THUNDER BAY -- Les Swan and his wife Cathy got into the window coverings business when Les was unceremoniously laid off from Imperial Oil due to downsizing.
“On that day I decided nobody was going to tell me what to do again,” he says, and he started looking for a business he could join. A friend of his owned a window coverings company and he bought into it, soon taking over the business.
“I didn’t know anything about the industry, but I decided I wanted to run my own business, and I liked people and I liked not having to do the same thing every day, so this was a perfect scenario.”
Located on May street, Verticals 'N Blinds serves a wide geographical area from Kenora to Marathon, and has worked with hospitals, schools, stores, cabins and homes all over the region.
One of the newer trends in residential window coverings are motorized blinds that roll up and down with a touch of a button. They can be wired in or battery-operated, and some work with a bump on an attached wand, while others have remote controls.
The higher-end models are controlled through an app on your phone, allowing you to schedule when blinds open or close in your house, even while you are away. Adding motorization to your custom blinds can add 20 to 50 per cent to your bill (depending on the manufacturer,) says Swan.
One service that makes them popular is that they will repair blinds and shades, even ones purchased elsewhere. There’s almost nothing they can’t repair, Swan says, unless replacement parts are no longer available. If you have malfunctioning blinds or shades, he recommends bringing it in.
“Sometimes, all it needs is a car ride,” he jokes, noting that there are many customers who take broken blinds off, bring them in, and find that it functions perfectly. If it needs work, they give an estimate.
Currently, the Swans’ oldest son Jamie works as an installer at the company, and is interested in taking over when Les transitions into retirement. “I’m now sixty, so I figure I have five more years of good hard work left in me before I transition out. But I’ll still do something, maybe estimating. I will stay involved in my company until they bury me in the ground. I can’t just stay still.”
With their draperies seamstress going into retirement and qualified and skilled people hard to find, Verticals 'N Visions will soon stop selling custom-made draperies.
Always looking for new business opportunities, Swan acquired Ming Car Care last year, because they had the distributing rights for 3M’s window films. One of the best-selling products in recent years is security film - installed over existing glass windows and doors, the film prevents the glass from breaking, even if someone attempts to break in with a bat. Schools, banks, stores and offices are interested in the film and keep Swan and his installers busy.
“As a small business person, you have to look at diversifying; always reinventing yourself, or at least moving, trying to find different revenue streams and still be good at what you do,” he explains.