America’s SBDC Iowa is an outreach program of Iowa State University’s Ivy College of Business and the Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Sigourney Upholstery, Sigourney
Sigourney Upholstery was opened after the owner, Donna Grossman, discovered how amazing antiques are. She found herself able to find furniture pieces sold for cheap simply because of bad upholstery. So in 2018, Donna found herself doing this as a hobby, which ended up turning into people asking her to complete projects for them. Now, Donna is going into her 3rd year of business in the current shop and is looking to expand into a bigger shop.
Lynn Woodruff has been in the upholstery industry for over fifty years. He came out of retirement to mentor Donna in her upholstery journey and is now working with her. The two have made a very successful business because of the commitment to keep trying. Donna is not afraid to take on projects she may be unsure of. This willingness to take on even difficult projects has resulted in a lot of positive reviews of the shop.
Donna got a call from someone in Danville, Iowa, who does replica cars for classic movies and saw an ad for her business. This person wanted Donna to upholster the Ghostbuster vehicle, so she helped to restore the vehicle. The whole community came out to see this restoration and was so excited by it. Now, Donna is working on the Batmobile. When she is not tackling upholstery projects, Donna is passionate about growing the business through teaching and working with veterans.
In the future, Donna would like to expand the teaching aspect of Sigourney Upholstery. She would like to use her larger space to bring more people in and pass the trade on to as many people as possible. Donna says, “If you have a skilled trade in your pocket, you will always be okay.” So her hopes to train more people to know the trade will help them always be okay. You can do upholstery for barely any investment, which Donna sees as a positive. Donna would also like to work with veterans as she is one herself. Creating a stable environment for veterans is a priority for Donna.
Donna was well versed in upholstery when starting her business, but the business aspect was something she was not very knowledgeable in. Despite this, she has been successful in her business, so she does not want the paperwork and business aspect to be scary to others. Donna says, “Find what you love, perfect what you do, and start small. It does not need to be anything huge at the start; growth is always possible. Do not get discouraged by the unknown; you can start whenever and continue to grow from there.”
Working with the Indian Hills Small Business Development Center (SBDC) has been a large help to Donna and Sigourney Upholstery. Kelly Prickett, a business counselor at the Indian Hills SBDC, has been a guide to Donna through her journey, from workbooks for balance sheets to connecting with veteran programs and helping to work on hiring an apprentice; Kelly has been there. Donna has nothing but praise for her help from Kelly and the Indian Hills SBDC. “The SBDC and Kelly have been so helpful. They have shown me they are willing to help you where you are, and they will do what they say.”