position to help.

A 32 yard roll of Morbern Mirage Bronze has left the mountains of western North Carolina and is on it's way to Massachusetts. Steve
BobbyD
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« #7 : April 06, 2014, 06:00:57 PM »

Steve, thank you very much for the kind and thoughtful gesture!  I am looking forward to the arrival of your generous gift :-)
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