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Pete Ciccocioppo and Brett Cohen, presidents of Kitchen Saver in Lewisberry, Pennsylvania, and Baltimore, have spent the better part of a decade perfecting the company’s processes. In 2010, they re-launched their business to simplify it and make it operate faster with more precision.
Kitchen Saver began its life in 1980 with a focus on cabinet refacing but, through the years, the business has evolved and diversified into bigger, more customized kitchen projects. During that evolution, the business split into separately owned Lewisberry and Baltimore operations and, at one point in the mid-1990s, the Lewisberry business was briefly sold then reacquired.
Kitchen Saver’s 2010 reboot was an acknowledgement by its owners that to grow, it needed to stay closer to its home improvement roots. They sought to put the focus on driving more leads, selling jobs and installing them in a more predictable timeframe, Ciccocioppo explains. They wanted a business that was more controlled, faster-paced and ultimately more profitable.
There was some trial-and-error during the first few years after Kitchen Saver’s rebranding. They faced tough decisions trying to find the optimal product mix to maximize the ROI of lead generation but still maintain a streamlined production model. “We decided that we did not want to be all things to all people,” says Ciccocioppo, who has been with the firm since 1986. “We wanted to specialize in certain products and make it a one-call sales business where we take the showroom to the customer.
“That’s the beauty of cabinet refacing. People don’t have to come in and look at designs and new kitchen layouts,” he adds. “They live in their house. They know where the sink is. They know where the range is. They know where they are going to put their cereal and their pots and pans. The sale and the decisions become just a matter of color and styles.”
The company also added a strong warranty to its program. Typically, the only applicable warranties came from the cabinet-door manufacturer or the countertop manufacturer, but Kitchen Saver offers a 10-year warranty on everything, including labor.
The new Kitchen Saver formula is working well. Last year the firm(s) exceeded $24 million in sales, starting from less than $3 million in 2010. Much of this growth can be attributed to geographical expansion of company-owned offices—first in King of Prussia, outside of Philadelphia, then to Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati and Cleveland. In addition, Cohen’s operation in Maryland and Virginia grew more than 100 percent over the past three years.
On a recent tour of the company’s facilities in Lewisberry, the scale of their operation and their deep experience in the home improvement industry was reflected in key operational upgrades. First, the company is home to a newly built-out marketing wing, complete with a videography studio. In addition to coordinating advertising and social media across each of their markets, the marketing team creates original content to use. Second, an adjacent building houses a large call-center operation, where approximately one-quarter of the 94 active booths are dedicated to responding to Kitchen Saver leads and online inquiries.
Lastly, the facility is home to training rooms, a showroom, and a carpentry center where specialty and supplement cabinets are built as needed for jobs sold. The carpenters there also build and maintain dozens of large, but portable, home show displays that include a full kitchen vignette. Home shows and events are the key driver of leads for new business. The company exhibits at hundreds of events annually.
“We have larger displays that are modular units, and rather than having to send a crew of installers in somewhere and set up a display, we have modular 5-foot-wall-based cabinet and countertop kitchen displays that can be rolled in and out very easily and set up in a matter a half-hour,” Ciccocioppo explains. “So you have a nice show setup with beautiful lighting and everything else. It can be set up everywhere from a street fair to a two-day home show.”
He notes the company has found that setting up displays at events tends to generate better leads. “They are passive prospects who were not there looking for three quotes, nor are you competing with roofing, siding and windows. They are captive audiences where you can show a great solution and a way to pay for it.”
Taking on Partners
The success of the new Kitchen Saver business model has opened doors for the company. It now has a business relationship with one of the big-box retailers offering kitchen refacing services. As a result, the company is looking for home improvement professionals in other markets who can help them scale up Kitchen Saver in new locations using their local big-box retailer as a significant starting point for qualified leads. All the back-office marketing, training, finance, HR support, recruiting, licensing and call-center operations will come with the partnership, Ciccocioppo says.
“For us to start up a whole operation in a new location takes time,” he explains. “If there is somebody who already has the business, we can make that work, and then we can explore a partnership because the big-box retailer is looking for us to be in more locations.”
Franchise and dealer opportunities throughout the home improvement industry vary widely. This opportunity is termed a “partnership” because there are no upfront fees, but certain capital minimums are required. With the back-office functions covered by Kitchen Saver, the local partner can simply focus on acquiring new customers. | QR