When Cody Waldroup purchased ABC Canvas in 2016 from the company’s founders, the serial entrepreneur thought the business would fit nicely into his portfolio of revenue-producing investments because the 35-year-old business was well known in Farmington for quality custom canvas, including marine products, commercial and industrial covers, and shade products. What Waldroup did not realize was that the founders had other immediate plans and would only be available to ease the ownership transition for one month.
Waldroup, who had no background in manufacturing or textiles, had to quickly learn the company’s products, fabrics, vendors, employees, and operations. “I pretty much had a month of learning,” he said.
Thanks to his entrepreneurial background, Waldroup recognized that he needed to become an unpaid working owner and obtain knowledge and assistance to fill in the gaps of his own experience.
Six years later and still a working owner, Waldroup has expanded the company to serve customers as far away as Texas, streamlined operations, and moved the company into a larger space he recently purchased. ABC Canvas, which had 3 employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, now employs 6, and Waldroup now takes a paycheck.
The road to success
Soon after buying the business, Waldroup met New Mexico MEP Innovation Director Denise Williams through a local leadership development program. At Waldroup’s invitation, Williams visited ABC Canvas to determine the type of assistance that would be most beneficial.
Waldroup was already focused on having a clean shop, but Williams helped the staff organize tools and equipment.
“Cleanliness is important, where no one is going to get injured or hurt, walkways are clear, and items are where they need to be,” said Waldroup. “They [MEP advisors] help you with organization so you’re not losing time trying to find a tool or a thread.”
ABC Canvas, which makes shade products to protect valuables – whether equipment, property, or people – has always focused on custom work. Williams next turned to helping the company improve efficiency, consistency, and predictability by increasing the products it could mass produce while maintaining its custom work. Meanwhile, Waldroup and staff attended New Mexico MEP workshops and participated in lean exercises such as 5S, a five-step methodology for improving production and increasing the customer value of products.
In 2022, Waldroup purchased property that would quadruple production space to 12,000 square feet. Williams helped the company prepare for the move. The challenge was to minimize downtime and lost production during the move while organizing the layout to improve efficiency.
“With moving it was tough because you have to shut down your facility, move, and then get back up and running,” said Waldroup.
The new building has already had a positive effect on workflow. “Workspace has improved, it’s not as cluttered, there’s more space to work with, and our tables are bigger,” said Waldroup. “I’m not completely done with my back building, but we’re set up where we need to be based on those processes that we learned.”
The journey continues
Williams said Waldroup used his accumulated knowledge well. “When he moved, he shut down for three weeks and was up and running. He’s a focused and amazing businessperson.”
Williams is now helping Waldroup create training documentation for all positions.
“They don’t teach these skills in school,” said Waldroup. “I’m trying to create ways to where when somebody comes on board, we have those procedures. There’s a lot to learn from manufacturing the product to installing the product. If I keep that all to myself, it doesn’t benefit anybody. Everybody has great ideas about how to do things better.”
Since the 2022 move, Waldroup has increased sales by 10 percent, acquired three new clients that diversified his client base while expanding service territory, invested $900,000 in the new location, and saved $150,000 on remodeling costs. By minimizing the length of the shutdown required for the move, the company saved $100,000.
“MEP for manufacturers is pretty valuable,” said Waldroup. “Denise is really great because she’s very engaged in your business. She finds unique ways to get the employees to really think about the process.”
Learn more about ABC Canvas’s work in residential, recreational, commercial, and industrial product fabrication at www.abccanvasinc.com.