Link To Guest Website: Stoneside Blinds & Shades

Title: “Finding Your Niche & Not Being Afraid To Reset”
Guest: Mickey Fain of Stoneside Blinds & Shades
Interviewer: Nathan Gobes – Radio Entrepreneurs

Click here to read the transcript

Nathan (1s):
Welcome back Radio Entrepreneurs listeners and fans, I’m producer Nathan Gobes, excited to be back here with you, and I’m excited to introduce a new guest Mickey Fain, president and CEO of Stoneside blinds and shades. Welcome Mickey.

Mickey (16s):
Thank you very much. I’m excited to have the opportunity to participate this morning.

Nathan (22s):
Great. Well, why don’t you start by telling us a bit about Stoneside

Mickey (27s):
Okay. Stoneside blinds and shades. We are a company that sells direct to consumers across the U S in particular, in 13 major markets across the us. The company is about 13 years old and we drone fairly rapidly since we were formed. That thing that we focus on is there are companies out there that focus on what is called the do it yourself market. And there are companies like select blinds for, for people that want to measure their windows themselves, figure out what they want order and install it. When we started, we decided that we saw that there was a big need for people that didn’t want to do it themselves and wanting some help.

Mickey (1m 15s):
And there were a lot of what I’d call mom and pop companies out there that did that. But we saw an opportunity to bring technology, to bear, you know, utilize the internet, just new marketing techniques and kind of blend the different blend, a, an e-commerce company with a local mom and pop. And so we started Stoneside with that in mind, where we have local designers and installers in each market that go to our customer’s homes and help them figure out what they need, come back and install everything.

Nathan (1m 49s):
That is interesting because I think just not just that your industry in particular, but across the board, many industries are shifting towards that, do it yourself, you know, cut some corners and let the, let the people figure it out themselves. You know, we’ll just ship it to them. And then, and then that’s it. But it’s good to hear that you guys are providing the help that that many people made.

Mickey (2m 14s):
Well, and that’s what, you know, when we started, like I said, there were already a lot of companies selling blinds and jades and directories and stuff like that online. And frankly, I didn’t want to go compete with them. They were already doing it and that, but there wasn’t anybody doing what we were doing in the way that we were looking at doing. So that’s, that’s one of my big beliefs is figure out a niche, figure out a strategy, figure out where somebody is not serving the market. Like it needs to be served and go do that. So that’s where we started in the first place. And that’s, that’s a huge, huge, huge, huge it’s multi-billions of dollars are spent in that area. So that’s what we decided to go after.

Nathan (2m 54s):
Very interesting. I’d love to hear a little bit more about your background and what brought you to start this company.

Mickey (3m 1s):
I, you know, I started out as an electrical engineer a long time ago and knew I wanted to start a company and went back and got an MBA to learn more about that. And then started my first business. About six months after I got out of grad school and something I decided or learned along the way was don’t go after all the sexy stuff, go after the businesses that maybe aren’t utilizing that much technology that are, that are, have a lot of people in the channel that are doing it the old way and identify opportunities to bring technology, to bear, bring new marketing strategies, to bear, to make a big difference.

Mickey (3m 44s):
Don’t, don’t compete with all the smart guys, compete with industries where they haven’t, I don’t know, come into the future or come into the current. So Stoneside is my third startup. And I met a guy 20 years ago and the window covering business. He had been in it. His dad had started it and he’d been in it for 30 years running this company and they had steadily grown, but it was clear to me that boy, there was not a lot of technology in the, in the industry. And there were a lot of people in the channel. So we started looking at well, how could we, if we were going to do it from scratch and do it new using new technologies, take advantage of the internet, how would we do that?

Mickey (4m 26s):
So 13 years ago we started,

Nathan (4m 29s):
Yeah, that’s pretty good. As, as you were saying, I’m sure there were a lot of, you know, small local mom and pop stores that were doing this. And then there was the big guys that were selling online, but they were selling, you know, just the, the kitten, the box. So there was not really anything in between before you guys stepped in.

Mickey (4m 47s):
Yes. Th there were, there were some companies doing some aspects of it, but not narrowly really focusing on saying how do we really leverage the internet? And at the same time, provide that kind of white glove service and I’d do it for me.

Nathan (5m 1s):
Very nice. And now you mentioned you’re in 13 markets, but also, you know, technically across the countries, there were two, where do things go from here? Is there, you know, maybe looking at more markets or

Mickey (5m 13s):
We we’ve already identified the next 13 markets to go in and have a plan over the next 24 months to enter those markets? You know, we started out, Denver is where our headquarters is. That was our very first. And then we, we knew somebody in Portland and we opened up one in Portland and then it slowly grew from there. We’ve got a bunch of locations on the west coast, but we’re also on the Northeast and Southeast and in Texas and Colorado, Illinois, where we’re in most of the major, the largest cities right now with exception in New York. And now we’re starting to go back and fill in some of the, the second tier cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix, Austin, Orlando, I think secondary.

Mickey (5m 60s):
And the people that lived there, won’t be excited about me calling and I’m second tier, but as far as size goes down from the LA and San Francisco to the next next level.

Nathan (6m 10s):
Yeah. Makes sense. So that’s a phenomenal amount of growth and the amount of time that you guys have been around, you know, I want to ask mostly for the benefit of any entrepreneurs that are watching and listening, what sort of, you know, issues or, or things did you have to overcome throughout that all this time of growth?

