Closets firms should try thinking and selling out of the box. Learn how at the 2019 Closets Conference
Ben Chapman, president of Cabteq Solutions, joins a panel on new business niches during the 2019 Closets Conference in Charlotte, N.C.

It's often said that your best sales prospects are your existing customers. As a smart closets business owner, you are probably using some methodical way to follow up with your clients for repeat business. 

And that has probably netted you some nice new business from existing customers. After all, you did a great job for them on the guest room closet. No wonder they invited you back for that master walk-in closet bid, and you got the business there, too. Then the second and third bedroom closets.

So after three or four repeat sales, their closets are all done - what's next? Once you have done all their closets, what can you sell them? 

Ah, now "It's time to venture out of the closet," says Joe Lonardo, president of the Association of Closets & Storage Professionals. Lonardo is also CEO of Bella Systems, an Asbury Park, New Jersey-based closets business, as well as headquarters for the Bella Systems organization franchise. Closets companies are sometimes reluctant to move out of their comfort zone, he says. 

"But you have to do it. If I had not moved into garages and hide-a-beds, my business would be dead," according to Lonardo. Reaching further into the garage organization niche, Lonardo recently became a licensee of a national garage floor finishing line. He incorporates the line into his new garage remodeling projects, but it also gives him a good reason to call back on completed garages from the period before he began doing floors.  

Joe Lonardo, CEO, Bella-Systems

"Too often closets businesses focus on just one thing: closets," says Lonardo. "Your business will plateau if you take that approach." Lonardo has tried to offer extensions of his services, such most hide-a-beds, sliding doors, wall units, and most recently becoming a flooring dealer. 

Hide-a-bed image courtesy Create-a-Bed. 

To share what he has learned, Lonardo will be part of a panel at a session titled, "Venturing Out of the Closet," looking at new areas for home organization businesses to expand their sales. One area is hide-a-beds, very popular for residential remodeling projects. 

"Some closets companies shy away from them," Lonardo says. "They think they are too complicated." Lonardo, whose firm does hide-a-beds, will be joined by another business are offering them - either buying the hardware kit and building them out, or subconracting to others. 

Another panelist who will talk about strategies to venture out of a primary niche is Cabteq Solutions, whose president Ben Chapman will join Lonardo on the panel. Established in the spring of 2016, Cabteq Solutions' business model is built around exploiting new business niches.

Though primarily an architectural millwork and custom woodworking firm, "We are committed to expanding our reach in other industries," says Chapman. Cabteq, based in Rock Hill, South Carolina, was the site of a plant tour for the 2018 Wood Pro Expo Charlotte

Cabteq partners with one of the world’s leading dental equiment manufacturers to build the related cabinetry and casegoods. But Cabteq is unusual in that it also has a residential business focused on home organization on a variety of fronts, including garage, pantry, office, laundry and of course, closets. Chapman will talk about his company's unique approach, as a millwork firm that has grown a home organization business.

The 2019 Cabinets & Closets Conference & Expo takes place March 6 - 8 at the Charlotte Convention Center. A day-long conference runs Wednesday, March 6, followed by a two-day Expo March 7 - 8. The Cabinets & Closets 2019 event is co-located this year with Wood Pro Expo Charlotte, an annual regional show that brings education, equipment, and supplies close to cabinetmakers and custom woodworking businesses around the country. 


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About the author
Bill Esler | ConfSenior Editor

Bill wrote for, FDMC and Closets & Organized Storage magazines. 

Bill's background includes more than 10 years in print manufacturing management, followed by more than 30 years in business reporting on industrial manufacturing in the forest products industries, including printing and packaging at American Printer (Features Editor) and Graphic Arts Monthly (Editor in Chief) magazines; and in secondary wood manufacturing for

Bill was deeply involved with the launches of the Woodworking Network Leadership Forum, and the 40 Under 40 Awards programs. He currently reports on technology and business trends and develops conference programs.

In addition to his work as a journalist, Bill supports efforts to expand and improve educational opportunities in the manufacturing sectors, including 10 years on the Print & Graphics Scholarship Foundation; six years with the U.S. WoodLinks; and currently on the Woodwork Career Alliance Education Committee. He is also supports the Greater West Town Training Partnership Woodworking Program, which has trained more than 950 adults for industrial wood manufacturing careers. 

Bill volunteers for Foinse Research Station, a biological field station staddling the border of Ireland and Northern Ireland, one of more than 200 members of the Organization of Biological Field Stations.