Beating the heat

Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Burns Mulhearn, left, and Beau Dingler discuss their Baton Rouge-based solar window film business, including its use on the Park Laureate Building, left, where former President George H.W. Bush's office is located in downtown Houston. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by BILL FEIG -- Burns Mulhearn, left, and Beau Dingler discuss their Baton Rouge-based solar window film business, including its use on the Park Laureate Building, left, where former President George H.W. Bush's office is located in downtown Houston.

Geoshield’s window film in global markets

Burns Mulhearn and Beau Dingler started their company, Geoshield, in 2005 by going door-to-door in Baton Rouge shopping centers.

“We were 25 years old, putting down the little bit of money we had to go overseas and buy window tint,” said Mulhearn, president of Geoshield.

When they got back to the U.S., Mulhearn and Dingler didn’t have any customers, so they had to beat the streets.

“I remember going to shopping centers and just walking from store to store: ‘Would y’all be interested in window tint?’” said Dingler, vice president of the company. “That was pretty rough.”

From those modest beginnings, Geoshield has grown to a worldwide company with distributors in the Middle East, Canada, Central America and South America. In 2011, the company did just over $1 million in sales. Geoshield manufactures and distributes window films that are used in automobiles, homes and commercial buildings, blocking heat while allowing the sun to shine through.

Geoshield marked its seventh birthday this year with two major milestones.

The first was a trip this spring to the Middle East, which allowed Mulhearn and Dingler to finally meet their dealers in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Oman. Geoshield first opened a distribution office in Saudi Arabia in 2009 and now has more than 25 company-branded shops in the Middle East, which account for 15 percent of the company’s annual revenue. But Mulhearn and Dingler had just been in contact with those distributors via e-mail and Google chat.

Through an international trade promotion program, the Louisiana economic development department reimbursed the travel costs for Mulhearn and Dingler to go to Saudi Arabia. LED also helped to arrange a field meeting with Middle East dealers, where the company gave out awards to outstanding distributors.

“Automotive films, paint protection films are big business over there,” Dingler said.

The blazing desert sun and constant sandstorms generate a high demand for Geoshield products.

The second milestone happened last month when Geoshield was named “International Company of the Year” by the Louisiana Business & Technology Center.

Geoshield window films have been installed in regional landmarks, including Tiger Stadium, Middleton Library, L’Auberge Casino Resort in Lake Charles and the Shaw Center for the Arts. The Park Laureate Building in downtown Houston, where former President George H.W. Bush has his offices, has Geoshield films. Recently the company completed an order for Redbox. The company wanted 12,000 screen covers to protect its DVD rental machines.

Mulhearn and Dingler said the heat from sunlight was distorting the touch screens on Redbox machines that were placed outside.

Mulhearn and Dingler have been friends since they were middle school students in Lake Charles. After they graduated from LSU, they were looking around for business opportunities in the energy sector.

“It was right after Katrina, and energy prices were through the roof,” Mulhearn said.

At first, the two wanted to do something with solar panels. But Dingler said the market for solar energy in Louisiana was “non-existent” at the time. Mulhearn found something on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website about window films. The two decided manufacturing and distributing window film was the way to go because it offered more of a “bang for your buck” investment.

“You can spend $1,000 on window film and see your energy bills come down 20 percent in the summer months,” Dingler said.

Mulhearn got in touch with a Japanese cement company that found a way to thinly coat polyester window film with a layer of ceramics, which blocked much of the solar heat while allowing the sun to shine through. The two men started working with the company to improve the components of the film so they could sell it in the U.S.

Mulhearn notes the Geoshield films are entirely dye and metal free, meaning they won’t rust or fade. And the fact that the films don’t have metal in them makes them ideal for use in automobiles, since they won’t interfere with wireless signals, satellite radios or GPS systems.

The Geoshield films are manufactured at a variety of locations across the U.S. and internationally. Then the master rolls of film, which can be up to 3,000 feet in length, are shipped to Baton Rouge and chopped down to smaller sizes for distribution. There are more than 300 Geoshield distributors in the U.S.

The company entered the Middle Eastern market thanks to the persistent efforts of Fahad Almuzaini, who contacted the company through its website and started asking questions about opportunities for overseas distribution. But it wasn’t an easy deal. Almuzaini spent three to six months “just hammering Burns with questions,” Dingler said. “There were thousands of emails between us,” said Mulhearn.

Geoshield has proven to be a popular brand in the Middle East.

“They really love American brands over there,” said Mulhearn. “We offered to translate all of the marketing materials, but they wanted all of them in English.”

“They like English. It means quality,” Dingler said.

The latest venture for the company is going back to the original business plans. Mulhearn and Dingler recently launched EcoPro Solar Supply, which sells everything needed for solar energy installation. EcoPro has been training local contractors how to set up solar energy systems through a program at Baton Rouge Community College.

Dingler said the time was right to get into the business, now that Louisiana has passed incentives to encourage the use of solar energy.

“We’re now an energy services company,” he said.