Monday, February 22, 2016

Pontoon Bimini Tops with Flare for Style

As I was browsing the internet looking at different bimini tops it occurred to me that they really all look pretty similar. The difference between most of them has a lot to do with price. Price can be influenced by many different variables. The biggest probably being where it was manufactured. Find a bimini top for under 200.00 with a frame? You can bet it was probably made in China. That is just the way it goes. There are also the “cookie cutter” bimini tops and frames out there as well. Nothing wrong with that. There is a place in the market for those type of bimini tops and frames too. Quality of the raw materials, work force, even location go into pricing out these very similar looking tops. No doubt some are better than others. No doubt about it, you typically get what you pay for. But what if you want something different? Something that will set your boat off from everyone else? The bimini top is very often the first thing people notice about your boat when you are out on the water. I for one like to be the guy on the water that has something different than everyone else. I like being approached by fellow boaters about my boat and my bimini top. I’ve got a bimini top unlike any other on the lake I’m on. The frame is curved. Not curved side to side – everyone’s does that. No my main bow, front bow, and braces are curved. They “lean back” as my son puts it. We did it for a reason – it looks pretty cool on the boat. It attracts attention. It is different than any other bimini top I’ve seen. There are a couple of boat builders out there doing it now too. It is catching on. I haven’t seen any in the aftermarket yet though – except for mine. My Northstar Bimini Top with a curved frame. It turns heads wherever I go. Won’t cost you an arm and a leg either. Come check out how we stay ahead of the competition on price, quality, and style. Come check out Northstar Products Inc.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Custom Bimini Tops. Made in the USA

One size does not fit all. I've seen a lot of Bimini tops for different kinds of boats that claim to fit 94-102" wide - same top same frame.  That doesn't seem right to me.  When you buy shoes you buy the size you need.  You don't buy a shoe that you may have to squeeze your foot into or so big you may walk right out of them.  You buy the size you need.  The price is the same if it is an 8 or an 11.  Why should your Bimini top for your boat be any different?  You can buy the length and width you need and it won't cost you a penny more.   If your boat is 89" wide and you want a double Bimini top but your front rails are 5" lower than the back rails then you should be able to order a double Bimini too that is 89" wide and accommodate a different rail height for no extra charge.  With Northstar Products you can.  We specialize in it.  Custom Bimini tops for a basic price.  Unmatched quality.  The best part - ALL made in the USA!  Try us- you'll be amazed.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Bimini Tops with Stanless Steel Frames Are Less Expensive Than You Think

Over the years we have listened to our customers and have brought out products that they want. We began with 1 fabric and 1 frame size. We have evolved into so much more. The most recent product we have been asked for is a high quality bimini top with a stainless steel frame. While our focus is always on quality we wanted to ensure we could offer a high quality bimini top with a stainless frame at a competitive price. What we have found out is there are a lot of opportunities for us to grow this new line given how expensive stainless frames with bimini tops seem to be.

We currently offer a small stainless frame and bimini top that is 6' long as well as one that is 7'6" long that are used widely on small fiberglass runabout boats. The frames we are being asked for are much bigger - typically 90" wide and 10' long. Given how big they are we realized that cutting the frame for shipping is not an option. We were not comfortable with the way the frame performed after re-assembly given its size. We decided to look into keeping the frames uncut to send them out. What kind of cost will this have on our end product? What we have found out is even with shipping these frames via RL Carriers and charging the 150.00 - 250.00 to get them to their destination we are still coming in at a less expensive price with far higher quality item than is currently available. We install the bimini on the frame, put the boot on, wrap it in plastic, and box it up. When you get it all you have to do is open the box, install the hardware on your boat and put the bimini on. No assembly is required. If you take into consideration the amount of time you need to assemble a frame, and put a dollar amount on what your time is worth, this really isn't very expensive at all.

We can build stainless frames - with stainless fittings and deck mounts - from 6' wide to 8'6" wide. We can build them with bimini tops that range from 7' long to 10' long. We utilize three different fabrics with 3 different warranties to stay attractive in several price points. The tops and frames we produce pull out tight and will really breath new life into any boat. The tubing we use is 7/8" 304 stainless. The same is true for the fittings, deck mounts, and fasteners we use. We typically build the frames with rear braces and font adjustable straps. All frames are 4 bows.

The bimini tops we build utilize zippered pockets to easily take the bimini on and off the frame if the need arises. We use YKK or Lenzip zippers. Each corner of our bimni top utilizes a button that snaps to the frame to keep the top centered and pulled tight. We run all of the edges of our bimini tops through a surging machine to lock in the edge of the fabric to prevent fraying. We then use a color coordinated edging all the way around the perimeter to give it a custom finished look. The storage boot is always included. We go the extra steps to ensure the bimini top we make for you is exactly the way you want it and will hold up under the rigors of being on the water and in the elements. Its important to us because we are boaters too. One of the main core competencies of our company is asking ourselves "would I want this on my boat"? I believe your answer to that question will be "yes". Give us a shot. You won't be disappointed.

