Glendale, Arizona

A new residential and commercial ROC license should allow the company to triple or even quadruple its revenues over the next two years says co-founder and CEO Dean Kaiserman.

Officially ranked as the second sunniest city in the nation according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration data, Kaiserman has found the greater Phoenix area to be a natural fit for a manufacturer of canopies and sun shades. Formerly in the inflatable advertising business, he and his wife, Amy, decided to start their shade and awning company during the pandemic.

“My wife helped me build the website,” Kaiserman says. “It took a little bit for us to get the word out, so in 2020 we did only about $60,000 in business. Then, the next year, we did about half a million. This year, we’re already eclipsing that. This is the best place in the country to have a shade and awning business because Phoenix is growing, and everybody needs shade.”

Though the company has done projects for residential owners, most of its business is commercial and runs the gamut from local city governments and daycares to national automotive dealerships.

“Anybody who needs to shade equipment,” Kaiserman explains. “We get a lot of churches where they have to shade playground equipment. Also, industrial warehouses that need to have shade areas for employees. Car dealerships like to shade their cars and might have different departments that also need shade, like the detail area.”

Phoenix Canopy and Shades’ clients include Auto Nation, U-Haul, and Discount Tire. Kaiserman says that one of their biggest market segments is the carwash industry.

“There are huge carwash companies here with multiple locations,” he continues. “And when you do a good job for one, the next thing you know, you have owners from other carwash chains calling. We’re now being asked if we will travel out of state, which is one of the reasons why we went to Florida.”

In addition to the 3,000-square-foot shop Phoenix Canopy and Shades shares with another company in Glendale, Kaiserman recently opened a sales office in Florida. “My partner Joseph Hale is our operations manager and in charge of our Orlando office,” Kaiserman says. He notes that a long-term business goal is to open another location in Texas — this one with additional manufacturing capability — to enable the company to serve more clients nationwide.

While Kaiserman and his team — including partner Ruben Neri, who is in charge of production at the Glendale facility — can “make pretty much anything somebody wants out of fabric,” he adds that shade sails, or tension fabric structures as they are also known, are one of their biggest sellers.

“We also do a lot of awning recovers, but pretty much everything is custom made to order,” Kaiserman continues. All of Phoenix Canopy and Shades’ products are constructed of Sunbrella and Commercial 95 fabrics and are double stitched with GORE Tenara sewing thread. The shade netting used by the company meets a comprehensive roster of fire resistance tests. And every product carries a 10-year warranty.

Kaiserman says some of the biggest differentiators between his company and others in the shade business are the time it takes to get a quote to a customer along with his team’s commitment to responsive communication.

“This is huge,” he continues. “I get calls all the time where people reached out to [another company] for a quote but can’t even get anybody to quote them. That’s pretty alarming. We’re quick to give quotes because I think when people start looking around for a company to perform this type of work, they often go with the one that communicates the best. And we really try to be responsive to the customer throughout the process.”

The company also tries to keep that process as simple as possible — eliminating unnecessary trips out to customers’ locations so they can avoid charging trip fees and increasing the cost of their product.

“We’ll typically ask the customer to send us an idea of what they want and photos of the area they need to cover,” Kaiserman says. “We can really do a lot over the phone and probably be able to give them an estimate with just that. If [the customer] wants to proceed, from there it depends on what they need. If it’s a recover, we’ll go out and measure it, take it back to the shop, cut it, and then have it reinstalled. If it’s a structure we have to build — for example, a hip canopy structure — then we just fabricate and deliver it.”

As far as technology, Kaiserman says that the sewing machines his team uses are “tried and true. That part is pretty simple. But we have taken advantage of some apps for communication between guys in the field, management, and the other departments on a project.”

Phoenix Canopy and Shades recently began using MaintainX
software to facilitate this transfer of information. “Everybody can see each job and what the requirements are,” Kaiserman continues, “so that communication between all the different steps is more congruent. That has helped out a lot. Everybody can just log on and look at the project.”

Once the company acquires a new location in the Phoenix area — they’re currently looking for a 3,000- to 4,000-square-foot manufacturing space of their own — Kaiserman says they may invest in a CNC machine to automate some of their fabric cutting process.

“The thing about that is it helps to have the same things to cut over and over,” he explains, “versus if we just do one custom shade sail. My cutters are so skilled that it’s faster and easier to do it by hand than to try to program it into a computer. When it comes to the one offs, you know, we find it’s just better to have one of our cutters cut it, then it goes to sewing and on its way. But in terms of doing a lot of recovers and shades for the carwash industry — like for their vacuum canopies — those all tend to be the same. So, we could program [the CNC] and do 25 or 30 all the same size. It would make sense at that point.”

Challenges: “Finding additional qualified people who can do the work,” Kaiserman says of his company’s challenges. “It’s a skill, and it’s not really easy to train somebody how to take a domed awning and recover it. Finding people with a high skill level like that is very hard because it seems to be a dying trade. I’ve had ads out for people at a pretty high pay rate and it has still been difficult.”

Photos courtesy Phoenix Canopy and Shades

Opportunities: Up until now, Phoenix Canopy and Shades has had to rely on other companies to install the products they’ve manufactured. However, Kaiserman and his team recently received their ROC license, which will now enable them to do their own installs.

“It’s going to really open things up for us,” Kaiserman says. “That’s why I can say that we’re going to grow three or four times in the next year or two. There has been a market there that we haven’t been able to chase because we weren’t capable of bidding on those particular projects. Now we can, and it’s going to be huge for us. We’re really excited about it.”

Needs: “Once we have our new location, we’ll go ahead and start adding equipment, vehicles, and talent,” Kaiserman says. Upcoming purchases will include a genie lift and a boring drill for installs as well as a small service fleet.