When Natalie Zolotnik at Belava Pedicure Products found herself rejecting prototype after prototype for the company’s no-plumb pedicure chair with a “thank you, but no thank you,” she came up with an innovative solution. If none of the vendors could get the plushness of the chairs correct, then Zolotnik would figure out a way to do it herself.
Like the vast majority of people, she had no clue how to be an upholsterer (hence, the problem finding a competent vendor), so she enrolled in a night and weekend class at West Valley Occupational Center. Sitting beside hobbyists and a surprising number of motorcyclists (the class included leather stitching), Zolotnik learned the dying craft, first practicing how to stitch on paper, then graduating to fabrics. “It was fascinating,” Zolotnik says. “When I’d do a project and everything came out perfectly, I’d be so proud of myself.”
In the class, Zolotnik learned such essentials as working with vinyl, working with foam, top stitching, doing zippers, doing corners, and how to control the machine. The instructor even visited Belava’s Canoga Park, Calif., office-factory to offer advice.
After the semester was complete, she was able to design a prototype — a plush prototype that became the company’s Embrace chair. “It’s so comfortable,” Zolotnik says.
All of the company’s Embrace chairs now have their upholstery work done on the premises of Belava’s Canoga Park office-factory, allowing for control over quality, which Belava says has been recognized by salons and spas. Led by upholsterer Jose Garcia, three employees now handle the demand for the Embrace chairs on-site. Zolotnik helps out with the upholstery on occasion, and she plans to use her newfound skills to do more R&D work for the company.
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