In 1966, The Walker Brothers sang “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore”. If recent weeks are anything to go by, they were a little wide of the mark. If there’s one man who can make sure you can enjoy the very best a hot sunny day has to offer, it’s Stuart Dantzic, MD of Caribbean Blinds.
Caribbean Blinds specialises in the design, manufacture and installation of outdoor shading systems including stylish patio awnings, external blinds and its award-winning louvred roof canopy branded the Outdoor Living Pod™.
The company was established in 1987 by Ray and Angie Dantzic and since then has become the leading supplier and pre-eminent name in external shading in the UK. It’s still a family-owned company today with their sons Stuart and Brad at the helm following a management buy-out in January 2017
Their stylish and quality made products have attracted notable customers including footballers Sergio Aguero and Michael Carrick, as well as comedians Jimmy Carr and Dara O’Brien. It’s not only household names who’ve brought in their expertise. The company’s products can be found at the Westfield shopping centre and on the roof terrace of the Conduit in Mayfair, London.
MD Stuart Dantzic is on a mission to make the next 30 years as successful as the last. We spoke to this dynamic young entrepreneur about his work, his life and his plans for the future.
Luxurious Magazine: What do you currently do at Caribbean Blinds?
Stuart Dantzic: I joined the company at the age of 16 and took over the reins in 2017. Officially, my title is Managing Director, but my day to day role is very varied!
As a result, I am incredibly hands-on. I’m rarely at my desk and am always looking at new ways to drive the business forwards, whether motivating staff members, working with architects and designers to showcase the benefits of our external shading products or forming new collaborations to drive continued growth.
I am extremely passionate about business, sales and marketing and am always thinking about what we can do better to ensure we maintain our industry-leading position.
LM: What inspired you to genuinely want to drive the business forward?
SD: The moment I felt inspired to help drive the future growth and development of Caribbean Blinds was when my parents moved the business from a rented facility to their own factory in Sudbury, Suffolk. At this point, I knew they were serious about developing an industry-leading company and that I wanted to play a key role within it.
Although I fulfilled a number of roles, Sales and Marketing is what I have always enjoyed most, and one of my greatest achievements in the history of the company is the creation of a ‘special projects’ division to enable Caribbean Blinds to work closely with Architects and Specialists. Within a few years, this new side of the business reached the same level of sales as our trade income and today accounts for 75% of our annual turnover.
In 2017, my brother and I took over. He supports the operational side of the business, and I drive day-to-day management, Sales and Marketing. We are currently part way through a clear and strategic 5-year plan to quadruple the size of the business and, so far, have successfully doubled the turnover and tripled our net worth in just three years.
I believe that honing our own market niche and being one of the UK’s only quality external shading providers has enabled us to achieve this, particularly as we have worked hard to maximise collaborations and consistently drive new and valuable revenue streams.
LM: Describe how you ‘do business’.
SD: There are several ways that define how I do business. Firstly, you have to be passionate about what you do to be able to build a successful business. I am genuinely passionate about Caribbean Blinds because I can see the difference our products make to the lives of our customers, whether providing an opportunity to enjoy their garden or the outdoors or increasing the energy efficiency of a building.
Secondly, I believe that in business, you need to act with honesty and integrity. So many businesses want the sale, without being ethical. Honesty and integrity are key to everything that we do, both internally in how we work with our team and the attitude that we expect from our employees, and externally in how we support and work with our customers.
Finally, I think it’s important to become the expert or specialist in your field, as opposed to being a jack of all trades. Our superior knowledge and quality product offering are what truly sets us apart from any industry competitor, both now and for years to come.
LM: Taking on the role of MD in a successful family business must mean filling some big shoes. Does your dad stand over you with a big stick?
SD: Most definitely not. That was one of the agreements when we took the reins, that we, my brother and I, would run the company without interference, so we could implement the necessary changes and strategies to enable us to grow the business and take it to the next level.
It is hard to hand over to the next generation in a family business, but I have been involved in the company from such a young age and undertaken every element of it. Additionally, for three months each year, while my parents were away on their annual cruise, I was looking after the entire business, so dad knows it is in safe hands.
LM: Do you get much sleep??
SD: Does anyone who runs a business get enough sleep? ? Like many business owners, I burn the candle at both ends and never switch off, but I guess on average I get about 6 hours sleep which is (just) enough, although sometimes you may find me having a lie-in on Sunday.
LM: What is your USP?
SD: Passion, I love what I do, and so do all my team, whether they are advising clients on the right solutions, assembling components, confectioning materials, or installing our products. Everyone is proud of their role and what they do which means they put the utmost effort into producing our solutions as if they were building for themselves, ensuring exceptional quality that really does put our competitors in the shade.
LM: Are all your products made in the UK?
SD: 100% yes. We are proud to be a UK manufacturer, designing and assembling all our patio awnings, external blinds, and louvred roofs right here in the UK. This guarantees the highest quality from order to installation as we are in control of the whole process and also gives clients the reassurance that should anything go wrong, we are only down the road, so to speak. Furthermore, we can react quickly to demands and carry out many bespoke projects where we modify our solutions to suit as everything we need is here in the UK.
LM: Do you have a highly specialist team working away in the background?
SD: Our team is specialist, but our staff don’t come to us as that, and we don’t look for specialists when we recruit. What we look for are people who are passionate about working for us and coming on the journey with us. Once we believe they are right for the business, we then put them through a 6-month in-house training process, and they learn to work our way.
Many of our team members, in particular our factory team, are working away behind the scenes from Monday to Saturday, producing the finest external shading systems but are never seen.