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: Expansion, different sector?  ( 226 )
YaBB God

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« : May 22, 2018, 04:18:45 PM »

In sharp contrast to the previous discussion to exit strategy, I'm wondering if I might need to change it up and/or pursue a slightly different market.

Where I live, we have a few different ports/marinas. I'm wondering if it might be a good idea to learn marine upholstery. I'm finding that my interior designers for the most part just don't want the hassle of custom furniture. They want it done. Delivered. Over and next project.

No surprise there since that's really what happens with everything. No time. Hussle hussle.
Keep in mind I didn't decide to learn about upholstery in the hope of making millions. Just want a decent life.

Curious what everyone's thoughts are about this.
YaBB God

Karma: +2/-0
: 2090

Mainly furniture. Tarpon Springs Fl.

« #1 : May 22, 2018, 04:23:33 PM »

I use to do all phases of Upholstery. Cars, Boat, and furniture. It is a good thing to learn it all and then choose one or more to follow up with. I for one don't like to mix them any more. Cars, and Boats are hard to take apart and very dirty. It is easy to get a spot of grease on a horse or table only to have it transfer onto a white sofa. Extreme example but true. So no I only do furniture. I also turn down things like tape repair as I don't want to run it through my machines. You learn whatever you can and figure out what you like.

Minichillo's Upholstery
YaBB God

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All types of upholstery.....except cars and boats.

« #2 : May 22, 2018, 05:06:56 PM »

Are you talking about on-site work at marinas? Many marinas have a cozy deal with one upholstery shop only.

It's like a drug dealer trying to take over another dealer's "corner".

"Perfection is the greatest enemy of profitability" - Mark Cuban
YaBB God

Karma: +3/-0
: 2915

North Central Florida

« #3 : May 22, 2018, 08:02:53 PM »

It is easy to get a spot of grease on a horse or table only to have it transfer onto a white sofa.

I'm not saying don't do it but Paul makes a good point. Also you like me have your shop at your house. My neighbors would get upset with two or three boats in the front yard. And my insurance company wouldn't be very happy either. Also there have been people visit the forum trying to figure out patterns that were a nightmare. Lots of curved backs using vinyl with puckers that won't come out.

On the other hand if you can get past these hurtles and if you live near the California coast there is a lot of money to be made doing boats. 

There cannot be a crisis next week. My schedule is already full.
YaBB God

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I'm Always In Trouble

« #4 : May 23, 2018, 08:18:22 PM »

I am going to be the odd man out. I am all for expanding services and reaching out into other sectors. I am also big on experimenting and testing the waters in certain areas of an industry.

Only you know what the market in your area holds in regards to marina's and marine work. The Marine fabricators I know have always relied on work coming directly from the owners. Big Mike is a perfect example. While he is tied in with a marina I am sure he will tell you he would have starved relying on work coming only from them. He makes his money from direct contact with boat owners.

RiCat is another. I may be wrong but I do not think Rick has ever been tied into a marina. He like Mike are freelancers and works directly with the boat owners. I might add that Rick is a rarity because he specializes in many areas of upholstery - auto, furniture, classic cars, RV interiors, marine work, canopy's, awnings, etc. And he is damn good at all of them. I have seen his work and I call Rick a true master. He has been in the business for 30 plus years.

Rick or Mike may be able to give better advice on doing Marine work but I think both will tell you some marine jobs get much harder on the body as you get older. One of our marine experts, June ended up giving up all marine work but cushions and interiors. It was killing her poor body. I think Rick may have put limits on some of his marine work too.

I have always been one to explore new frontiers by testing the waters to see if I can get a foot hold in a certain sector of a market. I have also been one to run from sectors if they don't bring the cash in that I wanted them to. We started this company doing RV solar screens for windows, then went into RV awnings all the while being a general upholstery shop for boats and even golf carts ( we have never done auto or furniture ). I soon found out that there was a helluva lot more money in awnings then in all the other product lines we carried so dropped it all and focused on awnings. I also learned that trying to be everything to everyone can sometimes burn a lot of time that could have been spent making money in another sector.

As a business owner you have to be willing to take calculated risks and explore new areas while also being smart enough to know when to drop those ventures if they do not pan out. In other words, my advice is - Nothing Ventured..Nothing Gained. Maybe Rick or Mike have something to add.

YaBB God

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« #5 : May 23, 2018, 09:07:35 PM »

This is a wealth of info to digest.

I certainly didn't intend to have boats at my house, was just considering smaller jobs like cushions. I'm not sure I could do much more. Though I do understand that learning marine vinyls and fabrics is a job in itself.

The golf cart bit is interesting. I have now 3 different courses within arms reach. I know one for sure maintains the carts for customers to use. I wonder if they would have a need, and if so would I be able to dismantle the part needed there and bring it back to my shop?

For sure I like doing furniture the most. But I'm exploring because I have to.
YaBB God

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I'm Always In Trouble

« #6 : May 26, 2018, 10:22:23 PM »

At one time our Miami salesman told us we were his second largest client in Florida. The largest was a golf cart company. They have a huge business buying, selling and refurbishing golf carts. I forgot the number of carts that left their door every month but it was huge. They have their own upholstery department.

