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Steve Tristan: From DJ to Company President
In the city of San Fernando on the outskirts of Los Angeles County sits a family owned window covering company located on First Street by the name of JT Blinds. The story of JT Blinds begins with Steve Tristan and his unusual success story.
By: JT Blinds, Inc.
I imagine that 20 years ago when you started as an Installer for Gilmore Enterprises, that you didn’t see yourself owning your business and becoming a company President.
Back then, I was just happy to pay the rent with my job but I’ve always had a drive to do “something more.” I remember one of the Sales people at the company that I worked for would tell me often that I was an entrepreneur because he saw all of the things that I was doing outside of the company. You never can foresee life when you’re young. I got married and had kids – and that’s an accomplishment in itself. I also never knew that I would find my faith. That was the biggest change in my life. Back when I was younger, there was no way that I would ever go to church.
You could have easily pursued your DJ record selling business. What made you choose the window coverings path?
It was a secure job. At that point, my daughter Mia was born, my view of life changed instantly when she was born. I sold off everything involving my DJ business. In doing so, I committed to my bosses that I would focus my energy on their company. In turn, they had given me a promotion from Customer Service and I was in charge of their Component division. They eventually put me in charge of the Service and Sales of nearly their entire operation.
Tell me about the formation of JT Blinds.
Everything happens for a reason and I believe that God has a plan for us all and my plan was to be here doing this. When I quit my job, I didn’t want to initially compete against the company I had worked for. I was nervous and a little scared because I had to support my family. I took a couple of offers from a few companies and I was operating JT Blinds as a side business. I figured that I would work in Sales for a window coverings company and do my JT Blinds work on nights and the weekends. I accepted a position from a company based out in Georgia to be their West Coast representative and a two week training schedule was required. By the time I made it out to Georgia my wife informed me that our youngest daughter had been crying for me because she missed me – and that bothered me. That next morning I met with the owner and I saw a corporate environment that I didn’t like. To me, it was a worse situation than what I had just left. I spoke to my wife and told her that I felt this wasn’t going to work out, so I flew back the next day. I called them while I was on my way to the airport to inform them of my decision and they tried to convince me to stay but I was set. Sure enough as soon as I got home, there were a half dozen messages for JT Blinds estimates waiting for me and here we are today.
There might not be a JT Blinds today without those circumstances.
I know now that I was destined to start JT Blinds and I think I knew that back then too. It’s scary going out on your own. I had a family to support, so I had to make it happen. When I left Gilmore, I quit, so I couldn’t collect Unemployment Benefits. I started by providing a service to my community first by offering blinds to them. We were using my house to run JT Blinds, starting out from a room at first and then I moved it to the living room. We made a little shop in the garage with a counter and added a table with some saws so that we could produce vertical blinds and screens for our accounts. Later on we opened our first location in Mission Hills, CA by renting a small 900 square foot building with a yard in the back which enabled us to put a container back there and keep an inventory of materials. We were manufacturing out in the yard with a canopy over us which was difficult during the winter sometimes. We did whatever it took to get the job done.
What’s your ultimate goal with JT Blinds?
We used to focus primarily on the apartment market but we’ve expanded by going after different markets like residential, construction, tenant improvement, interior designers and facility accounts. We launched product lines for Shutters and Roller Shades and I’m looking to offer more products that would allow for even more opportunities like our Internet venture Best Custom Screens which offers window screens, patio screen doors, security doors and sunscreens. We have big plans for the Internet market in the upcoming future where a lot of our recent leads have come from.
Another goal is to increase the awareness on our PVC recycling program and raise funds for it whether it’s through a private organization or the government. We’re the only window coverings company in the entire country trying to do something like this but we can’t do it alone. I did a seminar at UCLA recently for an Architect and Design class and when I showed them photos of the Pacific Garbage Patch mainly consisting of plastic products, they had a look of shock and surprise. Our company has been trying to encourage people to not throw their PVC blinds away. They can be recycled and we have a program in place which does that. It’s something that I really believe in and would like to focus more on but it’s hard without the support and finances for it.
This year I was able to work with Hope of the Valley, where we donated blinds to a house built for homeless women and their children. Partnering with Hope of the Valley and organizations like them to serve the community is something that I want to do more. I want to do more with my business than just provide for my family and employees.
More information available at http://www.jtblinds.com or call JT Blinds at 800-732-6162.