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SMALL BUSINESS | THE LEARNING CURVE: SOLAR SHADOW WINDOW
TINTING

Shatter-Persistent : Window Tinter Pitches Safety Aspect

June 18, 1996

Solar Shadow Window Tinting owner Edwin Camanag always knew his product would help prevent windows from shattering in an earthquake, but consumer interest didn't pick up until after the Northridge earthquake in January 1994. Taking a tactful approach, he learned to profit from disaster without using scare tactics. Camanag was interviewed by Karen Kaplan.

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I took up window tinting when I was in college and needed some part-time work. I decided to go into business for myself and concentrate on the flat-glass market for homes and commercial buildings.

The tinting film comes in a roll that we cut to fit a piece of glass. In some ways it's like a big sticker, so in addition to offering solar protection, the tinting process protects the windows from falling apart and shattering. In the Northridge quake, a large number of the injuries were from people cutting themselves on shards of broken glass.

The main thing I emphasize when talking with potential clients is the solar control that tinting provides. I knew that these materials would help with earthquake protection, but people didn't respond to the earthquake safety part of my sales pitch. People were saying, "There's not going to be an earthquake."

After the Northridge earthquake, people paid more attention when I talked about earthquake protection, and I started playing that up while it was still fresh in people's minds. Our sales went up between 15% and 20% because people were more interested in earthquake safety.

I didn't say to people, "If you don't have this, you're going to die." But I would ask people to remember the Northridge quake. I put their family in the picture and asked them to think about the peace of mind they'd get knowing their kids wouldn't be hurt by broken glass. . . .

For businesses, it's important to know your windows will hold together to act as a barrier against weather elements and to protect you from looting. The first place looters will go to is an open window.

Sometimes it would make me cringe to say, "This will prevent you from being injured in a quake," especially if we're talking about kids. I was afraid that people would accuse me of trying to play with their emotions. There were so many people out there trying to make a quick buck who would use any trick to make a sale, and I didn't want to be classified in that group.

I'm really cautious about playing with people's fears. I try to use my print advertisements to bring up those ideas and get people's interest. Then when we meet in person, I can explain all the benefits.

I have found that tying into things related to the earthquake doesn't work very well. We made a point of stepping up our marketing just before the first anniversary of the quake but we got no response.

In April of 1994, we put fliers on about 500 homes for Earthquake Preparedness Month and got zero calls. This April we participated in an earthquake preparedness fair at Griffith Park. So far it hasn't led to many actual sales, but I'm still hopeful that we'll get more calls.

On the payoff of emphasizing earthquake protection . . .

"Our sales went up between 15% and 20% because people were more interested in earthquake safety."

On the challenge of trying to profit from disaster . . .

"There were so many people out there trying to make a quick buck who would use any trick to make a sale, and I didn't want to be classified in that group."

On how he broaches the subject . . .

"I try to use my print advertisements to bring up those ideas and get people's interest. Then when we meet in person, I can explain all the benefits."

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AT A GLANCE

Company: Solar Shadow Window Tinting

Owner: Edwin Camanag

Nature of business: Window tinting for homes and offices

Year founded: 1992

Location: Cerritos

Number of employees: 2

Annual sales: More than $60,000

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