OFFER OF HELP AND SUPPORT
I don't usually take the time to respond regarding Kitty Stein's column, but this one really got to me. (See "Using the Crystal Ball," August 2000.) Particularly, Case 2. Not Happy With Income. No wonder. I was so shocked. Something has to be radically wrong with that workroom operation or what the local market will pay for custom work. That gal could make more slinging hash in a restaurant.
I hate to confess this, but I don't spend every day in my workroom working hard unless I really have some large profitable job to do, and I am still making more that this person per year. I checked my tax returns. I guess I am more of a hobbyist as I am not self-supporting, but I usually put in at least 35 to 38 hours per week except around the holidays and then I usually really hit it.
My heart goes out to anyone who is really putting in the hours and not getting the just reward. I don't have a computer. I have a fax/phone, industrial machines, efficient gadgets and a professional worktable custom-built for me by my husband, but really am not high-tech due to limited space. My workroom is only 22- by 25-feet. Sample books and sample treatments are kept in a spare room.
I try to figure a job using the most efficient procedures possible and yet maintain quality workmanship. I don't spend a dime on advertising, it's all word-of-mouth referrals and all retail directly with client. I will not work for a decorator. That's just my personal preference. For 12 years or so, it has served me well. In that length of time, I have had only two persons who didn't want to pay for their work. So I said Merry Christmas (in July) and left the work with them. Both still use the treatments, so that tells me something. I have been very blessed to both have my spending money and be doing something that I feel is very gratifying. I spent 28 years doing office work and now I am enjoying a really fulfilling pastime.
I would like to contact the workroom profiled in Case 2 and possibly offer some morale boosting or maybe some techniques that would make her work go easier and faster and become more profitable.
Bonnie's Windowear, Etc.
Editor's reply: Sorry, but all of the responses to Kitty Stein's workroom survey were anonymous, so it would be impossible to know the name of the workroom described in Case 2. But perhaps now that workroom owner can contact you and take you up on your offer of help and support.
WHERE ARE THE NEW WORKROOMS?
In several articles by Kitty Stein, (See "Workroom Operations,") she remarks about "a dramatic shortage of workrooms." I found this remark to be very revealing as it reflects several conversations I have had with various people over the past several months.
The problem seems to be a shortage of workroom personnel: In Los Angeles/Orange County, CA, I'm told workrooms are recruiting from each other—not a healthy situation. In San Francisco, I've heard of an owner offering $18 to $20 per hour entry level —unsuccessfully. A furniture sales rep recently told me that many of his client designers in Idaho and Montana send their work out to big workrooms operated by fabric companies because their local workrooms either do not have the capacity or the knowledge to create the specialized items the designers are specifying. In Phoenix, AZ, I understand the lead times this past summer were 10 to 12 weeks, plus many of the "old-timers" are taking on no new designer clients because they want to quit.
Well, we all hope we can retire eventually and rest our weary feet, but apparently there is no one to take our places. Why is this? Where are the new workrooms? Where are the new people? Where are we going to find qualified personnel? It is my understanding that most sewing jobs for clothing manufacturers are now off shore. Why?
I have had a workroom for 24-plus years. When I started, a hand-held calculator was considered a nifty luxury! With the increasing array of knowledge now available from D&WC, other trade magazines and trade shows; from the incredible number of books, videos, training aids, suppliers and just plain gadgets it would seem that workrooms would be multiplying not dwindling.
In many ways we have created our own dilemma. We tell our young women they can be whatever they want to be—go for the gold, get an education, be a professional. And then we bemoan the shortage of workers. Yet, if we run across a potential employee who just happened to miss Career Day, we are frustrated because that employee doesn't understand fractions and thus cannot conceive of a half width, a half inch, or the difference between quarter inch welt and five-eighths.
Many workrooms consist of one or two individuals working at home, wearing all the hats, doing it all themselves—wholesale plus retail. In and of itself this is wonderful! However, how are these people trained? Do they have the time, inclination or ability to train others? How many of them just decide they could do a better job than "the other woman's workroom?" How many fail because they do not understand the business of workrooms? So many of them just don't know what they don't know.
I have always tried to bring new people in to learn our profession—some stayed, some didn't, some didn't belong in the first place! There are those who are making a serious effort to train the new generation, but there are too few of them. Why? Where will the new workrooms come from? Or more to the point, where will the new professional workrooms come from to handle the expanding business opportunities on the Internet and from our very healthy economy?
Cactus Creek Wholesale Workroom
Las Vegas, NV