Jose Jovet watches as his son works on upholstering a chair.
Jose Jovet turned his lifelong experience in upholstery into his own small business, where he now teaches his two young sons the craft.
Jose Jovet watches as his son works on upholstering a chair.
Jose Jovet turned his lifelong experience in upholstery into his own small business, where he now teaches his two young sons the craft.
Small Business
October 4, 2018

Sewing the seats with love

Jose Jovet has mastered the craft of upholstery over the past four decades, but it took a visit to his local Wells Fargo branch to help turn his passion into a business.

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.”

Jose Jovet spent his upholstery career working for other people until a visit to his local Wells Fargo branch set him on the course to be his own boss. (3:07)

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.”

Jose Jovet and his wife, Rubilinda, team up to reupholster a customer’s chair.
A family affair: Jose Jovet and his wife, Rubilinda, work together to reupholster a chair.

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.”