Dougan Clarke is founder, CEO, and chief product architect of Miami-based shade company TUUCI (The Ultimate Umbrella Company, Inc.). He leads the brand in innovating high-performance shade designs that transform the traditional outdoor experience. Prior to founding TUUCI, Clarke spent 10 years in the marine manufacturing industry, gaining an extensive understanding of applied materials, material sculpting, molding, canvas construction, and manufacturing methods. In 1998, he combined his skills as a craftsman from the yachting industry and practical experiences with outdoor furnishings to launch TUUCI.
Clarke’s vision for TUUCI has been dedicated to enhancing the natural environment through “shade architecture” while giving a nod to his passion for the marine industry. Each of his designs are thoughtfully engineered shade structures, like the TUUCI Manta and Zero Horizon, which use marine-grade hardware and embody both form and function. His designs have quickly led TUUCI to become a top manufacturer of marine-grade shade architecture around the world, have redefined an entire category of products, and revolutionized what was formerly known as an “umbrella.”
Clarke was interviewed by CSQ during March 2021.
What are your biggest business concerns surrounding COVID-19? How is it impacting your business, specifically, and what are your concerns in the bigger picture of the economy? How are you looking at designing furniture in the future that will accommodate the shift toward working from home?
The health and well-being of our team members, friends, and family are paramount during these unprecedented times. Sectors of our business have been severely impacted due to COVID-19, particularly the hospitality and food service space. Residential sales have held steady and even increased due to the pandemic, with so much time spent at home and on home improvement projects. TUUCI designs shade, shelter, and furnishings for the design-conscious consumer who places high standards on durably constructed products. Because our products live equally well in hospitality and commercial settings as in residential settings, we are uniquely positioned for direct marketing initiatives in a range of business sectors.
Our target audiences have not changed, yet we are building better visual aids and working to bring our products to life in a variety of environments to help our consumers imagine what may be possible in their outdoor environment.
What is your current business strategy for dealing with the situation? How has that changed from a year ago?
TUUCI is always experimenting with new and innovative ways to communicate with our customers. The challenges presented by COVID-19 have given us greater range to explore the digital space and revisit how consumers are making buying decisions. Our target audiences have not changed, yet we are building better visual aids and working to bring our products to life in a variety of environments to help our consumers imagine what may be possible in their outdoor environment. We expect that people will be drawn more to the outdoors in the coming years and will seek comfort in the form of shade and lounging in many of the unique ways that TUUCI is imagining open-air living.
How do you think things will look in your industry a year from now, and what should people in your industry be doing now to prepare for that?
We are hoping that any hospitality and food-service projects which may have stalled as a result of COVID-19 will pick up where they left off. We are also seeing a number of new projects being reimagined to include and expand outdoor spaces. With projects being reignited and reimagined, we could experience challenges in our supply channels. TUUCI has always been bold about our business and intends to be prepared to respond to the unique needs of our customers. Our talented team welcomes new challenges, and we look forward to a bright future.
What have you learned from other difficult times in the past, and how are you applying that to what’s happening now? What mistakes are you looking to avoid making?
TUUCI has learned many valuable lessons over the past 22 years in business. We understand intimately that business and businesses have cycles. We remain confident that our commitment to innovation, product development, and a superior customer experience will open doors for years and decades to come. We take pride in lessons learned from our mistakes and will always look forward to a more perfect product and a more perfect customer experience in the future.