The multitude of educational resources available to workrooms today is mind boggling to me. When I started my first business back in 1979 there was, perhaps, one good book and that was it. Examining somebody else's work and trial and error were the only ways to learn. I can vividly remember scrutinizing every detail of a balloon shade that one of my clients furnished so I could learn how to make it. Today, there is so much available I can't get enough. I keep wishing for more time in the day so I can learn more!
The following are resources I encourage you to consider. As I progressed in my business, I would regularly lament that we had no learning tools or schools and needed them desperately. Well, now we have them! Please, take advantage of these opportunities.
To me, the number one requirement when you start a workroom is to subscribe to all the trade periodicals and newsletters available. This is the primary way to keep on top of new products, services and trade shows for the industry. Be sure to read the advertisements. You will be amazed at what you learn from them.
There are two newsletters I should mention. One is SewWhat? a newsletter specifically for drapery workrooms published by Cheryl Strickland [(888) 4 SewWhat; www.sewwhatnews.com.] The other is Window Coverings Network, a newsletter for decorators and workrooms by LaVelle Pinder [(512) 282-0717; www.lpinderdecorating.com.]
I can't say enough about the help and usefulness of the Internet. You must have a computer and have access to the Internet! It offers a wealth of information. E-mail lists, chat rooms and forums are an excellent way to get immediate answers to questions and help with problems.
E-mail lists, such as DraperyPro (www.draperypro.com for more information), WindowPro (www.window-pro.com) and WindowWeb (www.quiltropolis.com) offer ways to communicate directly with a large group of people in our industry with messages coming directly to your mailbox.
Chat rooms (for example, DraperyPro for AOL members) are where you can carry on a running conversation with one or more people who are all present.
Forums, such as the one offered on Cheryl Strickland's Web site (www.professionaldrapery.com.), are similar to e-mail lists except the messages are listed only on the Web site and are not mailed directly to your personal mailbox.
Web sites are where individual businesses, such a suppliers and manufacturers, provide information about their companies and products. My own Web site (www.workroomconcepts.com) and the D&WC site (www.dwcdesignet.com) are resources for industry knowledge. The Workroom Concepts site is specifically for workrooms. It has links to many workroom resources as well as monthly articles, tips and a workroom directory.
The Window Coverings Association of America (WCAA) [(888) 298-9222; www.wcaa.org] is our only non-profit trade association. Its goal is to promote a code of ethics and education within the window coverings industry.
Involvement in local chapters offers a powerful networking and educational opportunity. I can tell you WCAA is working on some dynamite educational opportunities that will be coming up in the future.
Industry trade shows are valuable resources for education. Besides the exhibit hall and the seminars, the networking with your peers in the industry will magnify the value of your investment.
The SewWhat? Workroom Educational Conference to be held later this month in Swannanoa, NC, is one I feel I should mention. This show is specifically for workrooms. There is an exhibit hall along with numerous seminars presented by workroom professionals. The workroom education and networking can't be beat. You'll come away saturated with information and many new friends. For information, you can call (888) 473-9942; www.professionaldrapery.com.
Cheryl Strickland's Professional Drapery School in Swannanoa, NC [(888) 473-9942; www.professionaldrapery.com], offers a solid foundation in educating window coverings fabricators. Even veterans will learn a mountain of information on good, efficient workroom techniques and using industrial equipment.
This school is adding more classes all the time, so keep checking for the latest offerings.
There are at least two other schools I have not experienced firsthand, but have heard wonderful recommendations for. They are: Lafayette Venetian Blind's workroom and shutter training center in West Lafayette, IN, [(800) 342-5523), and LaVelle Pinder Professional Decorating & Design School in Austin, TX [(512) 282-0717; www.lpinderdecorating.com].
All of these resources-except, of course, the two schools I haven't attended-have offered a wonderful continuing education for me. If you don't know where to start, then just start at the top of this list and work down. You can never get too much knowledge!
Make the commitment now to invest in your education! The more you learn the more confident you will be. Your confidence will inspire more trust from your clients who will then buy even more from you! Can you learn to live with all that profit?
Kitty Stein, WCAA, is a 20-year veteran of the drapery workroom field, having owned and operated her own business for 18 years and having taught classes on window treatment construction. Until 1990, Stein and a partner owned a workroom with nine employees. She since has opened her own smaller workroom, Workroom Concepts, that has just one employee. She also does workroom consulting, seminar speaking and is the author of Order in the Workroom available through Draperies & Window Coverings.