Change can be difficult — but it can also be rewarding. Pace Electrical Contractors in Savannah, Georgia, had been in business for 20+ years before it created an independent lighting showroom division called Pace Lighting in 1998.
From left to right: Lindsay Williams, Lisa Dixon & Tabitha Thomas
By 2001, the retail store was incorporated as a separate entity and – under the guidance of founders Frank M. Bartlett and R. Larry Howell – moved into a 4,000-sq.-ft. space on Southern Boulevard in 2005. Over the next few years, the expanding and increasingly successful lighting showroom eventually relocated to its present 18,500 square feet on Southern Oaks Court. Along the way, a sharp young woman named Lisa Dixon – who had been working with the Independent Electrical Contractors Association in Georgia – was approached to join Pace Lighting’s ranks. Steadily, she received on-the-job training plus underwent certification through the American Lighting Association (ALA) and built her knowledge base from there as the lighting industry evolved. The addition of controller Tabitha Thomas – who was approached about joining the company after Bartlett noticed her dedication in helping her boyfriend-now-husband at Pace Electrical Contractors with some tasks – and lighting consultant Lindsay Williams – a graduate of Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) with a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Architecture with a keen interest in lighting technology – have bolstered Pace Lighting’s team of knowledgeable staffers.
Soon, Pace Lighting gained nationwide attention, winning the annual accolade Lighting Showroom of the Year in the $3-million sales category three times and being nominated as a finalist for Best Lighting Showroom in the East for the 25th Annual ARTS Awards.
Now Pace Lighting is getting noticed for a different reason — transitioning from an all-male leadership to an all-female one. When Howell retired in 2014, Dixon mustered up the courage to ask Bartlett if she and Thomas could buy out Howell’s shares, which in combination with previous ownership bequeathments, would comprise a majority stake in the company. He agreed. In 2014, Williams also became a minority shareholder.
Impressed by how enthusiastically the women took on their ownership stake in the company, Bartlett decided to retire early and sell his shares. “We had a [legal] closing like you would for any other business,” Dixon remarks. These shares, which together represent a majority controlling interest in Pace Lighting, are held by Dixon, Thomas, and now Williams. Jointly they handle all of the day-to-day company processes and management decisions across all departments. Bartlett will remain involved as a member of the board of directors. To make the transfer of ownership complete, there are a few staff adjustments: Dixon will assume Bartlett’s previous role of CEO and Thomas will be the Chief Financial Officer.
“Larry Howell and I are proud to transition our business to the next generation of owners, and I know they will continue to provide the best in experiences for each and every customer and to lead the lighting industry for many years to come.” Bartlett stated.
“Frank [Bartlett] was especially good at identifying great talent in the organization and encouraging those rising through the ranks,” Dixon said. “He was instrumental in training us all.”
According to Dixon, Pace Lighting will now be seeking WBE Certification (Women Business Enterprise), which denotes that a woman (or women) has majority ownership and control of a business entity. “This might help us in the construction field, where some jobs require [working with] minority-owned businesses,” she explained.
“The reception we’ve had to this news [of being a female-owned business] has been tremendous,” Dixon said. “Everyone in the industry has been so supportive.”