Glass Franchise Grants Duo Second Career

TARRANT COUNTY | Monday, July 02, 2007

When Scott Berger and his father George launched SGO Designer Glass of Tarrant County three years ago, they not only forged a closer bond, but they also found themselves on the cutting edge of some current business trends, including franchising and pursuing a second career.

Scott had built a 20-year career with RadioShack Corp., moving from quality assurance to product development manager when he was laid off in 2004. Then 42, he faced a difficult choice: find another corporate desk job or live the American dream and start his own business.

He chose the latter, and he's never looked back.

Scott had learned the craft of making traditional stained glass as a teenager growing up in Chicago. He continued his hobby after the family relocated in 1972 to Fort Worth, where George took a management position in human resources at RadioShack.

"I really enjoy making traditional stained glass," Scott says. "I'm a ‘garage artist' because I'd work in spare bedrooms, basements, garages, out-buildings wherever I could find a place to do stained glass." Once he decided to be his own boss, Scott explored the idea of franchising. But before making the leap, he went to a franchise broker to research a variety of industries, different business models and market demands.

When the broker asked him what he had a passion for, Scott says he blurted out "stained glass" without ever thinking about it.

"I wanted to open a stained-glass shop. I wanted to do something artsy and use the creative side of my brain for a change. When the broker showed me SGO, I knew the franchise would lend itself to my artistic background." Scott says he didn't really need to twist his father's arm to join him in the new enterprise.

George, 69, had retired from RadioShack in 2000 after 38 years, and was ready to do something else, although he hadn't considered a second career at his age.

"I got tired of playing golf and working out. I wasn't looking to start a business but when Scott found SGO, I felt it was a good match for us," George says.

The two conducted extensive research into the company, Stained Glass Overlay Inc., before signing on the dotted line. Based in Orange, Calif., the company was founded in 1974 and, with more than 150 studios around the world, it has become the leader in the custom architectural decorative glass industry. The company specializes in offering a faux-stained glass "Overlay" product. A Mylar-type overlay is applied to tempered safety glass and is then leaded on both sides to create a mirror image of itself. More than 300 colors and textures are available, and applications include sidelights, transoms, bathroom and playroom windows, shower doors, and even windows in religious buildings.

"This offers freedom of design that you can't do with traditional stained glass," says George.

"We were very impressed with the product first and then the company." A creative idea There are only a handful of SGO franchises across Texas. The Bergers purchased a double territory and own the exclusive franchise rights for all of Tarrant County. The men didn't disclose what their initial investment and start-up fees were, but that it was a six-figure amount. They expect to reach the break-even point within the usual three-to-five year period for small businesses.

The two men with one full-time fabricator and a little help from other family members handle the day-to-day operations as well as the custom designing, building and installation of the panels. Residential customers make up the bulk of business, but the men say more homebuilders and small-business owners are finding their products. The Bergers were recommended to homeowner Carolyn Anders of Colleyville, who had specific ideas for replacing her kitchen cabinets with glass.

"I never would have thought of this. I call it stained glass, but you can't tell the difference," she said. "The Bergers have plenty of creative ideas for anyone who has set ideas like I did, or for someone who has no idea what to design." Applications start at $85 a square foot, less than the $125 a traditional stained-glass artist might charge. Scott Berger says the hardest part of his business is letting people know there are alternatives, and that his product is more energy-efficient, practical, decorative and versatile than stainedglass.

"You're not only buying the functionality of the product," Scott says. "You're buying a piece of art that will last a long time."

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Stained Glass Overlay
1827 N. Case St.
Orange, CA

Phone: (714)974-6124
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