Ernie Arango and Pat Campobasso have a unique partnership (they both do everything), a stripped down business model (no storefront, no shop and no warehouse), a “nothin’-fancy” customer interface (a well-aged Ford pickup and a website loaded with videos) and a success story for Sierra Shading Solutions Inc. in Sparks, Nev., to support it all.
Their approach was an intentional decision. “We don’t want to be manufacturers,” says Arango, and they don’t want to store inventory. “We want to keep our overhead low—as low as possible.” When they make a sale, they go through the appropriate supplier, pick it up at the trucking company when it’s shipped, and go out and install it.
“It’s a time-saver for us,” he says—and it has other benefits.“ [Customers] always want to know, ‘are you the guys who are going to install it?’ When somebody meets our company, they meet the owners.”
It also allows them to maintain competitive prices and still offer quality products. For example, their European rolling shutters are expensive, but “buying an exterior product is the right thing to do for sun control,” he says, because it doesn’t let that extra heat inside the house in the first place. “We don’t have any trouble at all explaining the benefits,” he adds.
They primarily use one awning manufacturer and one for interiors. “We’re not an exclusive for anybody,” Arango says. “We know where to acquire products, and we make sure we use quality products. We think it’s a strength if we want to grow.”
The back story
Campobasso is the one with a long history in the industry. He started as an installer and fabricator for a southern California awning company, where he learned the nuts and bolts of the business. A few years later he moved to Sparks and worked for a roll shutter company. After 18 years, “I decided I was done working for other people,” Campobasso says.
When he started the company with Arango, they offered exterior shading products only—retractable awnings, European-style rolling shutters, retractable and framed solar screens—and added interior window treatments to “keep busy in the winter time, too.”
Arango was a math teacher at a nearby community college at the time and worked part-time with Sierra Shading. Two years ago, he left teaching just for the summer to get them through their busy season, but he hasn’t had time to go back. He still uses his teaching skills, though, “to educate a potential customer about a product,” he says.
Alike, but different
Relaxation time for both centers around home and family. Campobasso enjoys camping and fishing and spending time with extended family living in the Sparks area.
Arango calls himself “a homebody” who enjoys sports with his three boys and following the financial markets. “I like to know what’s going on in the world.”
Campobasso likes keeping up on new developments, too. “I’m a big fan of anything new in our industry,” he says, which is why they like going to IFAI Expo Americas. “We’re always trying to find that new product, that new thing,” Campobasso says.
Expo was a new experience for Arango, who had never gone to trade shows before working with Sierra Shading, and it proved to be valuable. “It really opened up my eyes,” he says.