There is a constant demand for upholstery work and not enough upholsterers are trained for it. Two semesters of an upholstery course at a local community college could help you find a job that can start at $ 20 an hour and eventually go up to $ 70 an hour.
“I get a call at least every two weeks from a company that says they are looking for someone to hire,” said Katherine Smith, special projects coordinator at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, Texas. “And they’re calling from the US, not just Texas.”
She hears from a wide variety of employers, well beyond the traditional upholstery stores. Medical utilities need someone to cushion the exam tables. Body shops are looking for people who can fix seats.
Furniture upholstery company owners across the country say customers wait months or even years to get their jobs done because they don’t have enough well-trained upholsterers in their profession.
We spoke to local business people. Here’s her advice on how to learn upholstery and meet a lucrative, unmet demand.
“I’m making a couch from next week and the owners have been waiting two years,” said John
Levey, who owns the Zim’s of Catalina upholstery business on Catalina Island, California. He is ready to hire a skilled on-site employee for $ 30 an hour.
“I’ve got so much work to do that I don’t know what to do with it,” said Chris Scirica, co-owner of Caribe Interiors Upholstery and Furniture Refinishing in St. Petersburg, Fla. So few people do it well. I can’t even find someone to teach. ”
How to learn upholstery
There are several resources – both virtual and in person – for people looking for upholstery as a career or side gig.
Take classes at a technical school or community college
Schools across the country are teaching students how to reupholster at various levels. Some are more intended for the “weekend warrior” who wants to get back the dining room chairs he found at a flea market or even stab on a rock sofa. Others offer further education certificates and teach skills that can be used in an existing upholstery business or set up yourself.
For example, when students finish a year at Tarrant County College in Fort Worth, they’re ready for the upholstery profession, Smith said.
This is how this program works:
The first semester at Tarrant covers the basics of upholstery, while the second semester covers intermediate upholstery. Each requires 96 hours of instruction. In a summer course, 108 hours of car and boat upholstery are taught. Classes take place twice a week from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. or 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Courses cost $ 300 per semester and many students are eligible for financial assistance. After completing their studies, students receive a certificate stating that they are qualified to work in the reupholsetry profession.
Check with your local technical school or community college to see what types of courses are available.
The National Upholstery Association also has one directory of classes taught by upholsterers and other professionals.
Take online upholstery classes
Kim Chagnon took upholstery courses twice a week for a year in 1996. She started out upholstering for friends and family as a side show and then made it her full-time job. After building a thriving business in Greenfield, Mass.In 2010, she started posting YouTube tutorials to share her knowledge for viewers who wanted to do upholstery. Since then, she and her husband, Bill, have posted more than 200 posts and received 75,000 subscribers and more than 8 million views.
Her shop, Kims Upholstery, is now offering courses on hers website with more in-depth training. For $ 25 per month or $ 240 per year, students have unlimited access to training videos that are available 24/7. Subscribers speak regularly to offer help to one another, and Chagnon is very accessible too.
Subscribers can learn upholstery for all types of furniture, including a chaise longue, canal-back chair, rock sofa, any type of pillow, tufted ottoman, Queen Anne chair, and curved headboard, to name a few. Chagnon also teaches slip covers for a love seat with a rolled arm replacing a coiled zigzag spring, a matching patterned fabric, and a mileage measurement fabric.
Kims Upholstery also has three-day personal listings Workshops for people who want to learn upholstery in a $ 600 project. There are two in Pennsylvania and Colorado.
Pursuit of the upholstery theory
Many upholsterers learned their skills in a family business.
Given the high need for trained staff, Smith said she spoke to employers who would hire someone as an apprentice and pay them as they improve their skills.
“If they can find someone who knows at least halfway through what they’re doing and can use a commercial industrial sewing machine, they’ll be interested,” she said.
“I was taught every aspect of what it takes to get a job completely done,” said Scirica of Caribe Interiors. His father, a master from Sicily, Italy, passed on his extensive knowledge to Scirica and his brother. Scirica believes that many local community college courses are more suited to home improvement who don’t need knowledge of complicated upholstery skills.
“They don’t teach how to do diamond tufts or things with horsehair,” he said. “The best way to get into a company like this is to find someone and an apprentice.”
How to start an upholstery business
Regardless of how you learn your upholstery skills, you will need to invest around $ 1,500 to $ 2,000 in equipment if you want to start your own business.
A good industrial sewing machine costs an average of $ 1,500, according to Smith. A box of essential upholstery tools costs an additional $ 500.
Chagnon gave strong reviews of the LS-1 Basic Walking Foot Sewing Machine, that sells for $ 795. It comes with a 3 hour video that teaches users everything they need to know about the machine.
Once you’ve proven yourself with friends and family, start networking. Reach out to antique dealers, vintage shopkeepers, and real estate sellers who can hand over your card if they sell a piece of furniture that needs work. Realtors also get to know a lot of people who want to spice up their homes and re-upholster furniture. Interior designers too, of course.
Profitability varies. While there is a steady demand for upholstery work, Scirica says his business is a far cry from a money cow.
“It’s a love job,” he said. For example, an upholsterer could work 10 hours on a high-back wing chair and bill the customer $ 700. The $ 70 an hour earned on this chair must also help cover expenses such as electricity, insurance, and rent for the work area.
Starting a business in your own home definitely offers more room for profit, said Smith.
Myles Denny, owner of Diversified Upholstery Service in Knoxville, Tennessee, has a profitable business in repairs and upholstery for warranty companies that cover furniture. He is a one-man business and travels to customers’ homes to fix their furniture.
“I charge $ 90 for a service call and then $ 70 an hour after that,” Denny explained that the warranty companies pay him, not the furniture owner. “I’ve always enjoyed working with my hands. I make a very good living doing it.”
Katherine Snow Smith works for The Penny Hoarder.
This article originally appeared on www.thepennyhoarder.com