By Don Bolding
Killeen Daily Herald
Caribbean island natives Chevan and Kerina Jessamine have only been in town a couple of years, but she is already a Realtor, and they have started a business together. They're also both in school.
Affordable Blinds, a home-based window blind sales and consultation business, doubled its volume in 2009 from its start in February 2008.
Kerina's father retired from the military at Fort Hood, decided to stay in Central Texas and called her to join him here in 2007. She in turn called Chevan back home in the island country of St. Vincent in the Grenadines and described the opportunities, and they became a Texas family.
Both are students at Central Texas College in the running to receive associate degrees this fall, he in business management and she in business administration.
Both have been active in the CTC team of Students in Free Enterprise. In the process, Chevan has taken the first-place prize in an essay competition for Entrepreneur of the Year from the National Association of Community Colleges and traveled to Chicago to receive the award.
"I was just talking to a colleague about business opportunities, and he thought going into window blinds was one of the best possibilities. It turned out he was right," Chevan said.
New homes primary market
His primary market is new homes. Part of the potential comes from the constant new home construction in the area, but he and Kerina have also mounted an aggressive marketing campaign, relying not only on referrals and word-of-mouth but also networking among builders and real estate offices beyond Soldiers of Real Estate, where Kerina is an associate, on Bacon Ranch Road near Stan Schlueter Loop.
After graduation, they may open an office for Affordable Blinds, but Chevan indicated it wasn't a top priority.
"Customers are served better by looking at samples in their own homes, where they can see how well things will fit and match," he said. "I could set up an office for administration with books and samples in it, but there's no real reason for it."
Kinds of blinds
Chevan offers blinds that are faux wood, which are humidity resistant and good for resisting hard use in locations like game rooms; genuine hardwood, which add a classic feeling and warmth to a room; cellular/honeycomb shades, which offer easy control of light levels and are good for energy efficiency; vertical blinds, for large windows and glass doors; Roman shades, or fabric shades, which can filter light or black it out, depending on the material; and plantation shutters to cover both windows and blinds.
Motorized blinds are also available.
He said he was addressing an underserved market niche even as recently as he started. There were a couple of consultants, and some lighting companies offered blinds and shades, but most people decorating their houses went to Home Depot and Lowe's. But competition has become stiffer because the sagging economy has forced companies in Austin and Waco to go on the road. So the new company has flourished even with a stiffening headwind.
"The suppliers I represent all do custom work. They don't sell to the end user, but they offer warranties ranging from a year to a lifetime, and I can offer continuous service," Chevan said.
Contact Don Bolding at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7557. Follow him on Twitter at KDHbusiness.