Cormac Diamond, the managing director of Bloc Blinds, stepped into the blind. He didn’t want to develop a me-too product in a stagnant sector. He introduced a revolutionary interchangeable blind. Cormac Diamond about his Irish roots and inspiration, and the importance of families and a low carbon footprint. “I think if you want to be truly innovative, you need to have no real track record in the product or in that product category.”
“Freedom for me means that I can choose my own path. That idea of not following a chosen or a set path or format, that's me. I'm a sort of a.. having a nomadic spirit. That I like to try the uncharted path of how to be successful or how to be good at business. That's what I craved. True freedom to be able to try and improve the business. Not jeopardize it, but improve it.”
"That’s what I craved. True freedom to be able to try and improve the business"
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“My name is Cormac Diamond, and I'm the managing director of Bloc Blinds. Whenever I was a little boy I wanted to be a farmer, but my mother advised me that it's best to get an education. We had our ups and downs regarding my education and how I was not the model student. Because I always viewed school as being a means to an end. It was something that had to be done. But in hindsight now, looking back, it was a very worthwhile experience, it was invaluable, because I wouldn't have got the experience in employment had I not had an education. So I suppose it's with that aspiration to be a farmer, yes it was...I suppose the deep-down desire to be in control of my own destiny, to be working and designing products that I could sell to people.”
“I studied engineering at Queen's at Belfast, had a job at a window manufacturing company and there I stayed for seven years. After that I decided to go and do my own thing. My own drive and spirit and ideas took over. They were the driving factor, the driving force to say: you have to do it yourself. You have to be your own boss. And that was the idea of creating my own business. To realize the potential of the ideas I had in my head. I didn't know what they were, but I knew that there was something in there that was going to stick, something in there that was going to work.”
"That was the idea of creating my own business. To realize the potential of the ideas I had in my head"
“I started to fabricate metal products in Poland, I did that for two years, but that business fell under the trap of the credit crisis. So I was concentrating on products for construction machinery. Namely digging buckets or loader buckets. And whenever the construction industry faltered, no-one wanted to buy any of my products, so I had to diversify. And quickly.
“So I had been approached by my former employer to help them source some blind products for their windows. And I set about designing a blind for them, but realized that the market was quite stagnant. It hadn't changed in decades. And I didn't want to be a me-too product like all the other companies who were in this sector. I didn't want to make any product that was the same as anyone else’s, or the same as any other company or be dependent on products that were the same.”
"I didn't want to be a me-too product like all the other companies who were in this sector that was quite stagnant."
“We decided that we didn't want to do what everyone else was doing, we wanted to do something different, and innovate this industry that was so stagnant. In every industry and every sector now, they're adding flexibility of what colours watches can be, what colour computers can be, what colour toasters can be. And so why not have the same level of changeability in blinds? That people can design new fabrics for themselves, have it printed. And all that, now with the lessened risk that they're putting up a blind that they need to change in a short period of time. They can choose to change when they want.”
“We developed a product range that allowed customers to easily change their fabrics without having to change the entire mechanism. By developing our interchangeable blind, it meant then the customers could change their blinds whenever they wanted, so they could change their mind and change their blind at any time.”
"By developing our interchangeable blind, it meant that customers could change their blinds whenever they wanted."
“Textiles in Northern-Ireland was a well-developed industry. And Ireland was the linen capital of the world. So Irish linen was hailed as being a product that was...had world renown. My grandfather worked in a shirt factory in Bellaghy, he was the mechanic, as such, of the sewing machines. So if a sewing machine had broken down, he was the guy that was tasked to repairing it and getting it back in working order again.
“As a child, whenever I came home from school, I always went to my granny and grandpa Diamond. And there, I would recall my grandfather coming in from work, and his hands would be a little dirty, and he would smell of that oil, he would smell of that machine oil. It is a very distinct smell. And in times, whenever you would visit him in the factory, then you would get a sense of where that smell came from. It was the mix of textiles and machine oil in that processing, of the manufacturing process of the shirts. That's where that...those products were used in that process.
“My grandfather had an inquisitive spirit as well, where he would fix various artifacts or machines or even umbrellas. He was of that era of where they would mend things and mending things now is nearly a word that is lost, because people tend to throw things away rather than fix or repair them.”
“So my grandfather was very much an inspirational character. And so I suppose so was my uncle, as well, on the farm. He had a very challenging life, in the sense that he was looking after the farm by himself. He knew each of the hedges, he knew each of the bumps in the field. He knew each of the contours. Where was a wet part, where was a dry part. And that was always something that you...whenever you're in farming, you understand what you have. You understand your land. What it is capable of and what it's not capable of. It's that sort of ideas of understanding what you have. What the capabilities are within the factory. And it's that, I suppose, is the...that…understanding of your capabilities it's very important for us that we don't stretch ourselves, that we don't try to do things that we can't do.”
"My grandfather was very much an inspirational character. Just like my uncle."
“Whenever I was younger, as I said, I wanted to be a farmer. But I suppose, as I got more educated and mature and my understanding of what was possible on a farm, then I realized that maybe it's not the farming that was the desire, but the desire to be in control of my own destiny.
