Signature Canvas Makers (SCM) design and manufacture canvas and textile products for military, commercial and recreational markets.
“My husband Chandler and I opened our shop in 2008 in Phoebus,” Charlene Clark, SCM’s CEO, says.“The U.S. Navy brought us to Virginia. We were initially stationed at Oceana in Virginia Beach in 2001. After two years there, Chandler was promoted and received orders to New Orleans. At the time, I was working for Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, and we decided that I would remain here while he served out his final two years in the Navy in New Orleans. Hampton had the boating and beach access that we were looking for, and it was a central location for operating our business.”
Charlene worked for more than 25 years in sales and marketing in the hospitality industry before she and her husband began running Signature Canvas Makers. The Clarks had been apprehensive about starting a new career and owning a small business, but the leap of faith paid off.
“When I started SCM, I knew nothing about the marine canvas industry or owning a small business or even how to sew, but I knew that our short and long-term growth would lie in my ability to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed,” Charlene says. “Over time, as I learned about the business and how to sew, I created standardized processes that would allow us to train new employees, ensure product consistency and maintain high levels of quality. I also worked diligently to educate myself about our industry and managing a small business by participating in seminars and conferences, reading books, engaging with other business owners and finding mentors. We made mistakes, but we learned from them and we evolved because of them.”
Signature Canvas Makers’ team now features eight full-time employees and three part-time employees in addition to the Clarks, and cohesive teamwork is critical to their success. “Chandler and I are focused on strengthening the foundation and structure of our business and on developing and mentoring key employees to be a part of our long-term leadership team,” Charlene says. “Ensuring that we have the right people, vision and traction in place to continue to grow, thrive and succeed, over time, will allow us to step away from the day-to-day operations and look toward retirement.”
Charlene continues, “We focus on our employees and the culture of our business. We start each day with a morning huddle where we talk about our core values, our purpose and what those values and purpose mean to our employees, our customers and to our business as a whole. We review priorities for the day and week and where we are toward achieving our monthly goals. We want our team to see the big picture and their role in it. We want people to feel invested in the success of the business and we reward their reaching goals and milestones. In building our culture, we are also fabricating a future for our team members and our business.”
When asked what the best part about her job is, Charlene laments on how she is in a position that allows her to give back to the community and to be a mentor. “I am currently chair of the National Marine Fabricators Association, which is a division of the International Advanced Textiles Association. Chandler and I are also very active in the community. I serve on Hampton’s Economic Development Authority and the Peninsula Industrial Finance Corporation, and Chandler is on the board of the Partnership for a New Phoebus,” says Clark. “We are continuing to foster existing partnerships and are exploring new and exciting market segments and business opportunities.”
When Charlene isn’t busy working for Signature Canvas Makers or serving on boards, she enjoys traveling, hiking and spending time on the water with her husband and their two dogs, both of which are Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers. “Our beloved dogs also keep our hands full with training and agility competitions.
The Clarks take pride in their work and are ready and committed to help customers with their marine canvas needs.
TO THE POINT:
Signature Canvas Makers
Address: 102 N Hope St., Hampton, VA 23663
Contacts: Charlene and Chandler Clark