Today I received my very first business cards for the Chick. (Yes, I’m calling my business “The Chick” – she is her own entity now. 🙂 ) I can’t tell you how much more real my business became just because of these little rectangular pieces of cardstock! What is it about that glossy little piece of paper with your information on it that makes you seem more “business-y”? It could be that it goes back to the days of old when people all had calling cards to make proper acquaintance. It could be that it’s a physical extension that’s more than cyber-space. It means you’ve made contact. Or maybe it means that I finally can actually hand something to someone when they ask if I have a card.
Too many times, in casual conversation at the dog park, the store, the doctor’s office, the State fair, when I have mentioned that I’ve been learning upholstery and am turning it into a business, people are practically searching my pockets and purse to get a card! The words literally have barely left my mouth, and the person I’m talking to is already asking, “Do you have a card?” I mean, for many of those conversations, I had just mentioned I was learning, the business side hadn’t even come up yet. Why are people so desperate to ask for my card? (They certainly never responded this way when I was painting murals…) Is upholstery as a business dying? Are upholsterers a dying breed? Is the idea of supporting a novice just so appealing? My answer to all these questions, my friends, is a big, resounding “NO!”
The reason, I have come to understand, has to do with the appearance of a lack of upholsterers. Back in the day, schools had credential and diploma programs for people to go through to learn the business and art of upholstery. Sadly, finding such a course is near impossible here in the United States. Many years ago, schools started to close up those options. The reason why? I’m not sure. I don’t think it was a lack of people wanting to learn. Whatever the reason, in order to learn, you must be proactive.
In the past, with a lack of credentialed schooling, you might be able to find a veteran upholsterer who was willing to take you under their wing as an apprentice. But again, we’re hard to find – aren’t we? A search for upholstery classes might find you some videos on YouTube by a DIYer making things up as they go (and hey – we all need to learn somewhere!). Or you may find a class that is taught by someone who knows what they’re doing, but the videographer does not. HOWEVER, like me, you might be lucky enough to find local classes taught by a skilled upholsterer, or find out that your State has a professional upholsterer’s association. Or you might even encounter a fantastic resource in Craftsy, where you can learn from my mentor, Cynthia Bleskachek, in a highly-detailed video setting for practically pennies! (You can find Cynthia here: http://www.craftsy.com/ext/CynthiaBleskachek_5027_H)
So what does all this amount to? Are upholsterers really that hard to find? Well, yes and no. Since becoming one, I’ve discovered many others in my local area. How? Certainly not by encountering them while out shopping. Many upholsterers now don’t have a storefront you can wander into. Many of us (myself included) literally work from our garages and basements. We need to keep overhead low, and that can be difficult when you have to pay rent.
Understandably, many of these folks have enough business that they don’t need to advertise anymore – in places like the Yellow Pages. The Yellow Pages are something of the past – most folks nowadays don’t look to an antiquated book for business. We go to the internet. And that is where I think we upholsterers tend to sink or swim. We need to get your attention – and keep it – and many of the upholstery websites I’ve encountered are utilitarian, but not necessarily interesting. Those folks who have lots of business actually doing upholstery, don’t always have the time to create a website. Many of them have been doing upholstery longer than I’ve been alive. They work by word of mouth – the very best way possible! The problem with us as consumers nowadays is that we don’t tend to talk by word of mouth – we talk by word of the internet, so we miss out on some of the most seasoned professional upholsterers.
My point is this: Be proactive. Ask around. Check out different avenues on the internet. And for goodness sake, when someone mentions they upholster, ask them for a card!