Some Like It Hot! - Blazing Design, Inc. Owners Balance Work and Life09/01/2021 05:00PM ● By Kristie L. Smith Nikitin
Mike and Sueann Van Buren of Blazing Design, Inc. have solved the mystery of success. Is the secret a burning desire to provide innovative and decorative fire features to homes and businesses in and around Chittenden County? That’s part of it, but there’s more. The Van Burens have life down to a science. Combining education and hard work while keeping a focus on family has proven to be the recipe for their success. Mike and Sueann are practicing the college-educated, hard-working, family-first entrepreneurial business model of the 21st century.
Education and Life Experience Make Success
Graduates of the University of Vermont class of 1985, Mike has a bachelor of science in Mechanical Engineering, and Sueann has a bachelor of science focusing on fashion. These Catamounts have grit and determination and strive to treat others as they want to be treated. This strategy has lead to success and helped them provide for their clients and their three daughters. “The best education has been life experience,” Sueann said. “Without those opportunities, I wouldn’t be equipped to run this business.”
Divide and Conquer
Upon graduating, Mike launched his career designing HVAC systems and continues using his degree in the fireplace, barbecue, and patio industry. He is more of a left-brain kind of guy. For more than 20 years, Mike has been behind Blazing Design, Inc. He is focused on service and installation. In addition to Vermont, the company has provided services in California, New York, Nantucket, Virginia, and Maryland. However, it has only been within the last five years that the two have opened their storefront. Blazing Design, Inc. now concentrates more on sales, service, and installation of all things fire specializing in gas appliances. Sueann’s more creative side works with clients on timelines, sales, and customer service.
Early on, it made sense that Mike was president of the company and Sueann was vice president. However, over time, together they decided Sueann was better suited to act as president. With her management, sales, and customer service background, she's a natural at running things at the shop, while he prefers to be out in the field on job sites. As president, Sueann commandeers sales, service, ordering, scheduling, and hiring. This frees up Mike’s time for consulting, managing, and training the service team. Both Mike and Sueann acknowledge the importance of the Blazing Design team and feel thankful to have strong and highly skilled individual. representing their company.
The Homelife Shuffle
Juggling work roles is a challenge, but then there is the homelife shuffle. Sueann and Mike have three daughters. Two, Allison and Katie, from Sueann’s first marriage, and their youngest, Rose. Allison is an orthopedic surgeon doing her residency in Albany, New York, and Katie is a racial equity trainer for the city of Burlington. Rose is a sophomore at Essex High School and enjoys art, music, track, and skiing. “We are blessed to have talented and strong young women for daughters. All are leaders in their own ways and make us proud every day!” Sueann beamed. Though Mike and Sueann work together, it’s not a typical family business. Katie, Allison, and Rose have not expressed any desire to join the company.
Balancing two in the business is challenging enough. However, with Mike and Sueann working and living together, they have more opportunities than a couple who does not work together to communicate. In a way, the Van Burens are a step ahead when it comes to dialogue with their spouse. Partners who don’t carpool have a lot of catching up to do at the end of the day. Sueann already knows if a job was complicated, and Mike can sympathize with Sueann’s daily challenges. “We understand each other in a different way because [we work together].”
Balance is the name of the game at Blazing Design, Inc. A warming aesthetic for the client’s home and a well-adjusted life for their family adds up to success for the Van Burens. Whether selling or servicing a gas fireplace, stove, insert, or firepit, or practicing the elusive work-life balance at home, the winning recipe is the same—a strong base of family with a generous amount of education and a whole lot of hard work folded in.