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Feature Business: Budget Blinds

Meet a couple who took a chance. A chance to move to a new province. A chance to start a small business. A chance to make their enthusiasm for their product and service a success.

Meet Gord and Sue Swarbrick of Budget Blinds. The Swarbricks’ story starts in Regina a few years ago. Both Gord and Sue had successful careers in retail management. Then their son got a job as an installer with Budget Blinds. Later, Sue joined the company as a style consultant. Soon, she says, “We all fell in love with the business.”

They researched the opportunities and found an opening in western Manitoba. They purchased a Budget Blinds franchise and moved to Brandon in 2011.

They are delighted with their decision. They like the people, the size, and the potential of Brandon. A place with all the amenities, but where you can get anywhere in 10 minutes. “We absolutely love it here,” Sue says, “It’s home.”

They first set up shop in the 600 block of 10th St. As with any small business, the owners do a little bit of everything. Sue focuses on style consulting; Gord on installing. Sue draws on her experience from her previous work in Regina. Gord enjoys the hands-on work: he grew up immersed in the construction business in a small Saskatchewan town, where his dad owned the local lumberyard.

Establishing their own business has involved lots of adjustment, hard work, and long days. For one thing, Gord and Sue were used to working separately; working together was new. When they describe it now, they can look back and laugh. But, with relief, Sue says, “we survived.”

Gord and Sue knew they had made it when they started getting returning customers. And when their customers were telling other people. Gord and Sue’s number 1 source of work now is repeat business and referrals.

They have grown to employ seven staff members, including style consultants and a certified designer. “We have a boatload of fun around here,” Sue says, “We hire people who really enjoy what they do.”

With their business thriving, they needed more space. They have just settled into a new larger location. The increased size also offers more opportunity to display their products.

You can drop by their showroom at 381 Park Ave. E. (near Richmond). Hours are Monday to Friday, 9 – 5:30.

You can also get a great idea of what is available by going online and visiting budgetblinds.ca, or their facebook page “Budget Blinds of Southwest Manitoba.” Gord and Sue are proud to include a couple of dozen customer testimonials.

But by far the best way to see their products and learn about their services is to schedule a free in-home consultation. That way you can see what would work best with your windows, your light, your colours, and your home.

You can contact them at 204-727-4766. Or: swarbrick@budgetblinds.com.

What about the “budget” in Budget Blinds? Gord and Sue work hard to fit into a customer’s budget: whether it is modest or allows for much more. They have total window solutions – with a range of options and prices – but will work within the budget that the customer has.

“We don’t go in and tell customers what to do,” Sue says. “We help them tell their story in their home.” And Gord and Sue appreciate a customer who will candidly tell them what they need and what their budget is.

“Some people think a blind is a blind, but it is like buying a car,” Sue says, “you can keep it simple, or get more for your money that will do more.”

What are the “blinds” in Budget Blinds? Their business is actually about a lot more. It encompasses a variety of products that cover, treat, and enhance windows. That includes blinds, of course, but also shutters, shades, curtains, drapes, and more. Products that increase the comfort, beauty, and value of any home. Window coverings that look great and also improve a room’s lighting, privacy, warmth, and coolness. In working with everything that covers a window, Gord says, they strive for a “blend between function and fashion.”

What’s the “franchise” in the Budget Blinds franchise? Gord and Sue chose that approach as it combines the support of an international network with owning and operating their own small business. They can access the training, expertise, and best practices of a substantial company. At the same time, they have the flexibility of locally running their own show. As members of a large group, they have clout with many suppliers. And, they have the freedom to order from any source they choose.

The result is a win-win-win. A win for customers. A win for Gord and Sue as independent business owners. And a win for the local community.

Their territory extends west to Saskatchewan border; south to the U.S. border; north as far as they can go; and east to Elie, which is close to Winnipeg. Nearly one-half of their business is outside Brandon. A bonus for customers everywhere: there are no mileage charges for in-home consultations or installations.

Gord and Sue’s Budget Blinds franchise benefits from the exposure and recognition provided by 100 other locations in Canada. As well as from 1,000 throughout North America. Customers here can expect the same high quality of service and product as everywhere else. Like the comfort with having on most items a “no questions asked” five-year warranty.

“We’ve literally had the dog chew the blinds,” Sue says, “and we’ve replaced them free of charge.”

What would Gord and Sue like you to know about windows and coverings, but you likely don’t? One is that they offer products that you might not think of. They carry a wide range of accessories – pillows, bedding, and more – that can complement your existing or new window coverings as well as your other furnishings.

Nothing should be overlooked when imagining how a window could be transformed. One option: clear window films that reflect more than one-third of the sun’s heat and almost all of the sun’s harmful UV rays. Window films can help keep your home cool and your interior belongings protected.

One product that Budget Blinds carries exclusively is a line of faux iron decorative pieces. This lightweight product made of wood and resin can be made to fit any space. You can add the artistic look of wrought iron without the difficulties of dealing with the real thing.

And don’t forget drapes. “Draperies are not out-dated,” Sue says. “They can complete a look in any room.”

There are also intriguing possibilities with motorization. Any window covering – whether blinds, shades, shutters or drapes – can be motorized. Think of pressing a remote to turn on a TV or open a garage door. Now think of that same kind of automation for your windows.

The advantages of motorization are many. Energy efficiency: sun sensors can move window coverings to prevent heat loss in winter and reduce heat gain in summer. Convenience: window coverings can be controlled from anywhere with your smart phone. Options: now you can enhance those hard-to-reach windows. Safety: no dangling cords for children or pets to get caught in. Security: programmable timers can make your home look occupied when you are away. Outdoor lifestyle: motorized units can lift and lower large shades around decks, patios, and hot tubs. Living better: automated systems can help seniors live longer in their own homes.

Automation. Energy efficiency. Sensors. Timers. Welcome to the “smart home.” These motorized systems are getting better all the time as technologies improve, choices increase, and prices drop. Stay tuned for future developments.

Here’s an important reminder from Gord and Sue: plan ahead. If renovating or doing new construction, don’t wait until the last minute to decide on window coverings. Include them in your early planning. This especially applies to motorized options – the wiring could even be installed now for application later. Gord and Sue know that renovating or building new can be very stressful. They work with homeowners and contractors to make any project go as easily as possible.

Gord and Sue also have the capacity to handle any commercial work, whether large or small. You can go online for specialized information at bbcommercialsolutions.com.

In the end, it is the customers who drive the rewards for Gord and Sue Swarbrick of Budget Blinds. Gord and Sue speak with enthusiasm and enjoyment about the people who are their customers. “We come home at the end of the day,” Sue says, “and we are so grateful for the great people we have met.”

Gord sums up their real sense of satisfaction they get from their business. With pride, he describes the fulfillment from finishing an installation.

“It’s a great feeling,” Gord says, “when you turn around and see the customer looking at the job.”

And the customer is saying, “I love it!”

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