A Unicorn for Christmas?

What do you want for Christmas? Maybe it’s a black swan on the back of a unicorn.

I’m going to be glad to spend a few weeks at home with my family. I’ve been away for quite some time because of an opportunity that opened up that is letting me train some new people.

You hear all the time out there (or at least I do) that the trades are dying off, that for every five people retiring out of hands on work, only two are entering back in. I suppose that’s true. I have no way to track that myself to verify the statistics, but my time out in the field supports that notion. Good help is hard to find. It’s even harder to find for what I do, Archetypal Window Craft.

Allow me to remind the reader that among the roughly 350,000,000 people in the United States, only about 450 do what I do professionally. That’s a generous number. There’s an organization called the WPA, the Window Preservation Alliance, who has worked hard to compile a list of people who do what I do, and they have about 163 entries, but in truth, not all of their entries do what I do. Some of them are auxiliary businesses related to what I do, like Sarco Putty, Abatron Epoxies and various storm window companies. Some of their listed companies only work on window sashes. Only a few employ more than a few people. Some are sole proprietor businesses.

So I assume (I know, it’s not scientific) about 150 companies nationwide (that can be found) with an average of three people per company. That’s where I get that there’s 450 people doing what I do. Then I simply divide 350,000,000 into 450 to find out that as a percentage, we represent about .000129% of the population. Statistically we do not exist. Some people have called us black swans. Others, unicorns. Actually, we are a single black swan riding on the back of one lonely unicorn.

What makes me (Wood Window Makeover) unique, even among my peers? It’s that there’s nothing with an archetypal wood window that’s going the throw me. I not only restore the window or a part of it, I can make the entire thing from scratch if I have to. It doesn’t matter if it’s square, round, elliptical or whatever. I invented my very own portable window sash factory and have made thousands of window sash on it. Thousands.

But guess what? Turns out that not everyone can do what I can do and I have to find ways to teach others what I know. Fortunately a door in San Antonio, Texas opened up that is helping me pass on what I know.

My home and my family are in Tampa, Florida, but I was born and raised in San Antonio. My mom left when I was four and my Dad stepped up to raise me and my two younger brothers. He hasn’t been in the best of health for a few years, and this opportunity that opened up also let’s me spend time with my dad. Just what is that opportunity?

I haven’t been able to do this in Tampa yet, but I’m working on something that might enable me to. The City of San Antonio’s Historic Preservation Department asked me, on behalf of one of their sister organizations, the Living Heritage Trades Association (LHTA), to teach my Window restoration class called “The Total Window Makeover.” The class takes students from various backgrounds and walks of life and shows them, in five days, the basics of how to restore a double hung wood window. It’s an introduction. The LHTA then, through various funding sources, pays the students who take my course, to apprentice with me, or a company like mine (but remember, I’m the black swan on the unicorn) for 10 weeks.

The LHTA is recruiting qualified candidates to take my course and will then provide that the candidates can apprentice with me for 10 weeks, on actual hands on projects. Four of those candidates just completed their 10 week apprenticeship with me, at which time I hired them, because they are trained, and put them to work immediately. The demand is there.

I haven’t been very vocal about this because it’s been developing in the background, and it’s technically not my program, and it’s publicly funded. Honestly I haven’t known quite what to say about it. So I figured I’d just wait, until now, even though I know that what I’m putting out there will be imperfect.

One major benefit to this opportunity, besides being able to spend time with my dad, is that it provides an opportunity build an even more complete apprenticeship – privately. So the employees I’ve taken on as graduates from the LHTA’s program, are still apprentices with a structured approach to growth, development and advancement, only now it’s done privately instead of publicly.

Back to the publicly funded part, the LHTA has me teaching at least 8 more, week long Total Window Makeover courses in 2023 that will provide candidates to become apprentices in Window Craft, apprentices who will be on the path to becoming full fledged Artisans.

But let me switch back again to teaching the class privately. It would basically be the same structure as the publicly funded apprenticeship, only it would be funded by both the apprentice candidate and Wood Window Makeover. An individual who signs up and takes my Total Window Makeover course privately, can then apprentice with me and my team for 10 weeks, funded by me. At the end of the ten weeks, the candidate will have the opportunity to then continue the education process, or move on. Apprentices who stay on will receive an increase in pay and will keep receiving increases in pay as they master the movements of Window Craft.

There is still a lot to flesh out in this program, so forgive me for a lack of clarity or lack of information in regards to what is going on. And please forgive typos and other such errors, I’m entering this post on my iPhone and typing with my thumbs.

But that’s where I’ve been and what’s been going on. I’m working on building the number of people who do this from 450 to 454 and so on, so as to increase the statistical occurrence of a person like me from .000129% of the population, a black swan riding the back of a unicorn, to maybe a couple of black swans next to a couple of unicorns.

One last statistic from the Tampa Bay Area – there are about 80,000 historic buildings with 20 or more historic wood windows for a total of about 1,600,000 windows. Right now we can do about 260 a year if everything goes right. That means that if my Tampa team keeps their current pace (which is faster than anyone in the nation I think), they have about 6153 more years of work ahead of them.

For those of you who are patiently waiting for us to get to you, thank you. We are doing the best that we can.