Monday, March 3, 2014

5 best pieces of advice that helped grow Northstar Products Inc.

The landscape was different in the fall of 2007.  The boating industry was living large and everyone seemed to be doing well.  The housing industry was going crazy and people were buying boats faster than they could be built.  Champagne was falling from the sky and everyone got lucky on a friday night.  Okay maybe it wasn't THAT great but times were pretty good.

Then it happened.  It stopped.  The country stopped.  The housing industry collapsed.  Financial institutions went belly up left and right.  So did boat dealers and boat builders.  It was in that time I began a company called Northstar Products Inc.  My mission was to provide a high quality bimini top for a pontoon boat at a fair price.  Simple game plan.  We went from an idea in 2007 to reality a few months later in January of 2008.  6 years later a lot has changed.  Some things though....the important things...have stayed the same.  

I received a lot of advice from a lot of people on what to do and how to run a successful online company that is selling a high dollar item sight unseen.  Here are the top 5 pieces of advice I took - and I'm glad I did.

5.  Fifth place.  You can't please everyone all of the time.  No matter how hard you try there are just some people out there that aren't happy unless they are miserable.  They will try to make you miserable too.  Do everything within reason to accomodate your customers.  Key words - within reason.  If you have a customer asking you to do something unreasonable chances are there is nothing you will be able to do to satisfy them.  Don't be unprofessional about it, just explain your reasons clearly and if it isn't good enough then congrats, you just ran into that customer you can't please.  Let it go.

4.  Fourth place - just out of medal contention - Don't compete on price.  You will lose.  There is always someone out there that can buy raw materials in larger quantities and cheaper.  They can produce cheaper and sell cheaper.  Identify the market you are after.  Try to go after different market segments within reason.  We developed a three tier system - entry level, mid level, high level bimini tops.  Our entry level top is no the cheapest out there.  It's not the most expensive either.  It doesn't make sense to sell a product you aren't making money on.  That is a great recipe to go out of business.  Know your expenses and price accordingly.  Make less on entry level items and more on high level items by adding value as well as price to upgrade your products.

3. Third place - the bronze medal -  Use quality parts/raw materials.  Don't skimp on this part.  I know companies that will buy second quality fabric and pass it off as first quality stuff.  It cheapens your product and your name.  Take the high road - it will pay off.  Cheap parts will only cause your phone to ring off the hook  with angry customers.  My goal is to spend my time on the phone taking orders, not explaining why the zippers just fell off the bimini top.  

2.  Second place - the runner up is....Every "problem" is a chance to excel.  Sometimes I feel the best feedback we get is from how we handle a problem or issue a customer has with one of our products.  We don't walk on water so mistakes happen.  Customers will have problems from time to time.  Perhaps the frame is scratched up, or there is missing hardware.  The top is the wrong color or the wrong size, or the wrong fabric.  What are you going to do to fix it?  Do whatever it takes.  Go beyond what the customer expects or asks for.  The extra effort and money you put into it will directly lead to more sales.  Your customer will be so impressed with how you handled the problem or error they will go out and tell all their friends or anyone they run into how you fixed the problem.  

1. First place.  The Gold medal - Service, Service, Service.   This is lacking big time all over.  Not just online but really everywhere you go.  From the bad service at seemingly every restaurant you go to all the way to the car dealership that you just have this bad feeling about.  Bad service is everywhere.  Not at Northstar Products though.  We believe in working just as hard to make sure our product goes on your boat the way you intended as we did to secure the sale.  We work hard to answer emails quickly and honestly.  If we can't make something for you we will let you know so we don't waste your time.  We will even give you an idea of where to go if we can't help.  I can't stress enough that our service is most responsible for our growth.  

There are a lot of places to buy bimini tops for boats out there.  Our service is second to none.  Come see for yourself.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Best Quality Pontoon Boat Bimini Top

I was surfing the net today to see what the competiton was up to. When I do that sort of thing I try really hard to put myself in the shoes of a consumer - you know, someone who is looking to buy a bimini top. I try to keep an open mind...I really do. Sometimes it is difficult though to keep a straight face. Here are a few things I "learned" today:

If your bimini top hasn't faded in 5 years it probably won't fade in another 5 years.

90% of all pontoon boats are 8' wide.

People that sell on ebay are typically college students selling out of their dorm room

Wow...there were more great lines but to keep this from dragging on and on lets just leave it at these three. As someone that has been around different fabrics my whole life I can tell you the first line is a bit off. I was going to email the website and ask if they believed that statement will they give me a 10 year warranty on their 5 year fabric?

