- Furniture upholstery is an estimated $1 billion market within the U.S., using roughly 30,000 individuals.
- Matthew Nafranowicz, a grasp craftsman, began doing upholstery work greater than twenty years in the past.
- He advised Insider the steps he took to develop his business from an incubator to a storefront workshop.
- Visit the Business part of Insider for extra tales.
As a biology pupil again within the 1990s, Matthew Nafranowicz wanted a approach to earn some cash when the hen populations he studied migrated south for the winter.
Working as a furniture upholsterer match that want, and Nafranowicz paired analysis and craftsmanship as he adopted flocks from Wisconsin to Wyoming.
He continued creating his expertise after commencement, first with a designer New York City, adopted by an apprenticeship in Paris, earlier than returning to Madison, Wisconsin to open The Straight Thread in 2002.
What started as a one-man operation in a native entrepreneurship incubator area is now a storefront workshop using a group of 5 in one of many metropolis’s trendiest neighborhoods.
Furniture upholstery represents an estimated $1 billion market within the US, and authorities knowledge exhibits it employs roughly 30,000 individuals. (Nafranowicz declined to share income figures.)
Insider spoke with Nafranowicz about how he constructed his business and the steps he would suggest to somebody who was eager about beginning a comparable business of their very own.
Learn the craft
First and foremost, Nafranowicz says, aspiring entrepreneurs want to make investments the time and power in studying the craft. Art college or programs at a group faculty is a start, however there is no such thing as a substitute for real-world expertise.
“If the person running the business has no knowledge of the craft, they’d be completely lost,” he stated.
An apprenticeship plus three to 5 years working for a longtime store is good, however that may be tougher to piece collectively within the US than in different nations which have extra developed coaching applications.
There could also be extra alternative on the way in which with the Biden administration’s assist for increasing trade apprenticeships.
Save sufficient cash for six months
In addition to studying the instruments of the commerce, future business homeowners ought to take care to study some business ideas, like creating a business plan, pricing services, and managing money flows.
Nafranowicz says new business homeowners ought to financially put together for six months of no income whereas getting issues up and working. A workshop with the bottom hire attainable and solely probably the most important gear can maintain your overhead prices low.
Depending on native situations and particular person frugality, $20,000 might cowl the primary few months of hire, residing bills, a set of hand instruments, a stitching machine, and an air compressor.
Target family and industrial purchasers
To get his first clients, Nafranowicz made journeys to use the native library’s cellphone ebook to construct a listing of names and addresses of potential clients in Madison’s extra prosperous neighborhoods. (Today’s entrepreneurs may have a little bit of web savvy to assemble a comparable listing.)
In addition to his direct-mail marketing campaign, Nafranowicz took out small adverts in native publications and networked with inside designers who wanted bigger jobs carried out to an exacting artisan’s customary.
“You never want to sacrifice the quality of the work you put out, even if you’re losing money for a time,” he stated. “All you have is your reputation.”
More just lately the studio has begun designing and promoting authentic items that permit Nafranowicz to absolutely faucet into the old-world strategies he realized in Europe. Online gross sales permit him to attain exterior the Madison space, and herald roughly 10% of revenues.
Seek out recommendation and suggestions about your efficiency
The native business incubator the place Nafranowicz began out supplied extra than simply below-market hire — it additionally had specialists and advisors readily available to assist navigate early challenges.
In order to be accepted, and every year after, he had to present a detailed business plan and monetary abstract that specialists from varied industries would evaluate and make suggestions.
“The plan was super rudimentary but it instilled in me the importance of getting numbers down to make sure everything is financially sound,” he stated. “It’s surprisingly easy to undercharge, at least for someone with my personality.”
Hire assist as quickly as you possibly can afford it
One conundrum of craft companies is that there are a lot of issues that want to get carried out, however just one factor — promoting your completed product — that brings in income.
As a solo operator, time spent on selling the business, managing provides, and paying taxes essentially comes on the expense of ending work-orders that assist money move.
As the business grows, it is necessary to discover methods of conserving initiatives flowing with out your direct involvement, from hiring part-time employees or outsourcing sure duties to different companies.
Choose your location fastidiously
From the incubator studio, The Straight Thread moved into a storefront workshop on foremost thoroughfare in 2006, and final yr Nafranowicz moved down the highway to his present location within the coronary heart of Madison’s buzzy Atwood neighborhood.
Similar companies function efficiently in additional eliminated industrial areas, however Nafranowicz says the upper foot and auto visitors brings elevated gross sales that greater than make up for the upper hire.
Beyond discovering the proper place and the proper value, Nafranowicz recommends small companies hire from impartial landlords who’re in a position to work with them as issues come up, as a little flexibility could make a large distinction.