DURBAN – Durban entrepreneur Jean Hubert has poured his energy into growing his small family-owned window covering manufacturing business that has expanded to have a national footprint over the past 50 years.
Hubert, who obtained a degree in civil engineering at the University of the Witwatersrand and a master of philosophy in future studies at the University of Stellenbosch, initially joined Windovert to “stay for a year” and help his stepfather, who founded the firm in Joburg in 1969.
“We have always had a branch in Durban and by 1985 I had taken over the business completely and had moved down to Durban. There was a demand for the product throughout the country and initially we had agents,” Hubert said.
He added that the firm eventually took a strategic decision to open branches and today it has 25 outlets countrywide, including across KwaZulu-Natal on the North Coast, South Coast, in Durban and the Midlands as well as in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The firm supplies a range of blinds, awnings, doors and window coverings, and has two manufacturing plants, a 1200m² factory in Durban and a 6500m² factory in Joburg, employing 110 staff and creating a further 40 jobs indirectly at franchise branches.
Hubert took a slightly different approach when opening the franchise branches, requiring franchisees to invest in the marketing and advertising of the business rather than paying a large up-front sale price.
“We have a system where the franchisees can buy from approved suppliers and our factory is one of the approved suppliers.
“Our strategy has always been that we don’t sell a product, we sell a service, so when you get a consultant coming to see you he has the widest range of products available because they have access to all suppliers in the country,” Hubert said.
He added that the reason for supplying products from a range of manufacturers was that it was impossible to design and build every imaginable type of window blind customers required.
The firm’s business model and a focus on providing customers with top service and access to the latest international trends had stood it in good stead during difficult financial times, Hubert said.
He added that his stepfather had taught him to be commercially savvy and had always made morally correct decisions.
“He treated people fairly and tried to give fair service,” Hubert said.
Looking ahead, Hubert’s son Etienne has joined him in the business and is now in the process of taking over completely.
– THE MERCURY