Jayme thought out the process to herself—part of the job she will sub out to the fabric company from which she purchases her fabric, part of the fabrication she will do herself, then she will contact the carpet and hardware supplier. But who will she get to make these custom slipcovers?
She pulled out the yellow pages directory. She let her fingers do the walking, but there was no slipcover listing. She called a few upholsterers, but they tried to talk her into having the furniture upholstered; they didn't make slipcovers. She called others who have businesses like hers, hoping they might know someone who made slipcovers or had used someone who could come with a great referral. She got one name and called, only to find they were booked five months out.
Finally, as a last resort, she decided to go to her computer and search for slipcovers on the Internet. The search seemed endless and time consuming. She kept pulling up businesses that were not in her area and then, just when she was ready to pack it in, she found the Slipcover Network (www.slipcovers.org), and with a click of her mouse she was at the site.
There was a directory listing (click), then a map of the United States (click). She chose her state and there, in several cities surrounding hers, were names of slipcover professionals with e-mail addresses—some even had their own Web sites.
Years ago, without the Internet, Jayme most likely would have talked her client into having the furniture reupholstered, or would have had them buy new furniture made with the fabric of her choice. But today, she was able to supply this customer with slipcovers as she had asked for, with the simple click of a mouse.
In 1997, when the thought of the Slipcover Network was conceived, the fact that it could be a referral service for folks looking for slipcover professionals was not really its intent. Today, two years after the site was launched in February 1999, the directory page now has 170 listings and is still growing. There is a brief application process, and a yearly fee of $25, for those who would like to be part of the Slipcover Network's directory page.
The true intent for the Slipcover Network was to be modeled after Drapery Pro (www.draperypro.com), Window Pro (www. window-pro.com) and the Professional Drapery Forum (www.professionaldrapery.com). The Slipcover Network was to be a place where those who made slipcovers could go to discuss their trade. Because there was no association or trade group in existence for slipcover professionals, this would be the beginning. All those important discussions about how to run a business, how to make a better product, what vendors to purchase supplies from, customer service, balancing business and family and more are discussed on the Slipcover Forum. Here's a quick tour of the site:
•Feature page: Slipcover businesses are highlighted around the country. This page gives all who want to know more about slipcovers the opportunity to see a slipcover business up front and personal. It not only features custom slipcover professionals, but also those who make ready-made slipcover products.
•Calendar page: Slipcover workshops available around the country are listed. There are workshops for the novice sewer, as well as for professional drapery workrooms that would like to add another facet to their businesses. These workshops are taught by members in the Slipcover Directory.
•Links page: This page connects to other sites that are there to benefit slipcover professionals and others in the interior décor trade. Also on the links page, one can find the Slipcover Press, a quarterly publication devoted to the slipcover professional written by other slipcover professionals. It is free for all to read on the Internet as it is posted on the Web site after the printed publication has been mailed to subscribers.
BEYOND THE NET
Every other week on Thursday evenings, there is a Slipcover Chat hosted by Slipcover Network volunteers through www.quiltropo lis.com. These chats give professionals the opportunity to talk with others about their businesses. Past chats have had guest vendors, numerous discussions about suppliers, machinery, how to decrease production time and goals for 2001.
The Slipcover Network has gone beyond the daily connections on the World Wide Web of 180 hits a day. Professionals have joined together to work in the Slipcover Network booth during trade shows in Las Vegas, NV; Baltimore, MD; Chicago, IL; St Louis, MO; and New Orleans, LA. It has been a great opportunity to meet each other, to show off slipcovers, to educate show participants about slipcovers, to locate other slipcover professionals around the country and to meet designers and decorators to tell them all about what the network has to offer. It opens new worlds of possibilities—making new contacts with others in the same business and being able to share the victories and woes of business and helping to learn about new products.
These were among the many reasons why the Slipcover Network came to be on the World Wide Web. Several slipcover professionals brain-stormed launching a Web site to support one another, and to let others in the interior décor industry know about them. The vision began in 1997, but it has the input, ideas and experience of professionals with 25-plus years in the industry.
Karen Erickson, Kirkwood, MO, has been in the home décor business for 15 years. In 1986, she started Fine Finishing by Karen as a part-time home-based business fabricating draperies, slipcovers and other accessories. Previous to that, she taught needlework crafts and managed sales territories for two national companies, Artcraft Concepts and Athena Crafts in southern California. In 1998, her company became a corporation with a name change to Slipcover America, Inc. She works with designers, decorators and retail customers throughout the United States specializing in on-site fabrication. She also is on staff at the Professional Drapery School in Swannanoa, NC, as the slipcover instructor where she does a four-day hands-on slipcover class.