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.
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."
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."
Like-minded Leadership: Mike, Joe and Dan Reilly, Miami Awning Co.
Mike, Joe and Dan Reilly approach the gradual transfer of company leadership with respect, integrity and a sense of humor.
"Because the fabric is removable, awnings don’t have to take the full wind load. As a group we were eventually able to change the South Florida Building Code and later the Florida Building Code to include some leeway for fabric awnings."
Of fabrics and physics: Amy Poe, Wyckam
Amy Poe uses systematic problem-solving and a willingness to explore new markets to build a marine canvas business into a custom industrial sewing shop.
"The marine market here in Portland is fairly limited. By adding industrial, residential and commercial projects we picked up architects, engineers and landscape designers as clients—and now our market is much bigger."
Dream big: David Murray, Fiesta Tents Ltd.
Inspired by tented horse stalls at an Olympic Games, David Murray launched a tent business that has evolved far beyond those initial dreams—and keeps evolving.
"I had a great staff, and hired more. It gave me time to hand over the day-to-day side of the rental business and devote myself to R&D and design."
Architectural adventure: Alan Bair, Pacific Yurts Inc.
Alan Bair launched his career living off-grid in a yurt, and used his passion for the structures to build a business and define a market.
"Since we were young, adventurous and just starting out, we decided to live in the yurt for a while and get better acquainted with the land. When a local news article featured our yurt, people started to call and ask if I could build one for them. Eventually word spread and a business was born."
Riding the wind: Liz Diaz, North Beach Marine Canvas
Liz Diaz designs inspired boat interiors—and is applying that expertise to bring shelter to the homeless.
"I don’t just make boat cushions—I transform the space. I like to think of myself as a life stylist."
Trailblazer: Bill Coppins, W.A. Coppins Ltd.
Bill Coppins guides a canvas shop from its roots in production to a design and development powerhouse.
"We’re only a small town of 7,500 people, which makes it a bit harder because you’re limited with what you can turn over."
To the point: Steve Ellington, Trivantage LLC
New IFAI board chair Steve Ellington shares his vision for a strong and relevant industry.
"IFAI’s board is always made up of a balance of suppliers, manufacturers, small companies, large companies and different market segments. Having that kind of diversity on the board is critical because our member companies are diverse."
From good to great: Lloyd Verduyn, Verduyn Tarps
Lloyd Verduyn embraces the challenge of continuous improvement to create and refine products that become the gold standard of the tarping industry.
"Before I first made a tarping system, I took the time to talk to drivers. They’re the ones who use the systems."