Business Profile : Leon Levy CEO – Klingshield S.A. cc
70 year old Leon Levy is a well known South African entrepreneur who has pioneered worldwide markets with a wide range of important commercial and domestic products.
Apart from his business interests, he is also a keen collector of US automobile and advertising memorabilia from the post war era, which has become the hallmark of his window tinting tint-a-car installation centre.
His collection has also been an inspiration for the manufacture of a unique range of automobile furniture.
Personal background - Leon was born in 1950 and is the son of a Luthanian immigrant who established a small, but profitable furniture retail business in Johannesburg, when horse and carts were the transport of the day.
He was born and educated in Johannesburg leaving school in 1968 at the age of 18 to start his first venture. Over the years around the dining room table, he learnt the basics of business from his Mother and Father.
Early business experience - At the age of 18 after leaving school he went to start his own business as a supplier of tie-dyed shirts. Buying the shirts, dying them himself and selling direct to retail outlets.
There was no TV in South Africa at the time and Leon was offered the opportunity to become involved in a home movie distribution centre. This was his first venture into the business world and S Films became the first highly successful home movie business in South Africa.
The business quickly expanded and 16mm rental films were distributed through outlets in all major centres throughout South Africa. Opening the first 17 movie retail outlets throughout the country was a big learning curb for Leon in those days.
The imposition of sanctions due to the political climate and copyright problems combined with new censorship laws at the time, caused him to look for another business, which he soon found in the protective window tinting glass coating window film field.
During the 1970’s the country was faced with escalating internal strife and bombings and attacks on public buildings and shopping centres became a frequent occurrence.
Foundation of a core business – Leon’s newly formed company Klingshield answered the challenges with the installation of tough protective window films imported from the UK and USA. The first safety films came from Ozalid in the UK and Madico in the USA. Smart and innovative promotion created a demand for Klingshield’s products to protect innocent people from flying glass.
Safety film demonstrations were held throughout the country by Leon, reinforcing the value of safety film on glass in a petrol bomb, stoning or smash and grab scenario. Bomb blasts and hand grenade attacks were also demonstrated to a wide range of important dignitaries from Government and business to show the vulnerability of plain glass compared to glass with the new magic product called “safety window film”.
Within three months of heavy promotion, a new profitable business was born and a few years later virtually every public building throughout the country had been protected with Klingshield’s safety film.
Due to continual substantial advertising support across a wide spread of media, the name Klingshield became a household word and this core business became soundly established.
Leon did not stop here and soon saw big opportunities for reflective window films, tints and glass coatings to protect offices, hotels and domestic buildings from solar heat, glare and harmful ultra violet rays. From the early 80’s this market was developed with vigorous flair and highly skilled teams installing even more advanced safety and solar window films.
Over 500,000 successful major protective window film contracts have been completed in the 38 years of Klingshield’s existence and Leon has calculated that millions of square metres of solar and safety protective films have been installed in offices, homes and car windows.
Innovative Ideas – Under the banner of Klingshield, Leon has introduced many new and successful products to keep pace with the changing South African situation. He was the first to introduce film based window graphics for eye catching store front displays, as well as achieved success with stained glass window film and removable and reusable window film for temporary solar control relief.
During the 80’s he diversified into many areas such as the Home Improvement magazine and was involved at the start of the Home Makers Fair and also established another home improvement magazine called “Home Sweet Home”.
Another company called Shady Awnings was started by Klingshield and became the major awning manufacturer in the South African market. Pressure of other business opportunities led to Leon handing over his share of the business to a partner, but thanks to his early initiative, Shady Awnings is the largest company of it’s kind in the African market today.
Over the years, Leon has successfully marketed a wide diversity of products ranging from Matt Shield, a non-slip matting tile designed for offices, factories and warehouses to Auto Steering Locks and Screamas, a personal protection device promoted in conjunction with safety window film for cars as a back-up device.
An interesting venture catering for a strong cult market was automobile furniture, old gas guzzlers from the 1950’s. US car fronts and rear body parts were collected, cleaned up, resprayed and refitted with front and rear lenses, padded and upholstered, to form novel chairs, desks and sofas. This range of furniture products was very popular with car enthusiasts and sold like hot cakes as collectors pieces.
Other business activities - In the 1990’s Leon opened the first Klingshield Auto Tinting centre in Wynberg, Johannesburg. It offered fast “while you wait” highly skilled fitment service for solar safety protective films on private and commercial vehicles. These auto tint concept centres proved a resounding success, not only in terms of keeping passengers cool, but also protecting them from hijackers and smash and grab thieves. These centres operated throughout the South African market. The head office in Johannesburg was very notable because of all the displays of the US automobile furniture collection designed and manufactured by Leon over 3 years.
The Klingshield protective window tinting glass coating window film business continues to grow and Klingshield’s film is sold on a national basis through established dealers and cut to size for do-it-yourself enthusiasts.
Other innovative products in the Klingshield range – Sun Shield and Rain Shield. The former is a new space age radiant heat barrier coating for roofs and walls, reflecting up to 95% of radiant heat, while the latter is a liquid waterproofing system for all types of roofs.
Klingshield claims to be the world’s largest and most innovative marketers of commercial, industrial, residential, automotive and multi functional window film products, as well as being the inventors and patent holder of window graphics worldwide.
Other new products invented and launched by Leon for Klingshield, are Kleen-Shield, a glass liquid coating to keep glass sparkling clean, rejecting dirt and contamination in organic or inorganic form. This product once applied to the interior and exterior of the glass will keep the glass looking clean and water will disperse, giving you a clear view during rain or shine. Kleen-Shield is available for offices, homes and cars and is becoming very popular due to the old saying “I will clean the house but not the windows”. Keeping windows clean is a very difficult continuous exercise and a pain in the butt.
Stone-Shield is also now available in the Klingshield product range. This clear 8mm polyurethane film is applied to bumpers, headlights and fenders of vehicles for protection against chips, scratching and marking caused from various road conditions. With the price of cars today, the consumer is ready to invest in his car and have Stone-Shield applied to keep the paintwork of his car looking new over many years.
Personal Philosophies – Leon Levy is an enthusiastic, passionate, innovative businessman and entrepreneur who keeps a watchful eye on the latest technologies to stay abreast and competitive in this fast changing world. He believes in the power of advertising and is fully aux fait with the communication media of today.
Leon is very much in tune with renewable energy products and sees it as a great opportunity for window film companies in the future. Thin solar film technology creating energy is about to explode and become a major player in energy conservation products.
Leon also has a strong passion for keeping up to date on all the latest fashion trends!
His business philosophy can be summed up in 3 words – Innovation, Quality and Service !
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