Florida has a massive golf cart industry due to all the retirees and the many senior citizen developments that allow golf carts. One can easily make a great living just in the " The Villages ". This is one of the nations largest retirement communities with its own Wal Mart, Walgreens, restaurants and other speciality stores. I believe the entire development encompasses a million square acres. Golf carts are allowed in almost the entire community and there are some real tricked out carts there too. Hummers, Mercedes and some with all kinds of bolt on equipment. Many have amazing custom upholstery. :)


Jr. Member

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« #7 : May 28, 2018, 08:22:35 AM »

Mojo, thank you for the kind words. Chris and I have had quite a few conversations over the years on upholstery. In the 40+ years I have been doing the craft I have seen a lot. At this stage, I am getting more and more on picky and choosing my work. The main thing I target now is the marine soft upholstery. I have found that it is the least in aggravation and easiest to do.

65Buick, a couple of things about marine upholstery. After doing different aspects of the pure side of working a piece of material to accomplish a project – measuring, cutting, fitting, sewing, installation – things start to become relevant. When doing an upholstery project – I call it the theory of upholstery - if a car, furniture, boat, golf cart, etc. – if done properly it will fit – if that material is not fit, sewn and installed properly it won’t. Some marine upholstery can be a challenge. Barrel bucket Captain’s chairs and flat facings in seating sewn with multiple colors with curved seams sewn together to lay flat. Here in this part of Florida, we have pontoon boats and the large curved backrest for the couches can be another challenge.

The other aspect of marine upholstery is applying the proper materials and principals to deal with the outdoor elements. In Florida, exposed marine upholstery that is not taken care of will take a beating. Customers need to know to keep the upholstery clean and covered. I use what I consider the best marine vinyl’s available and still they have their limits if not protected. Sun fading and dirt with heat and moister that promotes mildew. Time and time again, if I get an inquiry for a major boat upholstery project, I will ask them with the money they are investing do they have a way to protect the seating. A cover for the boat, under a canopy or in a garage. Something.
When doing marine upholstery, other proper materials need to be used, stainless steel staples, stainless steel hardware (nuts, bolts, screws, t-nuts). If wood is replace, proper treatment of wood to withstand water that will rot wood. Another aspect I address is water barriers on the foam and water extraction with mesh in the upholstery. If original foam is used, I treat it with a mold mildew killer.

In upholstery, what I have found is different aspects of upholstery projects carries their own nuances. Paul can deal with materials for a furniture piece that will not work in marine, autos or medical.

Another area I target is medical. It might not be as busy as marine, but it is ok. But, pay attention to the areas of concern with medical upholstery and address it to the customer. When I bring these things up with an office manager or doctor, they really appreciate it.

With a proper outlook, you can stay busy with customer pay’s projects.

And Chris was right; I do not promote myself to marinas. For me, I am busy as it is and I don’t like putting all my eggs in one basket. All it takes is a change in management and you can be asked for kickbacks or lose the account all together. And it is more difficult to pick and choose the projects. One would have to do what is required.

I hope it works out for you and if you need, call me anytime if you have questions. My phone number is on the contact page of my website.

YaBB God

Karma: +2/-0
: 557

« #8 : May 28, 2018, 11:54:28 AM »

I can't even imagine all the things you folks have seen in the decades of various upholstery work.
I do frequent offices of various kinds, medical & veterinary, etc. I even had a doctor of mine ask if I would do his tables. A shame that he's over an hour away.

Absolutely Rick the theory of upholstery is a great way to describe various applications. For sure just sheer experience I lack there. But just researching, I am absolutely dumbfounded at the number of textiles makers. Just the other day I had a chair with original naugahyde. Researched that and found a gazillion new types of it.

But now for the good news! -
My efforts attending monthly interior designer meetings is paying off! I am starting to get calls for projects. And my 'one up' on shops is that I pick up, drop off, and bill electronically. So the designer and client have nothing to do but open the door.

So I will be always looking around, but my heart really is in furniture. I hope I can remain there since I know there is so much more to learn and I don't want to be spread too thin.

Thanks everyone for your ideas.
Full Member

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: 147

« #9 : June 09, 2018, 08:23:03 AM »

Do what the opportunity offers - that is the way to keep learning and expanding opportunities.

There will be new issues to be resolved but a good business person can work on that too.

YaBB God

Karma: +2/-0
: 557

« #10 : June 21, 2018, 07:23:54 PM »

A little update, more info here.
I am always a bit suspicious at the latest 'in'  social media site. It's exhausting. Anyway, there's something called 'nextdoor' in which you can talk and meet with really local people. There's a business section too.
I found out with that the golf courses just buy new carts. They don't bother.
However, it may be a way to find legit people needing/wanting work done. So, check it out. It's easy.
Continuing on with meeting local designers & focusing on furniture. It's where my heart is anyway. Some have inquired about banquets which may be a real possibility, though I would have to collab with a furniture maker.
I did get another dining chair job so I think there's interest. And, they like my quality.
So..things are looking up. Made a couple new friends in the process.
Running out of room though!
YaBB God

Karma: +2/-0
: 1253

« #11 : June 22, 2018, 11:24:50 AM »

I joined our local nextdoor out of curiosity -
Against my better computer judgment I signed up and the last registration page said we'll include your contact list.  I x'd out but it went through anyway. 
Didn't get my contacts but I hate sneaky crap like that. 
Saw my name mentioned twice but received no calls or jobs. 
My opinion is it is mostly folks recommending the last guy who worked for them without a true long time history of employment with that person.  I also see tradesman lurking on the site and  stepping up to reply " yes I do that call me ! "  In either case I think folks will need to screen better  -
I don't think I want to compete against some of those who are looking for a side job without all the responsibilities of true business ownership.
It's OK to get the pulse of your neighborhood or keep your eye open for someone's lost dog.
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