Nota del editor: También está disponible una versión en español de esta historia.
There was a time not too long ago when Jose Jovet knew a lot about upholstery — 43 years of experience will do that — but not a lot about how to turn his lifelong passion into a functioning, successful business. Fortunately, in 2016, he decided to visit his local Wells Fargo branch in Spring Lake Park, Minnesota, where he met with business banker Ted Neely.
“When Jose first walked into the branch, he said, ‘I need help,’” recalled Neely. “So we sat down, and together we went through a business-needs assessment, which included figuring out what type of documentation he needed and what was important to him as a business owner.”
It was like love at first sight when I lay my hands on furniture. If I had to find another job, I won’t see me doing anything else.
Raised in Puerto Rico, 54-year-old Jose Jovet learned the art of upholstery from his father. At 19, he moved to the United States mainland, and for decades, struggled through a series of short-term jobs and moves before deciding to put down roots for his family.
There you go. Now you’ve got the technique.
We were staying in places for three months, six months, 10 months, the most.
Joseph, which is ten, say, “Hey dad, when we’re going to stay in one place for good?” Because we’ve been jumping from school to school and every time we make new friends, you know, we have to leave.
Those are tacks.
He started his own business, and at one point in its humble beginning, was living and working in a hotel room.
We had to work so hard. My wife and I, we used to drop the kids off at school. We’d come back to the room. We’d flip the mattress upside down to use it as a table.
Soon after, Jose sought financial advice from Wells Fargo.
Ted Neely, Wells Fargo business banker:
When Jose first walked into the branch, he said I don’t know much about business, how to open an account. I do know a lot about upholstery.
It’s less than a year.
I helped him get the structure for the business. We went through a business needs assessment, what he needed, what’s important to him as a business customer.
He advised me to separate personal account from the business, and he also advised me to get a credit line.
With Ted’s help, and word of mouth about Jose’s talent as an upholsterer, the business took root.
So, how was your day?
Now, he has a shop in the heart of town and also works on projects at home.
I build the side panels, I build the back seat for it.
At first I was scared to open a business, but I kept my faith, and we’re here serving my customers with all kinds of projects.
It’s a beautiful piece of fabric.
My goal is to help Jose grow, help him expand, and I see him pretty much on a weekly basis.
Now settled, he’s thinking of the future.
In the next two years, I can see myself more relaxed, having a few employees and teaching upholstery.
And as you can see, this goes for the top.
I’m pretty sure Wells Fargo can help me with that idea.
What do you find easier, the tacks or the staples?
He’s also focused on passing along the family tradition to his sons.
That’s something that makes me proud, because my kids are only ten and eight, and they want to work with me.
Five, and six.
Everything has been going so good.
Six tacks, okay.
Just because I never let down my dream. I move forward with it and we’re here.
The two worked together to establish the structure of Jovet’s business, setting up things like merchant services to facilitate customer payments, building credit and creating a cash flow plan to cover inventory expenses, and simplifying his accounting by separating his personal and business finances.
Jovet credits the guidance he received from Neely and Wells Fargo with helping him successfully launch his Blaine, Minnesota-based upholstery company, Jovet Customs.
“Wells Fargo is not only my bank, they are my friends,” said Jovet. “Ted will walk over from the bank to my shop just to make sure everything is going well — he’s been very helpful, and everyone at the local branch takes good care of me.”
Turning a job into a dream
After being taught upholstery as a young boy by his father, Jovet spent decades mastering his craft and using those skills to earn a living. But, as he grew older, the desire to take ownership of his career reached a crescendo.
“I came to Minnesota after running around the United States and working in the aviation industry — building chairs for private jets,” said Jovet. “But, it came to the point that my kids were growing up, and they wanted to be stable and in one place, so I decided it was time to fulfill my dream of being my own boss.”
When Jovet ventured out on his own a few years ago, his “shop” was actually a rented hotel room where he and his wife, Rubilinda, would literally flip the mattress over each day to use as a workstation for cutting and sewing. With hard work and long hours, the business began to grow, which allowed Jovet to rent a home and move his workshop into the house’s garage.
Jovet’s experience as an owner-operator is not unique. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, four out of five small businesses are categorized as “nonemployer firms,” meaning they have no paid employees. And, of the approximately 3.3 million Hispanic-owned small businesses in the U.S., that ratio jumps to more than 90 percent.
Neely noted that for these “one-man-band” operations — like Jovet Customs — having the right external support can often be the difference between a company’s success and failure.
“Jose has spent his career perfecting his trade while employed at other companies,” said Neely. “So when the time came for him to give it a go on his own, he was able to take advantage of the small business resources and guidance that Wells Fargo has to offer.”
Now, eighteen months after setting up shop in a hotel room, Jovet Customs operates out of a storefront and offers upholstery services for automobiles, boats, and planes, along with antique furniture restoration. Things are going so well, in fact, that Jovet is considering launching his own upholstery school as a second business.
“I started learning this skill at the age of 10, when my father, a professional upholsterer, took me under his wing and taught me all the tricks of the trade,” said Jovet. “If I can do the same for some other young men and women, not only can I pass along everything I’ve learned, I’ll also be helping to strengthen a community here that has helped my business succeed.”