In this Q&A, we explore the evolution of a leading window treatment franchise, Bloomin’ Blinds. CEO, Kelsey Stuart will share with us how the brand grew from garage startup to a national franchise within less than a decade.
Franchising USA: Welcome Kelsey – Would you please tell us a bit about the founding of Bloomin’ Blinds?
Kelsey Stuart (KS): Thank you 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 66 territories throughout the country with plans to grow to 200 franchise territories within the next five years, so it’s incredible to think back and recall a time when we were fielding calls out of our home.
The three of us 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 ideas was a blind cleaning and repair business – both of which are still a rarity in the industry even today. 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 three years of relocating to Dallas, all three of us brothers began working at Bloomin’ Blinds full time. We started franchising the business in 2014 and quickly gained momentum and a good reputation in the space. In 2018, our mother retired and we took over the leadership roles in the business.
We pride ourselves in maintaining that family-owned and operated feel, but with the resources and support of an established, national brand. And, our franchisees feel that from the moment they sign on.
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 franchise 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. Amid the height of the pandemic, this service was helpful for our franchise network to lean into, however many franchisees are now experiencing an incredible surge in demand as we remained essential and were able to assist home owners with updates as many sheltered in place and chose to invest in their home instead of going on vacation or going out to eat.
Our technology is another key industry differentiator. We have the most technology of any window covering company, hands down. My brothers and I see the value in weaving technology throughout every aspect of the business – we view it as an integral differentiation within our industry. Online booking, watching us drive to your house like an Uber driver, our online visualizer tool and laser tape measuring tools for improved quote accuracy are just a few of the ways we use technology to stand apart. This technology and innovation has helped our franchise network feel more confident in consultations, leading to more closed deals, and also convenient for our customer base.
Lastly, our leadership team brings a wealth of industry knowledge and experience. 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, passion to mentor all comes 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 just two weeks.
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, as 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 national franchise – we always make time for calls, questions and truly get to know our owners and their families.
After deciding to franchise in 2014, we invested in developing the processes and procedures needed for our franchise owners to succeed and to ensure consistency. Our training program and commitment to continued education helps set up franchise owners for success, whether they just recently signed on or have been an operator for years. 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 are 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.
What does the future hold for Bloomin’ Blinds?
KS: We truly believe our commitment to our franchise owners and customers is what sets our brand apart – we treat everyone like family. And, even as we continue to grow across the country, our dedication will remain unchanged. We anticipate a record-breaking year due to the surge in demand for home services and welcome anyone looking to get into the industry to reach out for more information.