It’s just lunch: why upholsterers need to start dating

I often see posts and messages from shops seeking “experienced help”

First, let’s be honest: experience takes years to cultivate and since we haven’t had much training in the past couple decades, well . . . experience is hard to come by.

But beyond that, consider the additional challenges of finding a good employee – it’s tough for ANY business to find a great employee, even in a robustly populated career field.

Being experienced isn’t enough – that candidate has to be geographically accessible. They have to be hirable (not otherwise employed, or interested in making a change). They have to be available during the right work hours. They have to be a good personality fit for you and your staff.

A great employee probably takes awhile to find, even if you have a good pool of candidates. So what if finding even ONE is a needle in a haystack?

A great employee is more that skills – it’s a whole combination of matches. Kind of like finding oh, I don’t know . . . A spouse???

Now think about how most of us find a spouse, or even a dateable companion.

What we DON’T do is hop on social media and scream I NEED A WIFE!!!!!

(At least I hope you don’t.)

For lack of a better term, we network.

We put ourselves out socially and meet people. We engage in activities we enjoy, in hopes that we’ll meet someone compatible, or at least interesting. Maybe we let our friends know we’re on the lookout.

In many instances, we may not even BE looking. Through the act of simply meeting people, we make natural connections.

Most of those connections are brief. Forgettable.

But a few become meaningful and perhaps even permanent.

In the field of professional upholstery, we’ve almost entirely lost our appreciation for networking.

I don’t mean those stupid everyone show up with a business card trying to sell each other something affairs.

I mean hanging out in a social, professional, or educational setting with no ulterior motives, no aggressively self-interested agenda.

We may not (and will not) find the experienced employee of our wildest dreams, but we may (and will) find other valuable connections that we hadn’t known to seek.

There’s never a guaranteed payoff, so it’s easy to stick “dating” on the back burner. But if you want to maybe meet someone great? You have to date anyway.

It’s not a quick fix. It’s a long game.
So the best time to start is now.

Networking opportunities are hard to find, especially if you’re looking specifically for upholstery. Think about what related fields you can tap into. Art? Design? Thrifting? Sustainability? Don’t be put off be a non-upholstery opportunity. You may in fact discover that your upholstery skills are rare and interesting to your new group of contacts. And they’ll almost certainly have more events and resources to tap into locally.

But if you DO want to meet a bunch of upholsterers face to face in the near future, here are some events and communities worth checking out. Remember: You aren’t looking for a wife, psychopath. Your goal is to meet some nice new people. <3

  • Pacific Northwest Upholstery Meetup – Shelton, WA July 24th (email for more info)

And don’t forget – the National Upholstery Association will begin to officially accept members July 1, 2019, but you can get your name on the email list NOW. Hopefully 2020 and beyond will see more opportunities to connect with your fellow professionals!

4 thoughts on “It’s just lunch: why upholsterers need to start dating

    1. Awww Jane you’re so sweet <3 All the upholsterers over here wish they were over there đŸ˜€ We need a big meet up in the middle of the ocean.

  1. Should run ‘clinics’ for new revenue and talent spotting.
    For better or worse (it’s worse), reupholstering in US/Europe is a relic.

    However, DIY culture is bigger than ever. If upholsters ran “clinics” where they get 10 people to show up on a few Saturdays for a fee, but get guided help from an instructor.

    The instructor might find a nice source of revenue and the identification for new talent in their craft, after all what better place to find a self starter than a self help clinic.

    As an economist, when I see this issue I look at peoples average incomes and the cost to reupholster furniture v. cost to replace and it becomes readily apparent that reupholstering is for one of two groups: the upper middle class/custom furniture and those with sentimental attachment to the furniture.

    The sentimental group however are rapidly diminishing because sentimentality is correlated with dollar value (historical or present) of the piece.

    That is, sentimental furniture tends to be very nice craftsman work that has been passed on.
    Fewer and fewer people over the last decades have purchased nice furniture that gets passed on. Ikea and its cheap cousins have displaced craft furniture and…no one gets sentimental about ikea, it goes straight to the trash when its broken.

    Perhaps democratizing your craft will allow it flourish. Especially in a time when DIY ethic is high.

    1. Paul, what a delightfully astute and robust response!
      I wholeheartedly agree that clinics can be a potential talent spotting platform. In fact, that’s something we’ve seen happen in our local classes. Though we can’t, with current resources and scheduling limitations, create an “expearienced” candidate, we CAN sometimes spot a PROMISING candidate And, we can weed out the much larger number of casual candidates before they are in a busy workroom being more of a hindrance than a help. So casual training could potentially serve as an early vetting ground for future professionals. The next trick, of course, is to connect a “promising” candidate to the support they need to become a working professional. Tough! But I’d LOVE to see more workrooms considering this a possible outcome of casual DIY education, such as it is.
      You’re also quite correct about some of the potential markets for upholstery, though I’d expand a little on it. . . under the umbrella of sentimental reasons, I’d add environmental impact. This one seems more relevant to our younger consumers, who may not have a sentimental attachment to their furniture, but are cognizant of things like fast fashion and designed obsolescence. They are willing to invest more towards consumer decisions they feel good about. I’d also add the huge body of commercial upholstery to the list of solid markets – fitness and medical equipment, for example. Things that are NOT cheaper to replace and are steadily in need of professional reupholstery not easily outsourced. It’s not quite as flashy as the residential we usually discuss, but it’s a real, viable, ongoing market that requires skilled (relatively) local labor.
      And I hope we can convince more professionals that “democratizing our craft” is a good move. It really is. Historically it’s been seen as a conflict of interest to the professional workforce, but the truth is it’s a fantastic tool for outreach and marketing.
      Thank you for a very enjoyable response, I appreciate your following the conversation!

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