Jason Mancuso is owner of The Awning Factory.
Tell me about The Awning Factory and what you do?
Mancuso: The Awning Factory provides various shade solutions for homes, businesses and restaurants. We basically help create outdoor spaces that can be more effectively used.
Often we’re called out to decks or backyards where a lot of time and money has been invested to create a seating or dining area, however they’re now finding that they can’t use the space as they had planned because it’s too hot, too windy or it always seems to rain as soon as the burgers are ready.
With the strong relationships we have built with various suppliers, we are able to provide shade to help complete any backyard.
How did the company come to be?
Mancuso: My dad opened The Awning Factory in our small garage in southeast Calgary in 1978. At the time, aluminum awnings were built onsite, so there wasn’t a need for much of a warehouse.
However, a few short years later home builders and contractors were all ordering awnings and it was time to grow. My dad purchased a warehouse and began full-scale manufacturing, producing hundreds of aluminum awnings per month.
As Calgary grew and changed, so did we and by the 1990s we expanded into fabric window awnings and more notably into retractable fabric patio awnings. With more and more attention being put into outdoor living areas, homeowners were looking for a solution beyond a little umbrella or a stuffy sunroom.
Nowadays, in addition to awnings, we install retractable screens to help close in areas that already have a covered roof like walkout basements or covered decks. Our customers love how the addition of these screens has instantly added a room to their homes.
What makes your company different than the others in your field?
Mancuso: There are a number of things that we feel make us different than others in our field.
First, we understand that awnings aren’t exactly a household item that everyone grows up with so we use our decades of experience to educate our customers. The Internet can cause a lot of confusion when shopping online so we know that in-home visits, where we can take the time to explain the details, is important.
Unlike others, we are not limited to only one type or supplier, so we can offer the product that is right for them.
To further help our customers, we have a gorgeous showroom where our customers can see and experience all of our different solutions.
We also feel it’s important that awnings that are installed in Canada be manufactured in Canada. We have a harsh environment and want to know our products will withstand this harsh environment. Buying Canadian ensures a quick turnaround without added transportation costs or delays, all while supporting Canadian business.
What’s your vision for the company?
Mancuso: I see a future where we continue to grow by being flexible and adapting as we have for the past 40 years.
It’s tempting to just become an online company like so many others but we understand the importance of face-to-face interactions and building trust with our customers.
We will continue to service the residential market but we see our growth coming from the demand for our solutions on restaurant patios. We all put up with winter, so when summer arrives we all want to be out on a patio sipping a cold beverage or two, but when that sudden wind or rain storm catches us off guard we all run for cover. With the use of our products, we hope that one day all restaurants will be able to protect their guests at the press of a button.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received about being an entrepreneur?
Mancuso: The best piece of knowledge I’ve ever been given is to trust in yourself. When starting out or expanding, there are never a lack of opinions from people around you. But the truth is that only you know what is best for your business. It’s obviously scary making those decisions but that’s where you have to just listen to your gut.
A piece of advice that I would give is to take care of the little things. Business is all about the little things that are easy to complete but because they are little things it’s also easy to think they can be done tomorrow or not at all. Take care of the little things and big things will happen.
Interviewed by Mario Toneguzzi, a Troy Media business reporter based in Calgary.