More than 100 BlindCrafters joined Comfortex Corp. representatives for three days of networking, product launches and business strategy seminars during its Fifth Annual National BlindCrafter Convention held June 6 to 8, 2007, in Nashville, TN.
BlindCrafters from around the nation gathered at the Gaylord Opryland Resort Hotel & Convention Center. Events included an interactive panel discussion as well as product workshops to launch Comfortex’s new products including the Serenade Artisan Roman shade.
Key BlindCrafter business and marketing strategies also were a focus with targeted seminars devoted to making effective use of BlindCrafter marketing tools, competing with franchises, profiting with motorization and retail fabrication tips. “This year’s convention demonstrated our commitment to providing our BlindCrafter dealers with the products, information and networking opportunities that they want and need to maximize their business potential,” said Thomas J. Marusak, Comfortex Window Fashions president.
During the convention several BlindCrafter companies were singled out and honored for their achievements and successes. The companies were distinguished for their embodiment of the BlindCrafter strategy and for their business growth as BlindCrafters.
Alan Robinette of Windo-Ology received the 2007 BlindCrafter Lifetime Achievement Award. Now celebrating 20 years in business, Window-Ology began with one employee and a single, 700-square-foot facility. Today, it has seven franchise locations, 20 employees and a 9,000-square-foot factory and showroom.
Jim Wickwire, JJW Mfg., which does business as The Blind Factory, received both the 2007 Southern Region BlindCrafter of the Year Award and the National BlindCrafter of the Year Award. JJW Mfg. was chosen from nearly 300 BlindCrafter dealers nationwide. A leader in the retail window treatment industry, JJW Mfg. has been an active member of the BlindCrafter program since its inception. Based in Davenport, IA, it currently has seven stores, spanning three states. Its success can be attributed to Wickwire and his wife’s, Jeannette, dedication to the industry, in which they are consistently offering new products, new programs and attending to new trends to offer their customers the highest quality service, a cornerstone value of the BlindCrafter brand, according to a company statement.
Casey Paulson, Blinds Unlimited Alaska, was awarded the 2007 BlindCrafter of the Year Award for the Western Region. David Drick, the manager of the Wasilla, AK, location, accepted the award. Blinds Unlimited has been in business since the 1980s, and Paulson took ownership of the company in 2003. One of Comfortex’s earliest BlindCrafters, the company has demonstrated successful marketing and a dedication to the Comfortex values of innovation and continuous improvement, which has spelled success for the company. It currently is Alaska’s biggest window coverings retailer, selling products throughout the state.
Gordon Clements, Gordon’s Window Décor, received the 2007 BlindCrafter of the Year Award for the Northern Region. Since its inception in 1985, Gordon’s Window Décor has grown from a one-person, home-based business to a 30-employee, five-office business with a main plant and showroom in Essex Junction, VT. Throughout this tremendous growth, Gordon’s Window Décor has remained committed to providing quality products and quality service and has maximized the benefits of the BlindCrafter program to bring both to its more than 6,000 satisfied customers throughout New England and New York.
Dale Carpenter, Crestway House, d/b/a Penn Blinds, received the 2007 BlindCrafter Rising Star Award. Carpenter was awarded this distinction for his dedication to the future of the BlindCrafter brand and his business growth as a BlindCrafter. For the past two years, Crestway House has been under Carpenter’s ownership and leadership. In this short time, it has incorporated a vast array of Comfortex product offerings and employed effective, targeted advertising efforts that span from TV to newspapers, homebuilder affiliations and more.
EXCITING WINDOWS! OFFERS FRANCHISING TO EXPERIENCED DEALERS, ONLINE EDUCATION, TRAINING
Exciting Windows! is offering franchising to help its licensees expand and grow their businesses on a market-by-market basis and to help new businesses get started in the window coverings industry. The company currently has nearly 100 licensed shop-at-home retailers and professionals in 30 states and in the Caribbean and will continue offering licensing for experienced window coverings dealers. “Franchising, however, will be for new business owners without prior experience,” advised Steven Bursten, Exciting Windows! chairman and CEO.
“We are building on the strength of experienced members who know the technical aspects of shop-at-home sales,” Bursten added. “We are helping them recruit franchised consultants who have an investment and strong non-compete contract. In essence, we are putting the experienced dealer in the franchising business and they will keep 75 percent of the royalty fees.”
