D&WC: How did M’Fay begin creating and offering window treatment patterns?
DIRK BORCHARDT, CO-OWNER: Throughout many years of operating her own workroom, M’Fay felt there was a need for window treatment patterns and instructions. It seemed to her that there was a gap between the designer, the client and the workroom. It appeared that all three could look at the same photo or sketch and actually interpret it differently. Judging the scale was a major element to agree on.
In 1990 she began designing patterns and writing her book, “Designer’s Digest and Workroom Manual.” If the designer and the client worked from these designs and the workroom made the design from the patterns, everyone’s vision would be accomplished. This eliminates a lot of problems for everyone.
The business took off quickly and in the early ’90s, she closed her workroom business to give all her attention to designing and producing patterns. Shortly after that I left my job to devote my time to running the day-to-day operation of the company. Our son Bart joined us full-time in 2000. He brings a wealth of computer knowledge and experience to the company and now runs the marketing and day-to-day operation of the business as I am easing toward retirement.
Our daughter Robin is now involved and works with M’Fay in designing new patterns. She is very talented in designing and sewing and already is a valuable part of our business. She works from her home in Texas, but plans to relocate to Charlotte in the next two years. Although we have other employees, it definitely is a family business.
We started our business in our home in 1990. After five years we outgrew our home and moved the business into a 1,500-square-foot space in an office park. After three years we outgrew that space and are now in a 3,600-square-foot office/warehouse in Matthews, NC.
Future plans are to purchase land in the vicinity of Charlotte and build our permanent location with room for expansion.
D&WC: What window coverings products did you handle initially? What products do you handle today?
BORCHARDT: In 1990, we started with six patterns. We now offer more than 100 patterns. Our “Designer’s Digest & Workroom Manual” was added to our line a few years later. We now also carry steamers, scissors, sewing gloves, fusible stablizer, and DVDs. We are currently looking into producing videos on our patterns.
D&WC: What best describes your niche in the marketplace?
BORCHARDT: Definitely our “Designer’s Digest & Workroom Manual.” It offers more than 500 designs that can be created by using our patterns or mixing various patterns together. For designs that do not require patterns, the instructions are in the book. Our goal is to give the designer and the workroom all the info they need to accomplish each design in the book. The book continues to grow with new supplements being added every 18 to 24 months.
D&WC: Who are your customers?
BORCHARDT: Our customers are workrooms, designers and the home sewer. As the bulk of our business is mail order, we have customers in every state. We also have shipped to over 15 foreign countries.
D&WC: What are your strengths in the marketplace?
BORCHARDT: Customer service is very important to us. We offer same-day shipping on all orders placed before 3 p.m. To stay ahead of the game we found that we had to invest in certain software programs that would allow us to manufacture and print everything in-house. Back orders are not in our vocabulary. We also do our own color photography and printing. In the early days we sent everything out to be printed, the newer technology allows us to make any changes or corrections on the spot.
D&WC: What distinguishes you from the competition?
BORCHARDT: We are the largest supplier of window treatment patterns for the workroom industry. We have a lot of the basic patterns that workrooms need. The Workroom Manual part of our “Designer’s Digest & Workroom Manual” has over 400 pages with a tremendous amount of information that does not necessarily relate to our patterns, but are needed by workrooms. Examples are: instructions for Italian stringing, making and covering cornices, fabric banding, covering cord, arched window draperies, eliminating fabric bulk, and much, much, more.
D&WC: Do you have a company Web site, and how is it used to communicate with customers?
BORCHARDT: Yes, we have had www.mfay.com since 1999. We keep adding to the site every month. Photos or sketches of every pattern are displayed there as well as yardage information for each pattern. We always post a “Tip of the Month.” FAQs are there also as well as technical support info. More than 95 percent of technical support questions are answered via e-mail.
D&WC: How has your segment of the industry changed since you first began?
BORCHARDT: The biggest change we see is technology. Starting in 1990 without computers and where we are with computers now is truly amazing. With Robin living in Texas, technology has made it easy to correspond through computers. Not only computers, but the advances in copier/printers and color copiers have really made an impact on our business. Means of communication has gone from snail mail and long distance phone calls to almost instant turnaround time via fax and e-mail.
D&WC: What trends and cycles do you see occurring in the industry?
BORCHARDT: Drapery panels with unusual headings. More elaborate and embellished top treatments are still hot. Arched windows patterns are very much in demand. We are addressing that with some of our latest patterns. Soft shades are very popular.
1020-M Crews Rd.
Matthews, NC 28105
fax: (704) 845-2286