“We normally work with big yachts—on average, 20- to 30-footers. We do all the canvas and frame work for these yachts,” she explained. “We work [within] 50 miles of where we live in Houston.”
Delgado maintains a successful enterprise by giving clients the individual attention they need. Working from her space in Kemah, Texas, she exhibits the flexibility and know-how to tailor each piece to her clients’ unique wishes. “I have my own large showroom where my clients get to choose their own fabrics for the jobs I’m hired to do. Most of my clients know exactly what they want and how they want it done,” she explained. Her work has proven itself on land, at sea, and even in space. “In the past I have [even] worked with NASA. They provided me with sketches for the designs of their flight simulators and rocket rover interiors.”
According to Delgado, the Needle Loft is about more than turning a profit. “I have had a passion for sewing ever since I was five years old. I originally started in the business of costume design and apparel, [but] soon learned it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I jumped around until I found my niche,” she recalled.
She has certainly made the right decision. In 1986, she became a certified Master Fabric Craftsman, and she’s also won numerous awards for her work. Just last year, Delgado was awarded a lifetime membership with Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI) for her lifetime commitment to the industry. She was honored at the IFAI Expo Americas event in October. In addition, she hosts workshops to help others learn about her trade.
Delgado is grateful for all the recognition; she’s worked hard for it. The business started out as a home-based enterprise. At first it was a bit of a strain. “We had to put the machines into the bedroom,” she recalls with a chuckle. “Once I got the machines into the house, my husband wanted to move out!”
But Delgado knows the importance of persistence. “The best advice someone has ever given me was to ‘just to stick with it!’” she said. And she has applied that wisdom not only to her business, but to every aspect of her life. “I came from a little town in the country. I wasn’t really made for school, so I had to quit with only one class to finish. But [later] I finally went to school and finished my degree.”
Her introduction to the world of yachting came after she had started a family. “After I finished my degree, I got married and had two kids, back-to-back. Then we moved to the Houston area, so we were very close to the yacht clubs. The [yacht] people then started asking me to do jobs for them.”
Things took off from there, and today Delgado’s success speaks for itself. Of course, she still deals with challenges—the national recession has not gone unnoticed at The Needle Loft. “We have experienced the downturn,” she said. “The economy has everyone I know scared. People need either good credit or a lot of money and education to succeed now.”
Like many small business people, Delgado is a little uneasy about the new health care bill and the mandates that will go into effect in the next couple of years. “The health care reform has me very nervous. It’s something that will affect everybody, especially people on Medicare.”
Regarding her experiences as a female business-owner, she said, “Being a woman entrepreneur never affected the way I handled my business, and I never had any problems in that area. There are only seven or eight other companies in the area that provide the work I do, and two of the companies are run by women.”
Despite the competition, it’s clear that The Needle Loft is in a class of its own. The company is still going strong after decades of quality work, and Delgado continues to hold it all together with every new stitch she makes.
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