Start a Custom Window Treatments or Mobile Screen Business in Orange County

We went ahead and combined the businesses of Window Treatments and Screening Services in this article.  On one hand it’s a natural fit.  Once you are in the customer’s home, you can sell both products and the tools required are about the same.  On the other hand, it seems like people are either in one business or the other.  Screens tend to be purchase more on a cost comparison basis, while window treatments–drapes, blinds, and shutters–are “sold” to the customer through a informed sales person.  Another way to look at it is that Screens are a Need and Window Treatments are a want.   And the market is not confined to homeowners.  Landlords/managers need these services as both window treatments and screens tend to get destroyed.

The most popular window treatments are blinds.  Homeowners installing blinds are willing to pay a bit extra.  Sure you can get six foot vertical blinds from a home improvement store for about $25 and cut them down to fit any window.  If you look carefully, this is probably what your landlord did.  This isn’t a budget issue, people are paying for the right look in their homes.  The most expensive blinds are wooden shutters.  Also, they look at blinds as a service that someone else should be doing.

So why don’t people just go to the home center and do it themselves?  Well, the people who spent a lot of money on blinds are not do-it-yourselfers.  Your business is allowing them to do the fun part—pick out the blinds in their house.  They pay extra for the Convenience, personal attention you give them, and the idea that the blinds will be somehow custom or special.  You get to do the not so fun part–measuring, ordering and installing.

And there is a bit of skill involved.  The most important skill is measurement.  Yea, it sounds easy.  But if you have installed blinds yourself, you know how easy it is to make a mistake.  You will also need a cordless drill, latter, measuring tape, …  and a few other tools.  The tools needed should cost less than $500.00  And since most windows are less than 6’long, you don’t really need a van or truck to do most jobs.  A car with back seats that fold in will suffice.

This business became a popular franchise opportunity a few years back.  The advantage is that there is very little capital, and you don’t have to carry much inventory.  Just order the blinds after your customer puts down a deposit.  (We will forgo the discussion of weather or not you need to be a licensed contractor in California and if the license requirements are enforced for people doing simple jobs.  See our contractor’s license needed? page.  Some people get around the contracting law by saying that the blinds and installation are sold separately.  The mark up is in the blinds, and the installation fee is less than the $400 State Contractors board threshold.   But according to the interview we did with the State Contractors Board, this might not fly.  It seems to be a gray area of the law.)

Where do you get the Blinds and Screening Material ??

Well,  some people in this business just go to the home centers for some of their orders.  Or you can order them through the mail.  Home Depot and Lows can be very price competitive on certain lower cost styles.  The manufacturers of these products don’t want to make the wholesale prices public because a lot of customers would circumvent their distributors whom they want to work with.

Manufactures offer discounted prices to re-sellers.  You order the blinds, and they ship them to your door.  Then install in your customer’s house.  And don’t forget about the home improvement stores.  They have great prices on many styles of blinds.  Your customers won’t care where they come from, and since they have been cut to fit you can say they are “custom” window treatments.

We found one manufacturer who works with independent business owners called Comfortex. We have contacted them and are waiting for them to get back to us with more details; we are not sure if they are still in business.http://www.comfortex.com/bus_opps_bc.html

Another choice is Clear Choice Window Treatments.  They don’t sell franchises, and don’t collect the fees.  You can become a distributor and buy the products at low cost from them.  But we could not find a website for this Atlanta based company only a phone number 866 604-1999.  They advertised the distributor opportunity in magazines, but may have gone out of that business.  

Garber  This is a company that allows you to become a dealer.  Blinds are shipped to you, and you can install for your clients.

 

 Installing does not require a high level of Technical Skills

This video shows how to adjust blinds that you purchase at the home center.  The home center will cut the with of the blinds to fit the window for free, but you need to adjust how long they are.   After measuring, this is the hardest part of installing blinds.

We are still working on this article.  If you have any info, please let us know.

Screen Service Business

Making Screens is not that complicated

As you can see from the video, building a screen or repairing a screen is not a big deal.  You will need a few tools, most of which you probably already have in your garage.

  • Extension latter
  • Power miter saw with blade for cutting aluminum  (Note from personal experience, hack saw in the video does takes time and does not always cut straight even with the box.)  (Less than $150)
  • Small with tape measure
  • splining tool (less than $15)
  • utility knives and blades–lots of blades
  • flat surface to work on.  (possibly a sheet of plywood)
  • Sign for your truck.
The beauty of this business is that home owners and landlords will pay you a premium to come out and replace the screens on site.  Kits are available at the home center.  The kit shown in the video can be purchased for less than $12, but you can get it cheeper if you buy a large roll of screening material, spline and screen frame parts separately.   The main skill you need is the ability to measure widow size.  That’s harder than it looks if you haven’t done that before.

To install a new screen, a home owner can expect to pay at least $25.  So you are looking at a markup around 100%.
Some of the people in the business have invested in custom trailers that provide a work surfice, built in miter saw …
There are also companies that will sell you franchises.

Window Treatment and Screen Franchise Businesses

Budget Blinds  This Orange Based Businesses is the best known Franchise in the Blinds Business because they do a lot of advertising.   It costs about $75,000 for the initial Franchise Fee and they will loan you $35,000 to help pay the fee.  So you have to have $40,000 in cash to get started.    The franchise takes a percentage of your gross sales for their fees and another cut for their advertising program.  They have another franchising opportunity called BB Commercial Solutions.    They do not require a specific business background.  Successful franchisees need to be hard working and have have leadership skills.  April 2012, the CEO were featured on the CBS TV show Undercover Boss — Basically a 40 min commercial.  CBS hasn’t made this episode available on line and it has been pulled off of YouTube.  But it might be back up, search for Season 3 Episode 10.  There is a lot of interest in this franchise because of their advertising.  They give out exclusive territories, so one might not be available in our area.  According to a 2009 OC Register article, they offer $15,000 discounts for Military Vets, but we did not see that on their current website-so ask them about it if you are a vet.

Three Day Blinds.  This well known Irvine company went Bankrupt in 2009.  Thy have re-organized and are expanding again focusing on the more up scale part of the market.  They are hiring Designers read sales people, but are not currently selling franchises.
One franchiser is Screen Mobile  They don’t advertise the franchise cost on their website, but others have reported it to be a $75,000-$105,000 total investment.
But basically what you are getting for the investment is marketing knowledge, 8 days of training, and a fancy trailer.  To their credit, they do have a top ranked page on google and a really nice looking trailer.  But how much is that worth?

Window Treatment Education and Associations

Window Treatments Association of America They have an annual convention to meet with suppliers, offer certification programs for window treatment installers and a lot of design books you can use to work with clients.