Helping RVers Get a Good Night’s Sleep

How an engineer found a solution that blocks light and grew from a garage startup to a multimillion-dollar business.

Tim Stanley, CEO of Blackout EZ Window Covers, knows what it’s like when too much light interrupts a good night’s sleep.

When his three daughters were young, Stanley worked the third shift as a nighttime delivery driver. Trying to sleep during the day was tough.

“I covered my windows up with stuff that wouldn’t work,” he says. “The thing about tape and duct tape and cardboard is you can’t take it down. You have to recreate it every time.”

That’s when Stanley came up with his idea for a product that would Velcro onto his home’s windows, that he could easily put up and take off.

“It took me about 10 years. I messed around with it and then I actually launched it back in 2007,” he says.

While Blackout EZ Window Covers started as a product for homes, Stanley says he has sold it to churches, the military and to many RV owners. Stanley says a customer once told  him that being in the RV, because there are a lot of windows, it often feels like you’re in an aquarium when you’re at an RV park.

Blackout EZ Window Covers work for all types of RVs because they are custom-made. As an aftermarket product, RVers can go onto the company’s website and learn how to measure the windows in their unit, order off the website and the covers will be shipped out.

“We’ve got a template to show you how to measure your windows and then we ship it out – everything is custom. On RVs, there are so many different window sizes and window configurations,” he says.

While Stanley launched Blackout EZ Window Covers officially in 2007, it wasn’t until 2011 that he was able to retire from his position as an engineer for Thomas Built Buses and focus full time at his own burgeoning business. He now employees 10 people in this multimillion-dollar business with two locations where he lives with his wife, Jacqueline, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

“We have equipment and stuff that makes it real easy. So, it doesn’t take a lot of skill to do what we do – we have machines to do that,” Stanley says.

Some of his employees have been with him for up to 10 years, but he says finding good employees can be a challenge in a small business.

“A lot of people don’t want to work for a small business, because with a small business, you can’t hide,” he says. “Everybody has to contribute. Everybody has to work…There’s no hiding in a small business. Everybody has to produce and everything’s visible.”

Growing the Business & Going ‘All-In’

Stanley learned to make his business visible with social media marketing, using YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, as well as pay-per-click ads on Google. On YouTube, search Blackout EZ Window Covers for videos on how to measure and install the window covers and more.

Stanley says knew he needed to shoot demonstration videos and pictures for his website, where all of his business takes place, so he and his wife purchased an RV. Now his products are available on Amazon as well.

“She was against the whole idea,” Stanley says with a chuckle about buying an RV. “But we fell in love with RVing. It’s crazy – now I can’t keep my wife out of it.”

Even though his three daughters, Whitney, Sydney and Symone, are adults and living on their own, they still plan vacations around RVing. Stanley says in June they went on a trip to the Kansas City BBQ Festival at which his daughters were going to fly in and join them to stay in the RV.

“They’ll meet us and go on trips and plan trips around the RV. They’ll fly into a city and meet up halfway and ride with us,” he says.

The family’s favorite place to travel to is New England – they’ve been to Salem, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Vermont, as well as the White Mountains in New Hampshire and more.

“I like to be outside. I can be outside working in my yard until I pass out. I like the physical aspect of it. I like the sunshine,” he says. “My wife, she’s an outdoor person as well.”

It was during one of their RV trips that Stanley and his wife discovered they needed a Blackout cover for the unit’s air vents, too.

“The problem is, the sun is beaming in there and wakes you up,” he says. “My wife fussed at me for about six months. You know the saying, ‘The cobbler’s son has no shoes?’”

Stanley produces covers for the entry door and the skylights in the bathroom as well. All of the covers are a three-ply vinyl with a fabric mesh that attach to Velcro installed around the window or door. The product is designed to match the trim ring around the window, so the Velcro strip that’s applied isn’t noticeable when you remove the cover in the daytime.

“One of the big concerns in the RV is weight, so what these covers do as well is they insulate the window. You can have a lot of heat loss and heat gained through that window,” he says. “So when you put these covers up, it adds another layer of insulation.”

Another new option that Stanley offers allows RVers to show their American pride from the outside of the unit through the windows, with covers that have an American flag and say “American vet.” He also has an option with a United States map that can be colored in to show which states an owner has traveled to.

Everything needed to install the window covers is sent in a kit, but Stanley says some customers would still prefer someone else install the covers. He intends to start working with dealerships across the U.S. to train people on how to install them, so users can order the covers and have them installed nearby during their travels if they don’t wish to do it themselves.

“This is a really slick product and I just really like making it,” he says. “I’m solving a problem and people love it. When you get reviews like that, it kind of validates that you’re going in the right direction – you are in the right space – and it just gives you momentum.”

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