A technology-driven business rooted in Joplin is expanding its operation by bringing the manufacture of its power-driven window shades to town.
Jason Turner and lifelong friend and business partner Ryan Chacon started PowerShades in February 2017 after seeing a need for affordable but custom motorized shades for both smart home residential and commercial installations.
Turner, a graduate of Joplin High School, moved away from Joplin after school to pursue a career. He first went to Dallas, where he worked in high-end audio and custom audio. After a while, he wanted to be near his family again, and he returned to Joplin, pursuing an engineering degree at Pittsburg State University. Then he worked in the aerospace industry in Orlando, Florida.
“My family kept bringing me back to the area,” he said. He returned once again and worked for Leggett & Platt Inc., along with Chacon, before they decided to start PowerShades.
“What led us into the business was that we kept seeing an opportunity for this type of easy shade operation,” but they thought there were already providers in the market. “Then we looked into it and found out what we thought was available didn’t really exist for affordable shades,” he said.
That’s when he and Chacon decided to fill what they discovered was a gap in the industry.
With the help of a local group of investors, they set up an office in the Gryphon Building, 1027 S. Main St., to handle sales and design of the orders.
“Everything we do is custom, from the fabrics that are chosen and the type of windows they mount in to the type of hardware that is chosen,” Turner said. “They are specially tailored to the application.”
They started working with hotels and then expanded to sales for commercial buildings. They have since entered the high-end residential market.
PowerShades does not have any corporate retail locations. The company does some regional sales out of the Joplin office, but the majority are done through a network of about 600 dealers across the U.S. Fabric selection books are sent to the retailers for customers to make selections. When the Joplin office receives the order, the shades are made in the custom sizes for the customer’s windows.
Manufacturing had been outd to Florida after the startup of the business, but the partners moved it to Joplin early this year. They worked with the city of Joplin and the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce to lease a space for the manufacturing operation in the Advanced Training and Technology Center at 402 S. Grand Ave.
Most of that building is used by Crowder College for the center’s classes, but the vacant space that was available was the right fit for the work that would be there, Turner said. They installed equipment that allows shades to be made up to 20 feet wide.
Toby Teeter, president of the Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce, said there is space available in the center for advanced manufacturing such as that done by PowerShades as well as space available for training in advanced manufacturing.
“PowerShades did manufacture internationally, and they have been bringing that in-house and they are incubating their first version of their in-house manufacturing right there in the ATTC,” Teeter said. “They have rented 5,000 square feet, and they have plans to expand from there.”
Indoor and outdoor window coverings can be made to operate with AC or DC electrical applications, RF, solar power and the new Power over Ethernet.
In addition to practicality, the powered blinds can be intuitive, adjusting automatically to light conditions. Turner said that by using the ZIP code for the location where they are to be installed, they can be programmed to adjust automatically for the amount of light or darkness desired at different times of the day. They also will adjust for daylight saving time.
“It really allows us to make it very easy to tailor the behavior of the shade for a good morning scene or a good evening scene,” Turner said.
The smart features also make it easy for the company to do maintenance on the product through internet connectivity. The company can adjust the schedule of the functions simply by logging into a computer. That type of operation is particularly attractive to commercial customers such as hotels or large commercial buildings.
“The reality of the old-fashioned cords and pulling them up and down, that’s obviously not a big deal with a few blinds. The big difference is in large installations when it becomes too big of a deal to raise and lower 100 shades or even 1,000 shades,” Turner said.
In a hotel, people will check into a hotel room and turn all the lights on, raise all the shades and turn on the TV. The PowerShades systems work with the automation system in the building to make those adjustments.
“In big commercial buildings, we can lower the shades before the sun glare becomes a problem,” he said. “There is a pretty good savings on heating and air. All of those things we can do with automation as opposed to someone raising and lowering shades. The same thing applies in offices to get solar gain in winter.”
Owners of smart homes can lower the blinds and the lights with a one-touch button.
A new product line was introduced last year when the company launched a line of outdoor shades. With those, a homeowner can completely enclose outdoor spaces with bug screens or solar screens. They are made to operate within tracks so that they stay in place when the wind blows.
Outdoor shades also are made for restaurants or other businesses that want to create a patio space for customers.
There is a prime market for the outdoor shades, Turner said. “The whole outdoor kitchen and living space is really a growing market.”
Manual shades also can be made by the company.
Teeter said the chamber is highlighting technology-based businesses on the choosejoplin.com website to attract business and talent.
“We are using choosejoplin.com as a narrative and portal to explain what makes Joplin special,” Teeter said. “We have a number of software developers in our community that are doing some massive secret projects that are starting to unfold, and PowerShades is one of them.”