Roads and Bridges . . .

Lately I’ve been thinking about roads and bridges . . .

Isn’t it amazing, I can leave my house and hop on a road. That road might take me to a friend’s house, or a job, or a restaurant where I’d like to eat dinner. I can look on a map, and plan where I’d like to go.

Now let us consider an another scenario:

Imagine that when you leave your door, your have to personally create paths anywhere you want to visit – every store, every new friend, every potential job. . . . Imagine that each business has to do the same. Imagine that there’s no map. . .

person pointing at black and gray film camera near macbook pro

How would that look? How far could we each get?

Who would we never, ever reach?

Because that’s essentially what’s happening in upholstery right now.

Seriously – take a look around.

It is astonishing the lack of infrastructure that currently exists in our community –

No Who’s Who of upholstery, no trade associations, guilds or unions. Almost no training centers, no annual conventions, no dedicated job search platforms.

People who want to learn, designers and clients looking for workrooms, shops looking to hire, or sell, professionals who want to connect with other professionals . . . It’s REALLY hard to find the upholstery resources you’re looking for, no matter who or where you are.

Right now, the best road systems into our industry probably exist with a handful of educators, professionals and vendors – I accidentally find myself among them, having cultivated a fair reach into an extremely disparate industry.

But I didn’t set out to build roads.

I just wanted to be an upholsterer.

And then I wanted to teach.

I just couldn’t do those things without building road after road after road.

Connect with potential jobs, one by one. Connect with clients, one by one. Connect with students, one by one. Put up the space and the web presence and the marketing required to work and move through the uncharted territory of professional upholstery.

And if you start building roads, travelers eventually hop on.

“Excuse me, do you have the address for an upholsterer in Nebraska?” and “Can you recommend a workroom in North Carolina?” and “Do you know of any hands-on classes in Florida?” and, “Do you know anyone who wants to buy a shop in South Dakota? Wisconsin? South Carolina?”

But we haven’t BUILT roads there – How do you give someone directions to a resource that isn’t on a map?

Other wonderful people show up and say, “Please build a road this direction! It will be great! I’m enthusiastically awaiting your arrival!!”

But how many roads can one shop build?

So what do you do??

Do you destroy yourself, trying to build all the missing roads? Do you build one giant toll road and just ignore all the places it cannot go? Do you just kick everyone off and close the ramp gates?

Or do you try to say HEY!!! This is insane!!!!!!! How are we supposed to get anywhere like this??

I’d really really really like to help you, but it’s taken a decade to get THIS far, so, you know . . . . don’t wait up!!!

Traveling without roads and no map is slow business!!! Sure wish there were a few more paving companies out here so everyone could move around a little easier!! Lots of travelers, looking for places to go!

How do you connect thousands of little dots? Who builds the roads? Who makes the map?

How on earth do we find ways to work together after so many years of working alone?

I don’t have an answer. . . but if feels like the right question.

I’ll be on a blogging break for a few weeks as we get ready for our fall classes in Minneapolis. Starting in September, we’ll be focusing on our local pilot program, exploring ways that upholstery education could more effectively serve aspiring professionals, and working to connect our training to the professional community beyond.

We hope you’ll follow along this year, and we look forward to sharing new video and educational resources with you, made possible through our sponsor at Fabric Supply, Inc. and our supporters on Patreon.

“If the challenge exists, so must the solution.” Rona Mlnarik

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