Meet the members of IFAI and hear about the benefits of membership in their own words. Members come from all over the world and from every market segment, and each brings a unique view on the industry.
Investing in Excellence: Kathryn Maisto, Fairwinds Canvas LLC
Kathryn Maisto mastered her marine canvas skills over a lifetime and across oceans, and now she’s training a new generation.
"I want an employee to be able to go out on a boat and pattern, I want them to be able to fabricate, and I want them to be able to install. That is what makes my business run so smoothly."
A culture that clicks: Kent Lammers, Polo Custom Products
Polo Custom Products excels at partnerships, offering clients a full range of supply chain services.
"Manufacturing 4.0 and IoT are not fads, and they are going forward and here to stay. "
Always innovating: Kathy Schaefer, Glawe Awnings and Tents
New IFAI board chair Kathy Schaefer shares her vision for an organization that helps its members navigate a changing industry landscape.
"When you see something that replaces what you are having a heck of a time doing, you’ve got to snap it up. It’s all about production levels and efficiency."
The Long View: Tom Auer, Bearse USA
Tom Auer strives to put bearse usa—and the U.S. sewing industry—on a firm foundation.
"One thing I try my best to do is to make sure my employees have all the right resources to do their jobs well. I don’t want them to feel like they can’t do their jobs because they are waiting for a decision from me or haven’t been provided the right tools."
Challenge accepted: Pete Mogavero, Anchor Industries Inc.
Pete Mogavero leads the team at Anchor Industries to meet today’s market demands for quality, craftsmanship, speed and customization.
"We’ve been on a lean journey for 10 years. Our customers are in an environment where they can’t say no. They’ve got to give their clients a ‘yes’ response, so we have to do the same. Our challenge is to do it faster. We have a strong bias for speed. And we’re not scared of challenges. In fact, I would be scared by the lack of challenges. "
Staying the course: Carl Pellegrini, SeaCanvas
By building his business slowly, Carl Pellegrini keeps SeaCanvas focused on quality, creativity and customer service.
"I will never feel like I should grow SeaCanvas quickly just to grow my business in my area even though the opportunity might be there to have a larger shop. I like to take it in moderation."
A bright future: Colin Touhey, Pvilion
Pvilion’s Colin Touhey is working to forge strategic partnerships to integrate photovoltaic technology into all kinds of fabric products.
"Every person in the world has a phone that needs to be charged. And every person in the world has access to fabric. They might be in a tent, they might have an awning, they are definitely wearing clothes. The access to phones has driven the requirement for mobile power."
On a Mission: Michele Quadri-Butterfield, Al’s Awning Shop Inc.
Michele Quadri-Butterfield was raised in the business founded by her grandparents. Today, she’s the “mother force” of Al’s Awning Shop.
"Every day, I say, ‘What fabric solution are you providing today? What exceptional product are you going to put out today? How are you providing customer service today?’"
Personal Trainer: Kimber Buglass, Chairman Motor Trimmers and Upholsterers Ltd.
With a growing business and a dearth of skilled labor, Kimber Buglass trains his own employees, fostering project ownership and pride in the job.
"I find our system works really well: ‘It’s your job; you see it through. If you want help, you get the other team members in the factory to come and give you a hand." So that’s our point of difference. I think that’s where we turn the work over quicker."
Crafting Shade: Emilio Petrongolo and Jocelyne Jabre, Auvents Ombrasole Awnings
OmbraSole designs, manufactures and installs awnings of all types for North American climates - many of which feature Emilio Petrongolo’s custom and patented motors.
"My greatest accomplishment will always be the satisfaction of our customers, who greatly appreciate our products for their modern look and ease of use."
You're covered: Shane Cossette, TRS Industries
Shane Cossette and his staff respond to customers with the right fabrics, the right installation and the right people, improving existing products and inventing new ones.
"I take things on as they come up because it’s hard to explain a situation that’s not there—especially with as much diversity as we have. We just break the project down to see where it could fail, or where it is failing, and find a way to improve it."
A strong serve: Paul Aumento, Creative Textile Solutions LTD.
Paul Aumento relies on both his employees and his customers to keep Creative Textile Solutions LTD. a responsive, market-driven, value-added manufacturer.
"New ideas are very important. In order to have the employees fulfill themselves, as well as provide input to the company, we have to be open-minded to their ideas."
Unforgettable: Melynda Norman-Lee, J J L Events
Melynda Norman-Lee brings tented events to life by envisioning the big picture, organizing her team and staying FLexible—with gratitude to an industry icon.
"Early communication encourages people to come to me with ideas and suggestions, or just take something and run with it. If they’ve got the big picture and are not just focusing on their little part of it—then the outcome is better all the way around."
Going the distance: Rob Kotowski, Lake Shore Boat Top Co.
Rob Kotowski rebuilds the family business with his father’s guidance and a commitment to quality and communication.
"I think the biggest thing in selling jobs is being able to communicate in such a way that you put the customer in a comfort zone—a place where they understand exactly what you’re trying to sell them."
A commitment to growth: Don Alhanati, CustomFab USA
Don Alhanati uses automation and lean manufacturing principles to ensure market diversity and continuous growth for CustomFab USA.
"It was ingrained in me that in manufacturing, if you’re short one component, you can’t build something. If you’re short even one screw, you can’t complete the product."
Riding the pendulum: Taylor Bigley, Awnings by Bigley and Hogshire
Taylor Bigley embraces teamwork and strategic thinking to meet the changes and trends of an ever-evolving industry.
"Architects sometimes draw beautiful sails that cannot be made—this requires us to be artists, teachers and engineers. Renaissance people are hard to find."
Strength in Movement: Harold Warner, Dynamic Air Shelters
Harold Warner is working to develop inflatable blast-resistant structures that are more protective than those of steel—with industry help.
"Our strength matched with the strength of others is twice as able. Our desire is to make ourselves stronger by partnering with others who have strengths or abilities in other parts of the world."
Fearless and Focused: Nigel Richings, Undercover Canvas and Awnings Inc.
Nigel Richings combines a hands-on, solution-minded approach and a vision for excellence to keep his custom canvas and awning business growing.
"No matter what kind of workshop you have—whether it’s a metal workshop or awning shop or a sail loft—it’s important to take into account the appearance. It matters what the customer sees when they place an order."
Tour de (Sales) Force: Brenda Hagerty, Porcupine Canvas
Brenda Hagerty matches her talent for client-focused sales with her resolve to tap into market trends.
"When you’re in the mines, that’s when you learn what the customer wants—not what you want to sell them. but what they need to make their lives easier."
Big Picture: Geoff Kilmer, PhotoWorksGroup
Geoff Kilmer keeps his business thriving in an ever-changing industry by matching emerging graphics technologies with niche clients.
"If your equipment is sitting idle, that’s a negative cash flow. The key is to keep your equipment running."