A Bright Light In Window Film
Michelle Hurtado is president of Sal's House of Tint in San Marcos, Texas. She graduated Cum Laude from Texas State University - San Marcos with a degree in business marketing in 2005. She also had worked in the construction industry and she relates that there were always a lot of guys around, so working in a mostly male-dominated industry has never fazed her.
Right after college she started at a Honda dealer as a Service Advisor. The role works with the customer and communicates with the service bay staff to recommend work to be done on vehicles. The dealership also had it's own automotive tint service in-house. In her role, Michelle became good friends with Sal Hurtado; he was the in-house tinter at the dealership. His consistent attention to detail and obsession with quality set him apart. After about five years of being acquainted, they decided to join together and open their own window film business.
"In 2010, we both quit on the same day and it was a bit of a surprise to the dealership, but we already had sublet a 1,200 square foot shop with a 14-foot bay door, right next to a glass business."
"Anytime you make a big change it's scary," said Michelle. "I had a business degree, but I had zero experience in the window film industry." Michelle joined the International Window Film Association right away. "I was searching online for information and came across the IWFA. I joined and ordered the Solar Control booklet they publish and studied it back to front many times over." Michelle later took the IWFA's Solar Control test and passed.
Being located right next to a glass dealer brought them some good fortune as the owner referred them to a real estate management company that was eager to have window film installed on three commercial office buildings in a big industrial park. So on day one, they didn't have to go looking for business.
"We went right into it, and we went big right away! Looking back, our quote was probably too low," said Michelle. She does the business quoting and helps on the prep work. For the office park job, they hired some part-timers to assist in the prep work. Sal did the installation and he is a stickler for quality. The first building took them about a week to complete. The amazing thing is that nine years later they are still working in that big industrial park, because the real estate development company keeps constructing more buildings and wants Sal's House of Tint to install window film on them all.
Best marketing secret
When asked what differentiates their business Michelle said it's important to zero in on your competitive advantage and then craft your entire marketing strategy around that and make sure the customer and everyone else know what that message it is. "Our advantage has always been from the get go: quality work." Others may compete on price or fancy trucks, but at the end of the day it's quality work that keeps our customers happy and coming back." Michelle is also big on gadgets that help to make the sale. We have our meters and thermo imaging cameras that really have an impact. Some people call to say their building is tinted, but they want to use something else that does a better job. We film one window using the window film we think would be best and then conduct tests to compare the old install to the new one, with the customer standing right there. Then the sale is easy.
I think a lot has changed in nine years, especially in the technology in the film. Consumer awareness is also increasing. People specifically ask questions about what the film will do for them.
Why join the IWFA?
Besides joining the IWFA immediately after forming the business and later on passing the Solar Control accreditation test, Michelle said she joined because it is the most credible association and she wanted her business to be seen as a member of a strong industry association to further set the business apart. The IWFA also offers good networking opportunities with industry experts outside their area. Michelle and Sal also attend the Window Film Conference and Tint-off (WFCT) for the same reason. Sal is a top, award winning, competitor at the WFCT. The WFCT is part of Window Film Magazine and not the IWFA.
Michelle thinks it is time for more growth. In addition to doing some prep work, she is the main sales person. A lot of time people are surprised to see her on the job after she gives them a quote. "We are a small team and people actually like that, but we operate in a big way.
They are doing more security film and are expanding that side of the business. Right now they are doing about 70 percent flat glass, equally balanced between residential and commercial and 30 percent automotive.
With all the hats she wears at work, Michelle sometime feels she is burning the stick at both ends. In fact she also actually twirls a fire stick for fun, essentially a long baton with lit wicks on each end! Sal is a musician and has a studio in their home. In addition they love to roller skate and contribute to community programs that promote sustainability and river stewardship. In 2014, she was named one of San Marcos's Shining Stars Under 40, an award given by the Chamber of Commerce for significant professional contributions and service within the community. Michelle sports a third-degree black belt and enjoys Shaolin-Do Kung Fu and Tai Chi.