Want to learn more about what’s happening in the textiles industry? Just tune in to Talking Textiles, a series of free podcasts available online on Apple, Google, Spotify and Libsyn and at textiles.org/podcast/. The first show was posted online on September 8, 2021. New shows appear the third week of each month featuring topics from the Canada and the emerging technologies markets.
ATA’s podcasts are produced by Christine Gerard, Janelle Buerkley and Ineke Conway of the ATA staff. The 30-minute (or more) Canadian podcasts are co-hosted by Mark Tyrrell of LaSalle Canvas Inc. and Alex Petizian of Naizil Coated Fabrics Inc. The emerging technologies podcasts are hosted by members of the Emerging Technologies Division board. The interview sessions are conducted over Zoom with the audio recorded, edited and posted online by Studio Americana.
“The idea to do a podcast came from members of both the Canada and Emerging Technologies [previously the Advanced Textile Products] divisions of ATA,” Gerard recalls. “It was one of those serendipitous things where two different groups were talking about the same idea at around the same time and, as an association, we decided there was enough interest to move forward. The goal of the podcasts is to highlight the Canadian and emerging technology markets. We recognize we are a niche industry talking about textiles and that conversation isn’t for everyone. We’re not trending or reaching the masses. The podcast offers an alternative way to connect with the industry and provide value for the industrial textile market.”
Tyrrell sees the podcasts as a different, more contemporary way of communicating with members. He describes them as a good complement to monthly newsletters and a break from all the written media people get. “People can listen to them and consume information while doing other things,” he says. “We felt that it was something different we had never tried and that was not currently available from any sources in our industry.”
Meet the Canadian co-hosts
Alex Petizian graduated from St. Lawrence University in New York and earned his master’s degree from John Molson School of Business in Montreal. He was a professional hockey player until an injury forced his retirement and he joined the family business. His father is president of Naizil, a manufacturer and distributor of PVC-coated fabrics and distributor of Italian textiles. Petizian heads North American sales and account management. He has no background in broadcasting or journalism.
Mark Tyrrell earned a bachelor of commerce degree from McGill University in Montreal. He is owner and vice president of LaSalle Canvas , a distributor and contract manufacturer to the textiles industry, servicing mostly the sun protection, marine and some upholstery markets, and some industrial markets. He has written articles for industrial reviews and local newspaper sports columns, but this is his first broadcasting venture.
Making the podcasts
Each podcast in the Canadian series features an interview with people working in a Canadian textile company. Most shows are in English, but some are in French.
Typical guests are the principals of different companies that have been prominent in ATA Canada over the years and are people who have interesting backgrounds or stories to tell that will be relevant, informative and hopefully helpful to the membership. “We want to interview companies that have been in the textile industry for a long time,” Petizian says. “We speak about their experience, the ups and downs of the business, where it’s heading and how they managed through the pandemic.” Tyrrell adds, “As we move forward, we will try to focus even more on current business issues and provide more specialized content.”
Preparation for each episode takes 30 to 40 minutes. This consists of the hosts talking to the guests about how the podcast works and then discussing the interviewees and their companies with each other by phone prior to the interview. Although they prepare questions in advance, “We prefer the guests not have the questions or lines of questioning ahead of time because we want the podcast to be more of a conversation than a structured interview,” Tyrrell explains. “We want the answers to be as unrehearsed and spontaneous as possible,”
While the shows are set for 30 minutes each, “If we like where the discussion is headed, we’ll dive in further,” says Petizian. “We do it by feel. Mark usually starts off and then I jump into questioning. We feed off each other.” Tyrrell says some guests will be invited back later to provide more in-depth information on elaborate projects.
The recording process for each show takes about an hour. There are several people on each Zoom call. This includes one to four guests at the featured company, Petizian in his basement home office, Tyrrell at his home office, an ATA representative at the ATA office and a staffer at the production company. Everyone uses ordinary computer microphones. The editing process takes three to five days before the podcast is sent to the board for a final review, which takes another two to three days. The finished show is then put in a broadcast bank and released online when it’s time for the next podcast.
Gerard says that, as of July 2022, there have been 1,000 unique downloads of the podcasts, with a steady increase for each new show. The podcast is promoted on social media, CONNECT by ATA posts, and in division emails and newsletters. Both co-hosts say they’ve received positive feedback from listeners.
Addressing top industry issues
Even though the focus of the podcast has so far been on emerging technologies and the Canadian market, anyone in the textiles industry will learn something worthwhile by tuning in. “We’ve talked about how everyone had to deal with COVID-19, the ways they had to pivot, and how some started making masks and gowns,” Petizian says. “Now there are discussions about how hard it is to hire people and how companies are navigating through these challenges.” These universal concerns affect textile companies everywhere and listeners can get creative ideas from the podcasts on how to deal with them.
Companies outside of Canada can also learn more about the needs in the Canadian market. For example, a U.S. company may be interested in supplying a fabric or a chemical for a fabric to a Canadian company. “Learning about what’s happening in Canada could lead to future sales,” Petizian says. “The more information you have, the more you’ll be able to improve your business.”
“Suppliers outside Canada can gain great insight into the nature of the industry here and the players that make it run,” says Tyrrell. “For those in similar businesses from outside Canada, they may get ideas on how to handle growth, succession or business direction.”
A podcast list, with the title and a brief description for each show, appears on the Talking Textiles website. Topics presented so far include “Manufacturing the next textiles experts,” “If You Build It, They Will Come,” and “Innovation axée sur le développement des équipes.” All previously posted podcasts remain available for both the Canada and Emerging Technologies series.
Both hosts enjoy helping guests tell their stories. “My favorite part is when we interview people in a family business and see the differences in business approach from the grandfather to the father to the son or daughter,” Petizian says. “They demonstrate their family dynamics with each having different roles and different ways of thinking.”
“I’m always fascinated with the varied routes people have taken to being in business in our industry,” says Tyrrell. “Maybe that’s because there is so little formal training or educational paths to this industry in Canada. As a result, you have people coming to it from so many different directions and backgrounds. I love hearing about those backgrounds and the roads that led people to being in the business they now find themselves in.”
Jean Feingold is a freelance writer based in Gainesville, Fla.