When you speak with Keefe Duhon, one thing stands out: he’s not timid about trying new things. Only 10 years ago, he was a machinist with a local manufacturing company in Louisiana. When he went on vacation he was taken by a decorative concrete floor in a restaurant and decided he wanted to try something like that himself.
“This floor was stamped and stained to represent wood planks,” Duhon recalls. “For the rest of my vacation I couldn’t stop thinking about it. When I got home, I ordered some products, watched training videos and started playing with concrete in my backyard.”
When he finally produced something he was pleased with, he posted pictures on Facebook. Pretty soon, people were calling and requesting that he do some decorative work at their home or business. The only problem was that he still had a full-time job as a machinist.
“It wasn’t long before I was working an incredible number of hours trying to manage both jobs. I wanted to quit the machining and go into concrete full time, but my wife and I had a baby on the way, and the machinist job provided insurance. My wife liked the security of a job with benefits, but I could see the potential in decorative concrete.”
Another thing about Duhon: He had the intestinal fortitude to quit the machinist job without telling his wife. Naturally, she figured it out and caught him (oh, to be a fly on the wall), but she ultimately supported his decision and Concrete Revolution LLC was born.
Now, a decade later, Duhon is owner/president of three separate companies based in New Iberia, Louisiana: Concrete Revolution, Maverick Surface Preparations and Behind the Trowels. All three companies came about because Duhon recognized a need and decided to do something about it.
From humble beginnings, Concrete Revolution has grown into a nationally recognized decorative concrete company. Duhon recalls how social media made a big difference.
“One thing I realized early on is that if I didn’t keep on learning new techniques and innovating, the company would probably do okay, but not great. I wanted to take it beyond that,” Duhon says.
“I was posting a lot of pictures of my work on Facebook and had about 5,000 followers. Then I did a wood plank floor and a faux water finish. Those pictures took off. They kind of went viral. I went from 5,000 followers to about 75,000 within a couple of weeks. Plus I started getting calls for higher-end jobs and started meeting other top people in the industry.”
Concrete Revolution now offers a wide scope of specialty decorative concrete options to commercial and residential customers including microtopping, polishing, stamped concrete, stains and epoxy finishes. It’s become the definition of a full-service decorative concrete provider, offering everything from floors and vertical concrete to fireplaces, mantels and countertops.
Maverick Surface Preparations
As Concrete Revolution grew, in both reputation and the concrete options it offered, requests to teach others was becoming a growing part of his business.
“I was constantly being asked to facilitate classes on how certain aspects of decorative work are done right and to be on panels,” he says, such as the ones he participated in during the 2017 Concrete Decor Show in Florida.
“One thing I always stressed at the beginning of training sessions is the importance of surface preparation. It’s the foundation of everything else, no matter what kind of application you’re doing. It’s really hard to fix poor preparation after the fact, Not spending the time to properly prepare a surface will cost a contractor in the end.”
His reputation grew, and he was soon facilitating large trainings (60 or more attendees) in sessions at World of Concrete and for the Concrete Decor RoadShow. At the inaugural Decorative Concrete LIVE! at WOC in 2017, he was among the artisans demonstrating his talents and sharing his knowledge throughout the show.
“People asked me all the time to recommend equipment. They wanted to know what grinders or polishers I used, and why I used them.”
Eventually he decided to design his own brand of grinders. He reasoned that he knew exactly what he wanted in a grinder and was confident he could design tools that would be popular in the market. He tapped on his machining and design skills, worked with a designer and came up with drawings for the grinder he wanted to manufacture.
They built a prototype, he liked it, and he started Maverick Surface Preparations. From one grinder the company has grown into an operation that sells a variety of grinders for both large commercial jobs and smaller residential ones. He has distributors throughout the United States.
Behind the Trowels
A few years ago, Duhon noticed that attendance for trainings was shrinking — not just his trainings, but all trainings. He talked to others within the industry and concluded that attendance is down because people are simply busier now. Maybe it’s because the economy has improved and the building industry is doing better, or maybe there are other reasons.
“I thought if people are too busy to come to us, why not go with them? My wife is a hairdresser and she is constantly watching techniques and getting ideas through online videos. Why wouldn’t that work in the decorative concrete industry, too?”
Duhon teamed up with Bob Harris, president of the Decorative Concrete Institute and known worldwide as a trainer for seasoned veterans as well as newcomers to the decorative concrete industry. Together they created Behind the Trowels.
Behind the Trowels is an online training site that anyone interested in either learning about or learning more about decorative techniques can access. He says he offers the training at a reasonable price.
Always be learning
Duhon says the key principle he brings to his businesses is to “always be learning.”
“I used to be bothered if I made a mistake,” he says. “Now I embrace everything as an opportunity to learn more.”
Duhon also learns from other artisans. A great example is the grotto he’s been creating at his home pool. He’s teamed up with several leaders in the industry and together they’ve put more than 350 hours into the project. Kingdom Products, a supplier of concrete materials, donated all the products for the job.
“The grotto has every feature we could think of: big screen televisions, LED lighting, a fire pit, tanning area and a stream running through a pool on top that empties into the pool below. The really cool thing about it is that all these people that are truly artists with concrete have all had a hand in it, and you can see the individual touches everywhere,” he says.
It’s not surprising that Duhon’s work has garnered plenty of awards. A few include first place in the 2015 Concrete Decor Show’s Brawl in the Fall competition for a swamp scene that has been nationally recognized in several magazines, second place in the 2016 Concrete Decor Show’s Brawl in the Fall for a display he created to raise awareness of human trafficking, and first place in a World of Concrete’s Experts Choice Award for a blue moon carving that he collaborated on with Troy Lemon and others.
Take it from Duhon: Keep on learning — it’s a good principle for any business.