HOW DID YOU ENTER THE LIGHTING INDUSTRY?
As an engineering student, I took a job working for a residential lighting manufacturer. It was a small company, so I had the opportunity to explore and learn many aspects of the business. More importantly, I discovered I had a passion and skill for design. I left the company to start my own. I founded my first two collections in the basement of my duplex. I experimented a lot with acrylic; I would use my kitchen oven to bend the material, testing temperatures, and cooling speeds. I would drive up the California coast to sell my fixtures, and at night I would work on fulfilling orders.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN?
The first change was the movement of manufacturing abroad: first Mexico, then Korea and Taiwan, and finally China. In America, my specialty was bound glass, but when we moved [our manufacturing] to China I had the opportunity to expand with different materials, styles, and technologies as each manufacturer we worked with sought to create an area of expertise for themselves. The second largest change in the industry has been the transition to LED technology. It’s allowed for flexibility of design as the space requirement is much smaller. Seeing its potential, we invested heavily in learning this technology early on. The third biggest change is taking place now. A new market for lighting has opened as e-commerce has become another viable avenue of selling. Understanding the consumer from this perspective makes a considerable impact on the market.
WHAT HAS BEEN THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS?
Persistence, a love of the business, as well as a personal understanding of manufacturing. The latter has allowed me to work with different businesses and find people I trust.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW NOW THAT YOU WISH YOU KNEW STARTING OUT?
Candidly, it’s great I didn’t know much. It forced me to work hard.
WHAT DO YOU ENVISION THE LIGHTING SALES AGENCY OF THE FUTURE TO BE LIKE?
The lighting sales agency is still an integral part of selling and will continue to be. They need, however, to evolve too. There is greater access to information; data mining, statistics, and data analytics that are emerging about styles, price points, competitors, and so on. They need to utilize this information to better assist the showrooms, electrical distributors, and others they work with to place the appropriate product in a timely fashion. They need to look at competing manufacturers and competitors of their showrooms to see when they have a promotion and how they go to market. We see that some firms are already pursuing these initiatives, and they will likely survive the transition.