90% of all pontoon boats are 8' wide. If it were the year 1999 I'd agree a little more but not completely. Most are 8'6" wide in 2014.

I have bought and sold quite a bit on ebay. I have never had the impression the seller was in a dorm room. I have never sold anything from a dorm room.

As a consumer I feel a bit lost when it comes to who is saying what online. Bimini tops are not cheap. If I dig into this topic online far enough I am going to get more and more confused. I would want to call someone who can help. Call Northstar Products - we are here to help. We will answer all questions honestly. We won't pressure you into upgrades or try to sell you something that may or may not fit correctly. Doing business with us is like doing business with a family member or friend. We will treat you fair and help you pick out the right top for you and your boat. We are not a one size fits all sort of business. If you want your bimini frame and top to be 92" wide we are not going to make you buy an 8' wide frame and push it into a 92" wide boat. We will build it 92" wide for you. No extra charge to do it either. Remember you are working with a friend here.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Customer service and quality done right

I ordered a kids toy my daughter saw on a commercial while watching nickelodeon. It's Christmas and she's been good and it's only 20.00 so I jumped online and ordered it.  One less present to buy.   Check it off the list. Two days later I receive a phone call from the company thanking me for the order.  How nice, I think to myself as the person on the other end thanks me for my recent purchase.  If only the call stopped there.

They want to send me 100.00 in gas cards because of my purchase and sign me up for a savers program for just 1.00 for the first 14 days and then only 29.95 each month after.  (Insert sarcasm). "No thanks, just send my order" is my reply.  They assure me my order has been shipped but they need to verify my credit card for the savers program and free gas cards.  "No thanks" and I hang up.  

The next day another call comes in from the same company with the same request.  I tell them I don't have a credit card with me and that I've maxed it out anyways.  (Not entirely true, but close). They gave me a number to call them back when I can, to give them my credit card -which I won't do.  

What I thought was going to be a pleasant experience turned into a terrible one with that first phone call to thank me for the order.  If it had stopped there - with a thank you - I would have ordered another set for my niece but since it is only a front for some other savings program I decided against it.

Being in a business that manufactures and sells products to consumers, I am always anxious to see how other companies handle customer service.  This particular companies treatment of their customer - me - actually cost them a sale.  

At Northstar Products we try to create a relationship with our customers that emulate the relationship you have with a family member or close friend.  We are happy to answer your questions about our products or refer you to another company if we can't help you out.  We want a company to do that for us as consumers as well.  We treat our customers and potential customers the way we would want to be treated.  

There are a lot of places to buy canvas for your boat, especially with the internet involved.  You can buy from anyone, but not everyone will go the extra lengths we are willing to go.

Give us a call.  Let's talk about what you need and what you don't need.  Let's put a good looking piece of canvas on your boat for a good price.  Let's turn some heads on the water and keep some money in your wallet.

Only 94 days till spring!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Who Makes the Best Boat Top?

Working in this industry I see a lot of sites and blogs that like to compare products and spotlight different products. While most are worth reading it is rare to find any comparisons on what allows us to stay on the water in the hot blistering sun - the bimini top. Without the bimini top keeping us out of the sun, our time on the water will be cut short due to blistering sun burns, dehydration, and perhaps death. OK maybe not death, at least not right away.

Boat builders they are the first to say they need to offer bimini tops with their boats, but they end up putting the cheapest thing on it they can find just to say they offer it. Not all of them do it but a significant amount do. Boat manufacturers pour money into research and development to offer new amenities and new ways to make their boat look good and be comfortable on the inside. Guess what? No one can see the inside of your boat from across the lake. What they can see is you put a shabby looking top that is worth about 150.00 on a 50,000.00 pontoon boat. If you are willing to do that most won't believe you are willing to put a lot of money anywhere else on your boat.

As a consumer you continue to scan the horizon looking for something better. Without a doubt the bimini top is the first thing most see out on the water on any given day. Poorly made bimini tops tend to lead people to believe the boat may not be all that well made either. A well built bimini top will compliment the boat which in turn will cause people to search you out on the water to compliment you, your boat, and your bimini top. They may even ask where you got it. Chances are you didn't buy it with the boat - chances are you bought it from us.

We take exceptional pride in our work, our workforce, and ulitmately our products. Regardless of whether it is our bimini tops, or our grill covers, we take the extra steps to ensure your satisfaction with your purchase. I wish I had a nickel for every time a customer has recommended us to a friend or family member. Even better I wish I had a dime for every recommended customer that has told me they saw our bimini top on a boat on the lake and asked that boat owner where they got such a great looking top. Then I tell them how reasonable the prices are -- mind blown. Yup add up all those dimes and nickles and I'd be writing this from a cabana in Key West.

Who makes the best bimini tops? We do. Come find out why.