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.
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."
From foundation to future: Elissa Decker, Moss Inc.
Elissa Decker uses her expertise in fabric manufacturing to help Moss Inc., a leader in tension fabric branding, drive global growth and lead performance trends.
"Sometimes projects seem so daunting and overwhelming and it’s hard to envision the finish line. It’s important to have a process you can follow so I create a project plan with action items for everything I can think of that needs to happen. Usually it’s a pretty long list."
Winds of change: Chad Miller, American National Mfg. Inc.
Chad Miller and his family adjust to changing market demands through creativity, asking the right questions, understanding regulations—and doing the math.
"So it’s not just important to know what your customer knows. It’s as important, if not more, to know what they don’t know because they could be leading you to a path of liability. "
If people, then profit: Mike Peterson, SugarHouse Awning Industries
Mike Peterson restructures an awning company’s culture by asking hard questions, collaborating on the answers, and fearlessly changing the rules.
"I wanted to help management understand that if they could step back from their work, ‘sharpen their axe’ and start managing, we could get more work done with a lot less stress, and also become more profitable."
Guts, glory and the next generation: Kate Mitchell, NOMAR
Kate Mitchell transitions her diverse fabrics business on the Alaskan frontier to her children—who value a courageous past and anticipate a bright future.
"‘Don’t sub out your work. If you want the profits, you want to be in control. You’re just going to have to set up and manufacture it yourself.’"
Mastering the craft: Jerry Margrave, Specialty Trim & Awning Inc.
Jerry Margrave keeps his company on track by staying on top of industry skills, technology and opportunities to solve customer problems.
"Having my MFC has opened the door for me to explain my expertise to potential clients many times over."
From the ground up: Cheryl Yennaco, Atlantic Awning
Cheryl Yennaco rebuilds a business by making the tough decisions, hiring the right team and setting meaningful and measurable goals.
"I don’t wait to make the tough decision to let someone go if I know it’s not going to work out. I can usually tell in a week or two if they’re not going to be a good fit."
Bring it on: Jacob Schwartz, International Tension Structures
Jacob Schwartz navigates the design and construction process by leveraging group strenghts, examining all options and committing to long-term solutions for clients.
"We enjoy working on projects that have incorporated fabric as a central part of the architectural design as opposed to an afterthought that was slapped on late in the process."
The buck starts here: Chris Ritsema, Canvas Innovations
Chris Ritsema leads his company by building a strong culture that encourages growth and success for his employees.
"It’s so important to find the right people, find out if they have a love for the business and give them a future and a vision."
Sustainable opportunity: Eric and Angie Riggins, Alpha Canvas
Eric and Angie Riggins create new products and capture new markets to ensure a steady stream of work throughout the year.
"We’re able to use all the same production and scheduling practices and setup for all three different product lines, so it all fits well into the way the products flow through the shop. Keeping the entire production process in-house allows us to control the quality and turnaround time for everything. "
Analyze this: Ed Skrzynski, Marco Canvas
Ed Skrzynski automates production, encourages teamwork and documents processes to deliver quality marine and shade products.
"Before [I implemented process improvements] each project was typically done by one skilled tradesperson from start to finish. The network was very labor-intensive and required a great amount of skill without too much thought about the business aspect."
Scheduled evolution: Eric Heischmidt, Arizon Structures
Eric Heischmidt approaches project management with flexibility and an architect’s eye for precision.
"As good as people are at their jobs, there is always some change that requires constant adaptation and rescheduling."
Owning your destiny: Pete Weingartner, Queen City Awning
Pete Weingartner builds a team—of staff, vendors and clients—to deliver turn-key projects and target continued growth.
"Everybody’s got to understand their part in the project, and you have to have a confidence level that the source can do what you need them to do. And then if it’s their specialty, you need to let them run with it and not micromanage."
The experience payoff: Blair Belluomo, Belle Isle Awning
Blair Belluomo brings a strong and appreciative management style to the family business after years of working in the auto industry.
"I realized that our workforce was getting older so I saw the benefit of assigning each of our senior employees an apprentice."
The third dimension: John Bland, Tecsew Ltd.
John Bland revolutionizes marine fabrication by applying 3-D CAD principles to the design process.
"There are often compromises to be made in a design. The beauty of 3-D CAD is that we can show them what compromises may need to be considered and they make the decision before the product is created."
Fabric engineering: Ben Fox, Legacy Building Solutions
Ben Fox expands design capabilities for fabric structures, focusing on innovation and education to solve customer problems.
"We believe that your route forward is through marketing. If you’re not marketing well, you’re not going to grow."
Tents, trends & technology: Mike Holland, Chattanooga Tent Co.
From RFID to GPS, Mike Holland uses all the newest tools to keep Chattanooga Tent Co. at the leading edge.
"We knew long ago from attending conferences and expos that coded engineering was going to become the standard. By being aware early and investing our time, energy and money into those products for our customers we were able to keep ahead of those changes."