Kirsten Recce already had a successful career in investment banking before the opportunity arose to purchase a lighting showroom in California. That decision led to a fun and fulfilling career in the lighting business, which most recently included being named a Finalist as best Lighting Showroom in the West at the annual ARTS Awards this year.
How did you enter the lighting industry?
Funny, I was a Statistics major in college. My best friend in high school wrote in my yearbook that I would own my own retail store one day. I have no idea what she saw.
I purchased Black Whale Lighting 22 years ago for $10,000 so I could quit my job with Fidelity Investments and COBRA the great health insurance I had. I wanted to start a family. The infertility never worked, but I did eventually get two kids. Every time I signed a long-term lease to expand the showroom, I found out I was pregnant.
What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Our industry continues to struggle with wanting to be important to the consumer. Instead of demanding respect for what we do, many continue to choose the lowest price option as a means to drive sales at little above wholesale, devaluing what we sell and destroying our margins. Let’s be bold and set UMRPs instead of IMAPs. It works for the electronics and appliance industries!
What has been the key to your success?
Integrity and relationships. I try to always be fair, and I am fiercely loyal to those who have partnered with me over the years — employees, reps, and manufacturers. If I asked my co-workers this question, they would say I am passionate, blunt, and an East Coast girl at heart.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started?
Lighting fixtures weigh a lot and take a while to put together. Pillows might have been a wiser choice!
Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
The showroom will be smaller — more of a light lab and less decorative fixtures on display. It will be more interactive and educational. And I may not be the owner of Black Whale Lighting; I might like to try my hand in other areas of the industry.