D&WC: Please give a detailed
description of your company and its history.
ROBERT BORDERS, PRESIDENT: Creative Equipment LLC was founded in 1976 as Creative Engineering and Mfg., by Emery and Irmi Tueskoes. They had owned and operated a workroom in the United States since the 1960s, and Emery, a graduate engineer, had developed equipment specifically to assist his wife in the workroom. Word of mouth spread, and soon they were making equipment for other workrooms.
They closed their workroom in Buckner, KY, in 1998 to concentrate on the manufacturing business. I became a partner shortly thereafter, and bought the company in early 2003. The name was changed, but the long tradition of service to the workroom and fabric industry remains. Today we operate out of a 14,400-square-foot plant and office, with five full-time employees and three part-time employees. We make everything in-house and have an electrical engineer and a computer engineer as two of the three part-time employees.
We focus on providing equipment designed to be the best in terms of features designed to allow the user to save the most time and money in those processes that create bottlenecks in the modern workroom.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
BORDERS: The first product brought to market was the Vertical Tabler, designed to streamline the process of length-sizing draperies accurately and quickly, including marking the hem and providing an opportunity to see how the draperies look hanging vertically, just as they will on the customerís window. Tabling is fast and easy, and the horizontal table is available for other work.
Next we developed an inspection and cutting machine, which has evolved into the JR cutting machine, the most feature-packed and popular machine on the market today for cutting panels. It is microprocessor-controlled and allows the user to cut panels in a quarter of the time required to cut manually on a horizontal table. Other equipment soon followed, including a slanted tabler for those workrooms that complete the hem first; the Sewveyor conveyor belt for sergers and blind hemmers to reduce puckering and help the operator handle the heavy fabrics being sewn; and many other labor-saving devices.
D&WC: Is your business computerized? Do you have a company Web site, and if so, how is it used to communicate with customers?
BORDERS: We are completely computer-networked with two Web sites, e-mail and a customer database. Our newest Web site, www.creativeequipment.com, allows visitors to download flyers on individual pieces of equipment. They can also contact us via e-mail as well as phone or fax. I would estimate that 50 percent of our prospective customers contact us via e-mail from a Web search or a link from another site.
When a prospective customer acknowledges a need or an interest in a piece of equipment, we want to know immediately, so we can provide the information required for them to make an informed decision. We honestly believe that anyone weighing the advantages of our equipment versus our competitorsí equipment will come to the conclusion that we offer more value.
D&WC: Who are your customers? What parts of the country do you serve?
BORDERS: About 70 percent of our business is with drapery workrooms. The other is split between fabric retailers, fabric wholesalers and apparel manufacturers. We have installations on every continent in the world, which speaks well for the equipment.
Obviously, as a small company, we canít afford to service problems internationally, so providing equipment that works well the first time it is installed, and continues to work well, is critical to our success.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
BORDERS: The customers are much more sophisticated. Most are computer-literate and technically proficient, having to deal with sewing machines and calculating pleat widths and spaces. The demands of their market have increased as well, with end users demanding quality and low prices. We offer microprocessor controls, bar-code printing, fabric mapping, scanning, connection to customer computers for inventory control and many more electronic features developed in the last 10 years. Our electronic and computer technology definitely sets us apart.
We manufacture all the components of our machines so we can ensure quality and guarantee accuracy. We actually achieve accuracies within one-half percent. We have to stay on top of technology, which is driven by our customersí requirements. This allows us to compete with larger companies that are not as focused on our market niche as we are.
D&WC: Where do you see yourself and your company five years from now? Are there additional areas within the industry in which you would like to become involved?
BORDERS: I believe we will be the premier provider of technology that minimizes labor, time, waste and expense in handling fabric or making draperies. The new generation of machines we are developing will allow the user to change the calibration of the measuring equipment to allow for the characteristics of different fabrics, so accuracy can be assured no matter if you are running polyester, cotton, silk or Trevira.
We hope to make the equipment faster as well as more accurate, so we can minimize the cost for our customers, allowing them to be more competitive in their marketplace, and therefore more profitable. We canít make the sewing machines run faster, but we can find ways to streamline the manual processes and eliminate long, unnecessary queues.
D&WC: What are some of
the key factors involved in your growth and success?
BORDERS: The primary key to our success is the technical advantage we give our customers, and the quality of what we build and sell. The machines go in, and with very little effort work well for many years. We listen to our customers and build features into our products that make the equipment safe, easy to use and efficient.
We service what we sell, and because we manufacture everything ourselves, a customer will never be sent to a third-party vendor who doesnít understand the application of the equipment. Customer service is critical to the success of any company, and we are constantly striving to ensure good service to all our customers.
D&WC: What are your strengths in the marketplace?
BORDERS: Our strength is quality equipment with state-of-the-art features that allows our customers to outperform their competition.
Customers not only get the best equipment when they buy from us, they also get our cooperation in helping them to attain the highest efficiency in their workrooms or fabric businesses. We have engineers on staff as well as consultants in setting up workrooms. We understand our customersí business, and work very hard to enhance their profitability and reduce their problems in their manufacturing processes.
D&WC: Do you educate your customers?
BORDERS: We believe in educating our customers. To that end, we provide manuals, training videos, seminars and, on occasion, consultation. We try to provide value-added service by helping our customers with workroom layout, ensuring they have the proper mix of equipment to make draperies in a minimum amount of time while ensuring the highest quality, and recommendations on products that we donít make or sell, but that may be required to obtain the highest manufacturing efficiencies.
We depend on repeat business, and you donít get that with inferior products or poor service. I am sure there are people happy doing things the old-fashioned way or who deal with our competition, but I truly believe a well-informed person is more likely to buy from Creative Equipment, so we try to educate prospective customers before they buy.
D&WC: Do you work through distributors or sell direct to the retailer?
BORDERS:We would love to sell through agents or distributors, but I have struggled with finding the right group to sell our products. We have distributors in Canada, Mexico and several locations throughout the United States, but generally, most sales are accomplished by the in-house staff.
A good distributor for a technical product is a difficult thing to find, but the value of having someone locally available is worth the effort in finding them. We are always on the lookout for good potential distributors.
Creative Equipment Corp.
3510 Mattingly Rd.
Buckner, KY 40014
Fax: (502) 225-0013