Where do we go from here?

Here’s what we’re going to try now.

Next year, The Funky Little Chair will be moving into a shared space with Grahn’s Upholstery. We will turn our clients over to Grahn’s and begin focusing exclusively on the challenges of education and professional training.

Grahn’s, like many of our busy shops, has struggled to attract and retain skilled help. Their one full-time upholsterer is nearing retirement age, and someone with his level of experience is rare indeed.

How do we attract and prepare candidates who can eventually step into these big shoes? What is happening at Grahn’s is happening everywhere. 

Here is my idea:

We’ll be taking JUST a few students locally and working with them to develop a small curriculum.

We will be adopting a model for a blended and flipped classroom. We’ll ask our students to prepare for class using videos and printed resources. Then we’ll use our hands-on time to revisit the content  together. We hope that this will mean more retention, more independence and more success within a limited number of hours – very important in a modern market where most students have limited access to hands-on education.

Secondly, can we cultivate relationships with shops and businesses in our community where these students could access the repetition required for fluency? Can we get serious candidates the hours and connections they need to transition from classroom to shop?

Can we get our education talking to our industry without anything imploding in the process?

Now here’s the big point:

If we can demonstrate success with this model . . . can we also inspire action and collaboration in other pockets throughout the country?

I think collectively, we’ve had tunnel vision for big “someone else” solutions. But if we’ve learned anything in the last two years, it’s that progress happens not by waiting for “someone else”, but by determined individuals working together.

It’s frustrating to see so much of our upholstery community struggling in isolation. It’s frustrating to feel like we can’t DO anything from here. How can we be the resource for someone in Florida? California? Iowa? Even online education is only one piece of the puzzle – if there’s no local resource, no team on the ground working together . . . How far can you get?

But maybe one thing we CAN do is offer an example. A model of collaboration that can be implemented by a handful of shops willing to work together.

  • Maybe we can create blended instruction that can be used where expensive brick-and-morter schools are not feasible. Instruction that allows the traveling student to get more out of their experience.
  • Maybe if we can demonstrate a model for professional education that works, we can attract support and funding from post-secondary partners, from industry leaders.
  • Maybe we can be an example of individuals working successfully together. Mutually beneficial between shops, between education and industry. Between teachers.

Next year, we will strive to share our journey with all of you. For better or worse. Succeed or fail.

We could say, “DON’T COPY! THIS IS OURS!”

Instead, we want to say, “PLEASE copy. Or at the very least, start collaborating. Start looking for ways to move forward. Stop waiting for heroes. Start looking for neighbors. How can we help?”

We have confidence that there is a path here, messy and overgrown though it may be.

In order to fund this year of exploration, we have reached out to all our vendor relationships.

I am overjoyed to announce that Fabric Supply Inc. in Minneapolis has stepped up to provide half of the funds we were seeking. They will be our exclusive tool and supply sponsor for 2018/19. We could not do this work without them.

For the other half, we are reaching out to the upholstery community itself.

We have set up a Patreon page, seeking partners to support our efforts.

If you are excited about our plans and want to be closely involved and/or create change in our own upholstery community, please consider joining our Collaborators group. 

We are looking for 25 people who want to join us in a one year conversation.

Shop owners. Educators. Determined students.

A cross section of location, age and perspective. Optimists, innovators, problem solvers.

A place where we can connect to work together on the bigger challenges that are currently affecting all of us.

This group is where I will be focusing my time, my energy, my attention.

We’re at a cross roads, you see.

There IS education happening, through the sheer determination and passion of professionals and teachers within our community.

But there are limits to what can be accomplished alone. And education everywhere is hitting that wall.

So we want to spend a year throwing our weight at the big picture. For this, we need a village.

Access to this exclusive group is $40/month, and we’re asking participants to commit to one year together.
Let’s work on this. Let’s DO something. EVERYTHING begins with a community that’s working together. 

We need your help.

And we want to learn how we can better help you.

Let’s see what we can do this year.

I’m interested in being a Collaborator 

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