BOARDMAN, Ohio – Tammy Whitworth said selling Window World Inc. never entered her mind following the death of her husband three years after they purchased the company.
Whitworth, chairwoman and CEO of the North Carolina-based window installation and exterior remodeling company, will be the keynote speaker at tonight’s Athena Awards Dinner, presented by the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.
Ahead of the awards ceremony, Whitworth visited local franchisee Window World of Youngstown Wednesday.
Window World was founded on the “very simple idea” to sell a quality product at a reasonable price installed by “a true craftsman,” Whitworth said.
“We have taken great pride in resurrecting the reputation of the remodeling business by keeping everything transparent and honest and straightforward, and have been very successful with that,” she continued.
Whitworth became involved with Window World when she and her late husband, Todd, bought their first store in 1998, she recalled during an interview at the Window World store in Boardman, operated by the Moran family. Most franchisees, she noted, are husband-and-wife teams.
“That was the business model from Day One,” Whitworth said. “It is an opportunity where the franchises are very low cost, so they’re easy to acquire and you don’t have to have a lot of training. You just have to have a good work ethic and just do what you say you’re going to do.’
Since joining Window World, she has performed every task involved with the business, from answering phones to installing windows, she said. She and her husband subsequently opened other stores before Todd’s parents retired and the couple then bought the Window World corporate entity from them in 2007.
For the next three years, she focused on raising their three children and Window World Cares, an affiliated charity they launched in 2008, until Todd’s death in 2010.
“I woke up one morning and I was a widow, a single mother of three kids –11, 9 and 5 – and the inheritor of a business in need of daily supervision, so it was quite overwhelming,” she said. “A lot of people assumed I would sell the business, and I have never even thought about that.”
“It was scary for a lot of the owners,” said Pat Moran, who owns the franchise with his father, Fred Moran. “We worried because she could sell the company very easily.”
“Fortunately that didn’t happen,” Fred Moran said
Instead, Whitworth built a board of directors from her husband’s close advisers and friends to help her direct the company.
“People told me I had a choice. In my heart, I didn’t have a choice,” she said. “Window World was my family and these people had become family to me. Todd and I had plans and visions for the future, so it just felt like something that I needed to do but that I wanted to do.”
Since she took over Window World, sales have grown from $400 million to $790 million last year. The number of stores has grown from about 150 when she and her husband purchased the company to roughly 220 in 48 states. Over the years, Window World has expanded beyond window sales and installations.
“Home owners were happy with us, they were happy with their experience with Window World, so they were wanting more products. We have evolved into a whole exterior remodeler because of the needs of our customers,” she said. Beginning with vinyl siding, Window World has since added doors, garage doors and roofing.
“And it continues to evolve,” said Bob Schindler, vice president of marketing for Window World.
Whitworth acknowledged that she is a woman in a male-dominated industry, but said she is “the type of person that doesn’t worry a whole lot about what people think.” She believes that women need to support each other, but doesn’t consider herself a feminist.
“I don’t feel like somebody is a good business leader because they’re a man or a woman,” she said. “It’s how you go about the task, how you perform the responsibilities.” She advises other women, regardless of their objectives, to set their goals, work hard and not let anything stop them.
Window World of Youngstown has had “excellent support from corporate,” Fred Moran said. He and his son became Window World franchisees in 2003 after meeting with Todd and his father, Leon Whitworth.
“In my years, it’s one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” he said. The Boardman-based franchisee’s markets include Pittsburgh, Steubenville, Akron, Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit, the most recent addition.
Reflecting on the company’s growth, Whitworth said when construction of new houses slows, people keep their existing houses and remodel. “We didn’t feel the recession like a lot of other industries did,” she said.
The business also benefited in 2020, when people were under lockdowns or encouraged to stay in their homes and didn’t travel, she acknowledged. Other than one “scary” month, April, business was strong throughout 2020, which ended up being the company’s biggest year.
“We have never had sales like we had both last year and so far this year,” Pat Moran agreed. “The revenue is just tremendous.”
With Window World’s success, Whitworth said she and her husband “felt a desire and a responsibility to give back,” leading them to create Window World Cares in 2008. The fund has raised more than $12 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
In addition, the company assists the nation’s veterans through different organizations, she said. These include Veterans Airlift Command, through which Window World uses its own aircraft to provide transportation to wounded veterans and their families, primarily for medical reasons.
“It’s an honor for us to be able to fly them around,” she said. “So much about the Window World culture is family and giving back.”
Pictured: Window World CEO Tammy Whitworth, center, met with Youngstown franchisees Fred and Pat Moran ahead of Whitworth’s appearance at the Athena Awards.
Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.