Within days of installing see-through Solartech blinds in her home, former Nortel employee Diana Livshits realized the genius of the product, bought the Canadian rights to the 30-year-old technology, and started producing her own version under the name Krumpers Solar Blinds. Livshits went on to win the 2015 Scotiabank EcoLiving Business Leadership Award for her work with Krumpers in Canada, and she continues to market the brand successfully in Canada. She was featured in the Winners’ Circle of a past issue of The Edge, and this is part of that interview.
You spent some time working at Nortel. What important lessons did you take away from that experience?
Nortel was a great training ground, as it was the Google of the time. The biggest takeaway was the love and appreciation of complex, innovative technologies that had an incredibly user-friendly interface, thus providing a customer with an experience of delight.
What inspired you and your husband to start Krumpers Solar Solutions?
We bought a house near the Nortel campus where I worked. The house had an east-west position, thus exposing us to both the summer’s heat and the winter’s cold. Trying to find a product to address both the heat and cold while allowing us to maintain the view proved to be futile. It was actually by accident that we stumbled upon the technology for Krumpers Solar Blinds. And I will certainly admit that I am not smart enough to invent the smart-tech, but we were smart enough to buy the rights to it. Krumpers was a case of, “I liked the product so much, I bought the company.”
What types of challenges did you face when first launching the business?
Our biggest challenge launching Krumpers Solar Blinds was making consumers aware of the product, its benefits and performance. The second challenge was aligning our manufacturing practices within an eco-friendly environment. Sourcing, advertising, and information distribution are ongoing challenges, as we’re always striving to improve not only the product and customer experience, but also the environmental imprint we leave behind. Although the technology is not at the point to allow us to meet the ultimate goal, we are well on our way.
How do you differentiate your product from the rest of the green, eco-friendly competition?
Krumpers Solar Blinds are really not in competition with any other product due to the simple fact that there are no other products on the market that allow for a clear view, while the two-sided design of summer/winter allow for year-round temperature control and energy savings (one simply turns the blinds around). As far as I am aware, Krumpers is the only product on the market with third-party lab results that validate all claims. They are posted on our website for our customers or potential clients to view and study.
How important is your team to the success of the entire business?
The team is critical to the success of Krumpers Solar Blinds. Every interaction, every component, adds to the quality of the product and the customer experience. If you go online, you can read some of the comments and reviews posted by our clients. Beyond the performance expectations, beyond the aesthetics, it’s the customer experience that helps us create brand ambassadors.
Your blinds have been featured in shows like Home and Garden, Home and Remodeling, and CTV Morning. What forms of advertising have worked best for the company?
Based on the last nine years, we have learned that customers need to see, read, and feel your product. That is why we have a multi-faceted approach. We advertise in print and online, participate in trade shows, are active on social media, and enter various industry recognition awards. Television allows for mass distribution of information, but is rather cost prohibitive.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs regarding innovation and niche markets?
My first advice is to only go with products that you love and believe in. Second, treat your customers the way you want to be treated as a consumer, then take that expectation to a new level. Thirdly, treat your team much better than you treat yourself. I do not believe in “niche markets,” I believe in pain points and delivering a solution.
Shirley Graham | Editorial Assistant