Budget Blinds owners’ division of labor keeps business running smoothly
Budget Blinds is a great argument for niche marketing. After all, if a building has windows, it’s going to need blinds. Steve and Antoinette Ettinger, husband and wife entrepreneurs, own and operate Edina’s franchise of the company that has between 900 and 1000 locations nationally and in Canada.
Servicing Minneapolis, Golden Valley and part of St. Louis Park, there isn’t a customer base in the field they don’t cover — hotels, restaurants, offices, homes and more. “We have a style for every budget and are able to help [customers ascertain] how the functionality of the product best suits their décor,” says Antoinette. “If you can think of a window treatment brand, there’s a good chance we carry that or have access [to it].”
Steve adds, “We’ve got products in all different price ranges from a number of vendors. We help [consumers] match up their budget goal and their design goal.” Among the in-house brands are Signature Series and Enlightened Style. National brands include Hunter Douglass, Horizons and Lafayette.
At Budget Blinds’ handsomely laid out website the sales pitch attests: “In addition to being the best in custom window coverings…Budget Blinds of Edina can help you with a variety of specialty functional and decorative products for your home. We also offer design and installation of a few uncommon window treatments, including decorative and UV blocking window films, retractable screens, faux iron (for indoor or outdoor use) and recently we’ve added an exquisite collection of area rugs.”
In short, Steve and Antoinette Ettinger have got you covered, from soup to nuts. Steve notes, “We can handle everything from start to finish [with] free in-home [or in-office] consultation, which includes exact-fit measuring; product and design ‘coaching’ to help select the very best products based on style, aesthetics, and budget; product ordering and installation; and the industry’s best warranties on our in-house products.”
Look at the houses in many neighborhoods where mismatched bed sheets serve as makeshift curtains and you’re staring at the clear need for a product on the order of Budget Blinds. Landlords — even the most skinflint — can make a sensible long-term investment, give their tenants a break and, at the same time pick up the appearance of the area.
“We do jobs where the landlord wants to upgrade,” Steve notes.
Antoinette adds, “Sometimes I’ll get calls from landlords who will want a low-end product and I’ll be able to tell them that in the long run, it makes sense for them not to go in that direction. In the long run it’s [better] to get a product that’s durable and still cost-effective.”
If that falls on deaf ears, it is not the Ettinger’s policy to pursue the matter with a hard sell. They realize they have an excellent product and, for the most part, let it sell itself. Their both being low-key and level-headed goes a long way as well.
When a prospective customer isn’t constantly pressured by someone sweating them to buy, that’s when they are more apt to loosen the purse strings. Steve reflects, “We don’t consider ourselves sales people. We’re facilitators. Sometimes we’re not the right fit and we will tell them so. We think of ourselves as people trying to help other people get a good deal. Just the way we would want to be helped to get a good deal.”
Corporate headquarters handles advertising and other such higher-up necessities, leaving Steve and Antoinette free to do hands-on marketing on the local level.
“When we started, we both went out on every appointment,” Antoinette explains, but over the past three years they’ve assumed separate areas. “We’ve divided responsibilities. I’m typically doing the back business stuff, behind the scenes. The accounting, scheduling, ordering — that’s what I do well.
“And he is really good at meeting with the clients and listening and helping them understand what they need. We’ve settled into those things we like to do and that we do well.” Which, when all is said and done, makes the customer a winner — a proven product marketed with common sense.
Dwight Hobbes welcomes reader responses to P.O. Box 50357, Mpls., 55403.