How did you get into the industry?
My mom is a serial entrepreneur. When my brothers and I were in high school, she saw an article for a blind cleaning machine and she bought the machine. She started cleaning and repairing blinds in our town just outside of Seattle. I grew up with her business overtaking our garage.
After a divorce and some life changes, my mom moved to Dallas. When I visited her there, I immediately saw the potential of a window covering company as I gazed out at the sea of houses in suburbia. Dollar signs rolled in my eyes like a cartoon! I moved to Dallas, was a bartender to make ends meet, and was in charge with scaling the business and finding a way to build enough volume to make room for a paycheck.
Around here we say “business is either build it or buy it”. If you don’t have the money, you have to put in the work to build it. My family and I have worked hard to build this. We don’t have formal degrees, but we had the drive to make Bloomin’ Blinds a success.
At first, I dreamed of the day that the business would bring in $10K in a month. By the time we awarded the first franchise location, we were at $14K a day!
What’s New in the Business or in the Franchise Model?
Within the window covering industry, nearly everyone offers new products. We are the only company that is willing to do maintenance or cleaning on products that we didn’t install. We do it as a mobile service, adding to our value. By having 20 years of repair experience, we know which parts we need, our vans are always stocked with the parts we need to complete a repair on the first visit, on-site. Offering on-site blind repair is a major differentiator in the window covering industry.
As a leadership team, we are comfortable with the technology and use it to our advantage. We’ve infused technology into Bloomin’ Blinds everywhere we can. The window covering industry is an old and sleepy industry — the new technology we’ve used in our franchise model is driving our business forward and changing the standard for the industry.
Online booking pages and text/email appointment reminders may be common elsewhere, but not in the window covering industry. Another technology advantage that we have is our driver/tech notifications. When we are headed to a customer’s house, we send them a link so they can see where we are driving in real time. Our customers also get a photo of the technician and brief bio. Customers can send our techs a text through this software to communicate or ask questions.
Our competition primarily still uses a tape measure and pad of paper when taking measurements, whereas our quoting software is cloud based and we are using an iPad in the house. Our franchise owners are using a laser to measure the windows and that data blue-tooths into the software. After about 5 seconds, we have an instant quote for the customer to review.
As a franchise, we are blind guys that started a franchise, not franchise people who happen to work at a window covering franchise — we have an incredible knowledge base. We built a franchise around 20 years of experience!
Our newest software to launch is our visualizer technology. Customers can take an image of their living room on a Tuesday night while sitting on their couch and actually see what the purple Roman shades they’ve been thinking about and what it will look like in their living room! Again, this breaks the
industry standard. We can digitally impose our products within their space or use this software in the middle of a sales appointment.
Where do you see opportunities or challenges for the franchise moving forward?
The challenge is that we are not franchise guys. We have had to get in, grind it out, and have made amazing progress. The opportunity is that it’s going so well already that who knows how good we can be when we do “finally figure this out”! We have tons of room to grow! We are in a “horse and buggy” industry and we’ve just built a new car to replace the old way of doing things. This is a well-established industry, but we are the fresh, highly needed, modern approach to our industry.
What are your unique points of training and support?
These are places we excel. There are some fundamental concepts behind it all. We train the franchise owner the moment they are in. Their initial training is 2 weeks, very hands on, because we are teaching them how to do the job. We are good at identifying the stages of growth they are at and then coach to that specific stage of growth. Our support is one of the parts of the franchise that we are the proudest of. The most consistent ways we support our franchise owners is simple, direct communication. We will get phone calls at all hours and owners can depend on us to answer. We have the traditional pieces of recorded videos and other manuals, but we are different by supplying live on-demand communication with someone who has 20 years of experience.
Your most difficult moment as the Franchise Business?
The most gut-wrenching moment was when we had to close down a franchise location because our franchisee was taking deposits and not providing the product. The owner was creating a bad reputation for the brand and customers were being avoided and lied to. We had to protect the brand and the customers and terminate his franchise agreement, that was a hard day!
It was difficult at first as we had to learn this whole new industry. We had to learn the impact of wrong decisions from one person and how one franchise partner can affect the entire brand.
Define your Franchise Model?
A. Training and Support Model
· 2 weeks of hands-on training at a corporate location followed by instruction and mentorship in the franchisee’s business. Support is ongoing, on-demand, and communicative.
B. What is the Fee Structure
· Franchise fee: $40,000
· Set up fee: $8,500
· Royalty: 6%
C. Territory Definition
· 50,000 owner-occupied households, depending on the rental percentages in the area that could be 200,000-400,000 in population
What does your franchisee do in the business every day?
We primarily want our franchise owners to start off as an owner-operator. There’s a need for the owner to be heavily involved in the business, window coverings are more technical than anyone ever imagines before they come on board. If an owner has never done the work themselves, then how can they lead their team? This is a really nice job at first. We love owners who are willing to come in and
get their hands dirty, learn how to scale, and then add employees to the business. With time and volume, owners then add staff and management of the staff to their day-to-day team.
Who is the ideal franchise candidate?
Someone who is willing to come in as an owner-operator and who has the ambition to scale. There are a few pieces to this:
Achievement — someone who has achieved something (marathon, corporate ladder, backpacking trip) This shows they are someone who can put in the work before they get the reward. Someone who is comfortable doing it naturally. They have a history of achievement.
Educators — we educate people. We need a presenter (not a salesperson), a friendly face, a people person, someone who can manage several tasks/topics at once.
The window covering business requires someone who has a high aptitude for multi-tasking. Owners must live in a suburban market. We don’t need someone who is a contractor. Repairs and installs are always the first concern but honestly, the repairs and installation techniques are the easiest part to learn as it’s very visual. Learning the products and the mental exercise of multi-tasking is the biggest challenge to overcome.
Success Stories and Failures with Franchisees?
One of our favorite success stories involves one of our owners that is a combat veteran. This owner is a very smart guy. He came in as a franchise owner, kinda cruised through training, and thought he was smart enough to not need much for coaching. He struggled for sales and growth. After almost entirely exhausting his reserves, this owner finally came to us for help and we were more than happy to help him. Two years later, he just bought a second territory.
What Goals Do You Have for the Franchise Model in the Future?
We want to be a household name. Right now, there is one household name in the industry — I am grateful for what these pioneers have proven to be possible, but now we see a path to take what they have done, yet do it better. It’s a lot of fun to see our owners succeed and meet their goals. “We have a saying: I can’t buy my boat, until 7 of you guys buy yours.” If we keep the focus on the franchise and the owners, then we can create a healthy system that will thrive!
For more information on the Bloomin’ Blinds Franchise, please visit their website at https://www.bloominblinds.com/franchising.