Mickey (6m 33s):
I time I having done this three times now, always telling myself Mickey, remember, it’s going to be a lot harder than you think. So I thought I was pretty, I don’t know, ahead of the game and starting the third one. And it was still three times harder than we thought. I always say that nobody would ever start a company if they knew how hard it was going to be. It’s not even a day that, that last new businesses to get started plat to answer your question. You know, we started out really thinking, let’s create this platform and we’ll hire contractors for designers and contractors for installers in those markets.

Mickey (7m 13s):
Instead of having employees, that was the way a lot of the world was going the way that, you know, Uber and door dash and those kinds of companies, and certainly gone. And so we were following suit. What we quickly realized that if we wanted, and we got clear that one of our big differentiators had to be delivering a really five star experience top-notch experience. There were other people doing things, but they weren’t, they weren’t getting great reviews. So we said, there’s an opportunity there to lead the pack. Well, when we started hiring designers and contractors, we quickly figured out that those designers and contractors really weren’t part of our team, they were just getting a job.

Mickey (7m 58s):
And as soon as somebody else came along with, well, I got a different project for you this week. They were drop our project and do their project. And, and if we wanted them to do it in a certain way or a certain manner or follow our process, they really weren’t that interested in our process. They were interested in how they wanted to do it. So we, you know, we spent years or several years building up a workforce of designers and installers that were contractors only to realize, well, wrong, move, start over. And we initially literally had to replace every one of our designers and our markets with employees. And we did that first. And we went back and replaced over one of our installers with employees and only one person out of all of that group.

Mickey (8m 43s):
There was one installer that decided to go to work for assistant a boy, and he’s been amazing, but everybody else. So it was a total turnover of most of our, our workforce. You know, that’s probably the biggest while there that’s the biggest pivot, but I can just think of another one. We also started out manufacturing, everything we did in house. And we started running into problems growing our manufacturing capacity, as fast as we were growing our ability to, to sell it. And we decided if we could go find people that focused on manufacturing that would, that was only their expertise and we could give them the specifications and requirements to do that.

Mickey (9m 27s):
We’d be better off focusing on really taking care of the customer on the front end. So now we have several manufacturing partners that manufacturer our products to our specifications and provide them to us. They do frankly, an even better job than we do, because if their specialty, so those were both of those were just huge. Oh my God, let’s start over. And that’s advice I’d give any, anybody starting out, if you don’t pivot two or three times before you crossed the finish line or, you know, become successful, you’re luckier than most. So plan on lots of pivots.

Nathan (10m 5s):
Yeah. And it sounds like another common thread between the two. Is that a again, just like you said on how you, why you started the business, you were finding your niche, you know, and like you said, your niche is that is that five star customer experience. And the first first version, you know, the, the Uber door dash method model may work when you’re, you know, dropping, take out at the front door, but it doesn’t, it doesn’t work when you’re installing equipment in people’s homes and, you know, same with the, with the manufacturing, you know, that, that was one piece of it that, you know, is not part of the primary niche that you guys are filling.

Mickey (10m 43s):
Yeah. That, and I’m, that’s another thing I’m a big believer in is really get clear on what that niche has, what where’s the market that’s not being served. And I would always say that to be successful in business, you’ve got to be the world’s best in what you do. And, and, you know, and I say, if you’re going to open a pizza restaurant, you may not, you don’t have to be the world’s best in Italy or Chicago, but if I’m in Denver and I’m serving pizza to my community, I better be the best in that community. Or if it’s deep dish pizza, I’m going to be the world’s best deep dish pizza in that community.

Mickey (11m 25s):
So get clear on what it is. You’re going to be really the best in the world, because nobody really wants to go to the second best pizza place. They want to go to the best and, and focus everything on that. So that was really what kept causing us to make these changes is we got clear up front that the opportunity was be the world’s best. And it was leading in customer service, leading in cast cause customer satisfaction. And then that had us keep making decisions about, well, what do we need to do to do that? And that caused us to move from hiring contractors, to hiring employees and training them and our culture and our beliefs, and ultimately to shift from being in the manufacturing business to contracting the house.

Mickey (12m 5s):
But it was just getting really clear on what does that mean and how do we design the whole company around that.

Nathan (12m 10s):
That makes sense. That’s really interesting. Or I want to thank you for joining our show today. This is not only been a great look into Stoneside, but also hopefully some really great advice for the business owners and entrepreneurs that, that follow us

Mickey (12m 26s):
Well. Great. Nathan, I really enjoyed being on the shelf or anybody’s looking for window coverings where it’s or if I didn’t happy with something, don’t feel free to reach out to me.

Nathan (12m 38s):
That kind of covers my, my usual question of how can listeners get in touch with you find out more. So you said Stoneside dot com is the best place to go

Mickey (12m 47s): is the website and I’m Mickey Fain at Stoneside dot com.

Nathan (12m 53s):
I want to thank you again for joining us, hopefully, maybe in the future, you’ll come back and talk to us about updates or things coming down the pipeline in the market, or more advice since we were able to get a lot of it in just this short segment, I’m

Mickey (13m 6s):
Happy to do that.

Nathan (13m 8s):
And I want to remind our listeners, we’re all over the internet on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes, Google play Facebook, LinkedIn, many different sites. And of course, Radio Entrepreneurs dot com. Please feel free to follow our subscribe to us on any of the channels that you’re interested in. As we continue to promote content, we’ll be back with more Radio Entrepreneurs after this break.

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