Film Stars March/April 2019

August 4th, 2021 by Bryan

When Passion Takes Over: Mike Burke | Sun Stoppers Window Tinting

By Emmariah Holcomb

Some say “over time everything fades,” meaning the longer you do something the less drive you have for it. Those words couldn’t be farther from the truth when matched with Mike Burke, the owner of several Sun Stoppers Window Tinting locations across North Carolina.

It’s no secret that Burke’s personality can fill a room easily, but it’s his nearly three decade career in the industry that comes to the forefront in every conversation he has that’s related to window film. Over the years, he’s taught, learned and has built long lasting industry friendships. In fact Burke’s found it to be a brotherhood.

Tinting Woes

It all began when Burke started tinting windows at sixteen, but the reason why he did might surprise you. “I was so embarrassed of my station wagon–I mean it didn’t even have air conditioning. So I thought the least I could do is buy some window film and tint it myself,” says Burke. And that’s exactly what he did, until he ran into issues.

“I remember going to Pep Boys to buy some film, then I made my own tools with supplies I got from Lowes,” says Burke. His first time tinting didn’t go exactly as planned.

“Oh man, I remember it was awful, it was so bad I tinted it twice —imagine that,” Burke adds.

Fortunately he learned what not to do on the next few cars he tinted, and he continued tinting in college. “I’d say I tinted about thirty cars while in college,” says Burke.

Hidden Passion

Burke recalls a time where he took a roundabout approach to film. “I was selling cars and doing well at it, but I realized I would also point out the benefits of having window film installed on vehicles to my customers. From that point on I’d sell cars by day and change my clothes and tint their cars at night,” says Burke.

Not long after he started selling cars he opened his first business, Innovations, located in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Though things were going well, Burke decided to return home and ended up opening a
mobile tinting company, The Tint Man, in Charlotte, N.C.

“I loved the mobile side and worked freelance for years,” Burke recalls.

By this time he was not only enjoying the work he was doing, but window film was growing in popularity. In fact, The Tint Man was doing so well Burke decided to open his first retail location to keep up with his customers.

“We were doing so much work for years on the mobile side that Lightning Mike’s seemed like the next step,” Burke recalls.

And just like that Lightning Mike’s began to surface in different locations across Charlotte.

Shifting Gears

After seeing Lightning Mike’s success blossom, Burke sold all of his locations in order to utilize his other talents. “I ended up taking a break from the industry and opened up an advertising agency. Then at Pinpoint Advertising, I was working with different clients and utilizing my degrees,” Burke recalls.

But sometimes shifting gears isn’t truly what you’re most passionate about long term. This can be said for Burke as he ended up selling his agency in order to create Sun Stoppers.

“After I sold the business I went back and bought all of the Lightning Mike’s locations, which weren’t doing so well. Then I revamped them and created Sun Stoppers Window Tinting,” says Burke.

But there was something vastly different about the look and feel of his company when compared to his previous tinting businesses—and that was the style. “I wanted to create an upscale experience for my customers this time around, so I had nice flooring installed, refreshments, a nicer waiting area, you name it I had it. I wanted to bring in a variety of clients and customers to show a different side of the industry. After working with higher end clients at my agency I knew I wanted to bring tinting up to that level,” says Burke.

Won’t Stop

“My wife used to ask me why I’m so passionate and why I do window film when I have two college degrees. The answer is simple, I do it because I get instant thanks from customers that I don’t get from anything else,” says Burke.

“I’ve been married for 21 years and you bet I still take out the trash and take the kids where they need to go. I don’t get thanked for that, but with tinting I do,” adds Burke.

His passion for the industry and seeing how it’s changed is another factor in why he’s not looking to stop anytime soon. In fact, throughout his career he’s trained more than 30 window tinters and constantly gives them notoriety.

“I love teaching people a skill that can help them improve. To me all of my employees are starts and investments—and you know I tell them that. Why—because no matter what job you do everyone likes to be thanked for the work that they put in,” Burke says.

Self-Reflection

Even to this day Burke doesn’t see himself as successful. He’s had several profitable businesses and continues to grow the Sun Stoppers brand, and yet he still doesn’t feel successful.

“No, I don’t see myself as there yet because I’m the hungriest I’ve ever been. Why, because I have a lot of responsibility on my shoulders. I have so many people depending on me not to let them down … besides if I were to stop and think of myself as successful that’s the moment I’d lose, just like in Rocky 3,” says Burke.

“I think back about the times when we first started tinting and my family thought I was into drugs because, back then, the only people who got their vehicles tinted were thugs. My dad even said he didn’t pay for me to go to college just to end up going into the world to tint windows. Did it hurt, yes, but I knew that was because he always saw me as a professional,” Burke recalls.

That’s another reason why he strived to make Sun Stoppers more upscale, so it could be seen with another level of professionalism.

Going Forward

Could Sun Stoppers be a household name?

“Long term I see it having one hundred stores, you laugh but I’m serious. If anyone in the country wanted to have their own shop and wanted to join the Sun Stoppers team I’d be happy to provide them with all of the resources they need  to succeed and make the customer happy,” says Burke.

Emmariah Holcomb is the assistant editor for WINDOW FILM magazine. Reach her at eholcomb@glass.com, and follow her on Twitter @WindowFilmMag.

To view the laid-in version of this article in our digital edition, CLICK HERE.

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