“I suppose for me it was the idea that I needed more freedom. I needed to express myself. At that stage I didn't even know what I was going to do. But I just needed to embark on the idea of starting a new journey. Starting a new chapter. Starting something that I craved as a child, I craved as a student and I craved as an employee. That idea I've been able to embark on the unknown.”
“In any journey of innovation there's an element of luck, I suppose, as well. That you choose a certain path and go down and follow one idea and try to develop that without truly knowing or understanding what the potential of it is. And that journey still continues. That we have to try lots of products before we determine the one that's going to be the successful one, or the one that customers are going to want, and ultimately appreciate its design and appreciate its potential and its uniqueness.”
"I needed to embark on the idea of starting a new journey."
“Draperstown or Ballinascreen as it is known, is a town... It's a planted town. In a sense of the plantation of Ulster the Draper's company came across and set up a settlement here. There was a strong textile connection at one stage in Draperstown. Unfortunately that fell away through competition from the Far East.
Since the textile industry is now being rejuvenated in the Draperstown area, I think it's quite ironic that I'm part of that story now that textiles are to the fore again.
“We could've went to the Far East in order to produce our products. We could've went to lower manufacturing centres. But the idea that we wanted to manufacture here was doing it different. It wasn't following those rules where all blinds come from The Far East because it's cheap to make it there.
We were of the idea that we could make it here, we could support families here, we could support a manufacturing sector here. Because we were going to do it different.”
"We didn’t go to the Far East. We were of the idea that we could make it here, because we were going to do it different."
“And family is very important. Although work is a very important facet of our being that gives us our resources to operate as a family, I feel that work is there to facilitate the family. And, in that view, that's how I feel about the staff as well. Their family is as important to me as my family is to me. In that way that if I can understand why they're here working for me... And part of this journey, part of our business is that they're there to provide for their own family.
“I'm very family-oriented, so I didn't want to be away from my family. I had been away in Poland actually for a number of years, in previous jobs in the start of my own professional development. My own ventures and to doing my own...being my own boss or running my own business. But I quickly found that it's far more satisfying working with the people in your own area. Working with...close to your own family for support. But crucially, that it's a greater challenge in the sense that you could put money before the ethos of the business. To say, well you could make more money if you're doing it in this country, and you could make more money if you're doing it in a Far Eastern country and bringing the product back again.
"Although it is a very important facet of our being that gives us our resources to operate as a family, work is there to facilitate the family."
“It's something that we believe in, that we...in turn by keeping our carbon footprint low, by our product being sourced locally. We're also supporting families in that area too. So it's that idea of a collective effort. And again, I suppose it's going back to that idea of being from Northern-Ireland, being Irish. That it's...it is...we sometimes don't believe in the effort or the potential we have in our own selves. In our own company. So we try to maybe think that it can be done by someone else or we should be depending on technology from some other source. But by developing it ourselves, we're showing that we believe in our effort, we believe in the skills that we have as people, as a company. As a country. And that's what we believe in. We can do it here. And we can grow an international market from these shores.”
“I'm proud to be where I'm from. And we are an island nation and where we live, in Northern-Ireland, it's had its troubles in the past, but I believe there is a generation of people coming through now that want to move on. A nation of doers. That's what we are now. A nation of believers that we can strive for something that only we could see on the TV. To see that other companies in other countries were excelling and we were stuck in our past of how to deal with it.
“I suppose maybe what we could display, is that it is possible. It's possible to be an international player from humble beginnings. From a very short history of a business. That it is possible to compete and grow internationally.”
"By keeping our carbon footprint low, by our product being sourced locally, we're supporting families in that area too."
“I think that's what we're hopefully developing, is an Irish giant. That our brand is something that people will look up to, people will be inspired by the products and the ideas that we are generating. That we are seen to be a leader in our own sector. And I suppose that's what I'm trying to install and pass on to the staff as an idea. That we are a force to be reckoned with, we are a new brand, we are something that people can… that they want to have in their home and be proud to have our products in their home as well.”
“We stepped into the blind. It was an idea of the unknown. We're on a journey of change. And that's best performed by companies who are new, new to a sector, new to a product range. And that's what our history has been.
We weren't blind manufacturers, we weren't steeped in blind tradition. We came in new to this industry and we feel we are revolutionizing it.”
"By developing it ourselves, we're showing that we believe in our effort, we believe in the skills that we have as a country."
“I think if you want to be truly innovative, you need to have no real track record in the product or in that product category. Some of the biggest changes within our consumer- or inner-environment now have been performed by companies who have not been traditional manufacturers. They are outsiders coming into an industry and changing people's understanding of that industry, understanding that product. We did not have any track record in making blinds. We weren't generations of blind-makers. We were brand new. We were looking at the industry from the outside in.
“We were doing something different. We were changing the rules of the blinds industry. And, we are still in that process.
“It's that idea of being able to change your mind and change your blind.”
"We weren't generations of blind-makers. We were brand new. We were looking at the industry from the outside in."