Exciting Windows! will offer both area and unit franchises allowing unit franchises to focus on marketing and sales. They will process orders through an experienced area manager who is a licensee of Exciting Windows! explained Steve Wishnow, president.
Neil Gordon, a Hunter Douglas Gallery Dealer and industry trainer, has co-founded WCUonline, an Internet training arm of Window Coverings University (see D&WC, October 2006, page 22). Online training will be available for area managers and new unit franchises, the company states.
A key feature of WCUonline—distance learning worldwide—is that it will be possible for new franchisees to get most of their training on a local basis along with an experienced mentor to guide them. Window Coverings University—classroom training by industry experts—will provide added education on sales and operations.
“No independent or chain has mastered the skills to sell all the different products, to have great ideas on style and design, and to learn the special ways to sell upscale customers. It takes an intensive and ongoing education program to be a professional,” said Gordon.
PLASTIC & CASTING CENTER PRESENTED HUNTER DOUGLAS PRESIDENT’S SAFETY AWARD
The Hunter Douglas Plastic & Casting Center, Owensboro, KY, was presented the President’s Safety Award for Best Overall Division. The award was presented to Kelly Wiman, general manager, by Marv Hopkins, president and CEO of Hunter Douglas Inc.
The Plastic & Casting Center’s safety performance is consistently far better than the industry norm and was the best of all 43 Hunter Douglas divisions in 2006, according to a company satement. The division was awarded VPP Star status in 2005, an honor presented by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The division was the first to achieve this recognition in Daviess County, one of six sites in the state of Kentucky and one of only 1,200 VPP Star sites in the country at that time.
The Hunter Douglas Plastic & Casting Center employs 120 people in 82,000 square feet of manufacturing and office space.
RENAISSANCE INTRODUCES MEDITERRANEAN SHUTTER COLLECTION
Renaissance Window Fashions, Oxnard, CA, has introduced the Mediterranean Shutter Collection, a full-line custom wood shutter program featuring four louver sizes, four wood species and 14 colors with custom colors also available. Like all other Renaissance Window Fashions products, this collection is only available through authorized dealers and decorators; not direct to consumers.
“What really sets this program apart from other custom wood shutters is availability of crab apple and bamboo woods,” said William Warren, Renaissance shutter program manager. “Crab apple has beautiful wood character that really shows through in the stains and bamboo is not only the most ecologically friendly of the woods, it is by far the hardest and most applicable to high humidity and beachfront applications.”
The Mediterranean Shutter Collection offers standard and specialty shapes with a limited lifetime warranty and six-week delivery, the company states.
Warren Steven Window Fashions, Minneapolis, MN, will conduct Hunter Douglas Premieres 2007 training for all its dealers at various locations through September 6.
New products, fabrics and technologies will debut at training seminars throughout the Midwest. Product updates and enhancements, including new sample books and a new “ette” product will be introduced, the company states.
Paula Bongartz, director of Hunter Douglas Alliance Programs at Warren Steven, will also provide selling tips for the Hunter Douglas product line. A schedule and information can be found at www.warrensteven.com.
VERTILUX BEGINS RECYCLING PROGRAM
Vertilux, Miami, FL, has begun a new recycling program inside its offices and warehouses. As part of its commitment to the environment, the company supports the use of all the resources that are available and consequently strongly and actively encourages recycling.
Earlier this summer Vertilux started a recycling campaign by distributing to all the offices and warehouses hundreds of containers specially designed to recycle paper and cardboard. The program was established to create awareness among all of its employees and to support the fundamental importance of recycling.
KALEIDOSCOPE OPENS NEW, LARGER FABRICATION FACILITY
Kaleidoscope Industries, Inc., Howell, MI, held a ribbon cutting and grand opening for its new, larger, state-of-the-art facility at 2123 Grand Commerce Dr.
The building encompasses more than 35,000 square feet and includes corporate offices, fabrication facilities and a distribution center. This new building allows for fabrication of additional window coverings product categories, the company states.
This new facility “represents our commitment to Howell and to the industry as well as to the success of our partnership with Hunter Douglas,” said Joseph G. Sommer, Kaleidoscope president. “The new facility is larger than our previous one with modern equipment that puts us in a more competitive position for the future.”