In this exclusive Q&A, we get to learn more about the evolution of a leading window treatment franchise, Bloomin’ Blinds. Kelsey Stuart, the company’s CEO, will share with us how the brand grew from garage startup to a national franchise within less than a decade.
Franchise Chatter (FC): Welcome, Kelsey. For those who aren’t familiar, can you please share a bit of background on Bloomin’ Blinds?
Kelsey Stuart (KS): Thank you so much for having me, and of course. Bloomin’ Blinds is a family-owned window treatment franchise, led by myself and my brothers, Kris and Kevin. We currently service over 55 territories throughout the country with plans to grow to 200 franchise territories within the next 5 years.
In addition to our robust selection of products, we also specialize in window treatment repair – surprisingly, this is a rarity in the industry. We find that by offering products, installation and repair, we’re able to offer an “all in one” solution for our customers and that adds value beyond the products. Plus, it helps our franchise owners solve the needs of our clients with a wider array of solutions.
Most of our revenue comes from the sales and installation of new product but repair volumes can move quite a bit based on the current state of the economy at the time of our service. In a good market, we sell more product, yet in a struggling economy we tend to fix more than we sell.
My brothers and I grew up in an incredibly entrepreneurial family, where our mother was filled with creativity and always busy pursuing her next big idea. One of those great ideas was a blind cleaning and repair concept. To get started, she bought a machine that cleaned window treatments by borrowing a few hundred dollars from our grandmother, and she got to work. She operated the business out of our garage as we were growing up.
Over the years, the business grew and relocated from Seattle to Dallas. Within 3 years of relocating to Dallas, my brothers and I began working within Bloomin’ Blinds full time. In 2018, our mother retired as we began to take over the leadership roles in the business. We started franchising the business in 2014 and have quickly gained momentum and a good reputation in the space.
FC: What sets Bloomin’ Blinds apart from other concepts in the window treatment space?
KS: There are a few key differentiators that set us apart from other window treatment companies, the first being our ability to repair window treatments. Bloomin’ Blinds is the only company that offers to repair window treatments, even if we didn’t install them. This has proved to be a tremendously valuable service as we’re able to help a client keep their current products, save money and create long-term relationships.
Our technology is another element that makes us unique and preferred among clients. We have the most technology of any window covering company, hands down. My brothers and I are still a relatively young franchise leadership team, and we see the value in weaving technology throughout everything we do – we’ve viewed it as an integral differentiation within our industry. Online booking, watching us drive to your house like an Uber driver, and laser tape measuring tools for improved quote accuracy are just a few of the ways we use technology to stand apart. Not only is it an incredible boost to our franchise owner’s efficiency but it’s also very helpful in helping our clients understand that we represent a better value for the same amount of money.
Lastly, our leadership team is incredibly experienced. I always like to say, we are a collection of window covering professionals that started a franchise, not the other way around. Kris, Kevin and I know the industry like the back of our hand – before there was a franchise, we were in the field doing the “job” for over 17 years. We are quick to share all of this knowledge with our franchise owners.
Our supportive attitudes, collective knowledge, and passion to mentor all come from almost 20 years of personal experience in the field. In fact, each of us – Kris, Kevin and I – have experience in every part of the business, from consultations to installation to customer service to repairs. Because of this, we’ve built out a robust and hands-on orientation for new franchisees that has them up and running, and confident, within weeks.
FC: When did you start franchising? What were some initial challenges you experienced?
KS: We did research and talked about franchising for probably about 10 years before making the decision to franchise Bloomin’ Blinds. We started franchising in 2014 and opened our first franchise in 2015, but it wasn’t met without challenge. Some initial difficulties included understanding the complex franchising industry. Once you franchise your business, you’re now essentially operating two completely separate businesses – in our case, one was Bloomin’ Blinds and one was the franchise. And, these are vastly different in terms of training, marketing, support, and infrastructure.
Franchising was a whole new world for us and we needed to get the hang of it and good at it fast, as we had our first group of franchisees that were depending on us to build a solid foundation for the organization. Their success is now in our hands. It’s important to realize that you won’t get a grasp on franchising overnight, but there are plenty of knowledgeable industry professionals that you can outsource work to and look to for guidance, which is exactly how we navigated that challenge.
FC: What was the growth strategy behind expanding from family-owned and run to now having 50-plus franchises across the country?
KS: We take great pride in being a family-run business, so that was a major deciding factor. It basically came down to either splitting up the family across different regions to manage company stores, or building out a business model that others can execute. The choice was obvious for us, we wanted to keep the family together and we all enjoy teaching, so franchising it was.
And, many of our franchisees will tell you that they feel the family-run energy, even though we’re a franchise – we always make time for calls, questions and truly get to know our owners and their families.
FC: What processes and procedures have you put in place to ensure consistency across the brand?
KS: First, we had to develop a training program that would help us teach and maintain standards across all of our franchise locations. We have perfected training over the years to set up franchise owners for success, both right out of the gate and long-term. We’ve also created systems and invested in technology that automates processes for our owners, adding value and efficiency to operations. Our training program helps encourage owners to stay within the system as there’s a channel of benefit.
That said, there is a significant amount of personal freedoms in this franchise. We only mandate the critical elements (software, van signage, uniforms, services, etc.), and have learned that there’s a much more enjoyable relationship between owners and ourselves if the consistency is encouraged through value as opposed to being mandated with an iron fist.
FC: What is the typical investment to open a Bloomin’ Blinds franchise?
KS: The cost of opening a Bloomin’ Blinds franchise – franchise fee, plus overall investment costs – can range from $45-117K, although we typically see a median investment of around $90K.
FC: How can people learn more about Bloomin’ Blinds if they’re interested in franchising?
KS: We’re always looking for passionate, entrepreneurial people to join our family. Anyone interested in investing in a Bloomin’ Blinds can learn more about our franchise opportunities by scrolling through our site: bloominblinds.com/franchising/why-bloomin-blinds/