One of the most exciting things about being in the floor covering industry right now is there is more opportunity today than ever before. Between market demand, evolving technologies, endless new products and continual innovation, the possibilities are endless. Can you believe all of this started with a single bedspread? (Well, one bedspread and a very determined woman.)
Catherine Evans Whitener made a bedspread for herself, using an uncommon technique. The result was a stunning tufted textile product. At a time when women did not work, Catherine made up her mind that she wanted to earn her own money—even though she had no idea how she would do that. As she started to sell her handmade bedspreads for $2.50 each, she knew she was on to something. In the years that followed she grew her small business into a successful industry. Millions of dollars in revenue were generated. The tufted textile industry expanded and carpet was born. Today, most carpet that is produced is tufted using techniques that Catherine engineered.
That ingenious, determined, brave spirit has nurtured the industry to bring it to where it is today. And I see that spirit in Women of the Flooring Business (WOFB) every day, which I think is the truest expression of honoring Women’s History Month. At a time when women have left the workforce in record numbers, we are seeing more women than ever before joining the flooring industry. It’s a major turn of events, and it’s really good news because there is substantial evidence that gender diversity enhances an organization’s performance.
Taking a page out of Catherine’s playbook, WOFB started with some really big ideas about doing things for women in this industry that had never been done before—even though we didn’t know exactly how we were going to get there. A couple of years later and thousands of members strong, we are so thrilled to see the systemic support that only existed in our imaginations just a few years ago. Companies like the World Floor Covering Association (WFCA), Broadlume, Informa, Bella Flooring Group and Microsoft added to the resources we are able to share and the platform we stand on.
We are so excited to be launching new programs, including a three-day retreat this spring to continue building on the momentum we’re gaining. It goes to show that there is unlimited power when all sides of the industry collaborate with a common vision, and that’s the No. 1 reason I believe there has never been a better time to be a part of this industry—or a woman in it.
Michelle Winters is the founding member of Women of the Flooring Business, a grass-roots industry organization established in 2019 with the mission to support women in floor covering with educational tools, networking opportunities, leadership training, instructional retreats and more. She leads the group with Lisbeth Calandrino and Rachel Berlin.