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5 lessons learned from a successful home improvement company


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Brenda Goran, Founder of Design Equations

Design Equations owner Brenda Goran is proving that innovation is not limited to conducting R&D in laboratories. In fact, her creative idea for a business came from her own backyard.

After building a new home, she was looking for a more durable, attractive alternative to using latticework or wood for skirting around her deck. Her solution was an industrial mesh fabric that also provided a more fashionable, discreet look.

“We first pitched the concept to a home hardware company and it was a winner,” says Goran, who got her business off the ground in St. François Xavier, Manitoba, just west of Winnipeg. Today, her product line is available at garden and home improvement centres across Canada.

Diversify your business

Her skirting has proved to be so popular with customers that she has diversified her line with railing weaves, fence panels and design stencils.

“I recognized a trend that basement windows were getting larger and that decks were being raised. The real challenge was being able to respond to that need quickly and launch the product in a short period of time,” says Goran, whose products went from concept design to store shelves in under a year.

Create concepts that resonate with customers

She attributes the success of Design Equations to a product that truly resonates with customers. “People want beautiful things but they don’t necessarily want to invest too much time and energy to get them. Unlike wood or latticework, my skirting is relatively easy to install and maintain.”

The product’s durability is also a plus for consumers. To prove that her mesh fabric was strong enough to endure Canadian winters, she took it to a hockey rink and had her son shoot hockey pucks at it.

Get an external point of view

Finding a way to market her line and appeal to both consumers and retailers at the same time has also been crucial to her company’s success, she says. “I’ve been an entrepreneur for more than twenty-five years. However, I had no experience with distribution and selling to retailers. I knew I needed some help in that area.”

She decided to go to BDC for coaching, which proved to be invaluable.

“I was skeptical at first about getting an external point of view but sometimes you really need that sounding board. In the end, their advice helped me find a marketing direction, and I was able to build a brand that had an innovative and fresh look.”

Aim for low-cost marketing that pays off

Goran relies largely on trade shows to give her company visibility, but she also focuses on using low-cost marketing strategies. For example, she created a “before-and-after contest” for her customers, featuring homes with and without her product. The winners then receive gift cards at retailers who carry her line.

“I really believe that if you have a passion for what you do and you believe in your product, you can make a success of it.”

Lessons learned

  1. Pay attention to what consumers need and respond to that need.
  2. Innovate by offering a product with unique selling points.
  3. Pitch your product to a potential customer before your launch.
  4. Get business coaching in areas where you may need help, such as marketing.
  5. Be consistent with your brand and look to establish a strong presence in the market.

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