enLIGHTenment Magazine is proud to present the recipients of our annual awards series honoring those individuals in our industry who have been nominated by their peers for leading by example, standing out in their field, and inspiring others.
How did you enter the industry?
I grew up working in my grandfather’s store (Progressive Lighting) in Atlanta. From the time I was 12 years old, I’d be in the showroom part-time during summer and school breaks. There was never a question that I wanted to be in the lighting industry as a career. I just loved the fashion aspect of the industry, and talking with the lighting reps and the customers who’d come in. I experienced working in the warehouse, hanging fixtures on the showroom floor, and even assembling fixtures.
When I was in high school, my senior project involved demonstrating the entire process of creating and selling a lighting fixture. My father arranged for me to meet manufacturers in New York and California, and I chose components from Igmor Crystal and built a crystal chandelier. I was just tickled to be able to sell it in our store!
All along the way, I was fortunate to have a lot of nice people helping me in my career. I studied Business, Economics, and Art History in college and learned drafting skills from lighting designer Federico Martinez in Spain.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen?
There are so many changes that have occurred in different areas of the industry. For example, the advent of China and the Pacific Rim [as manufacturing resources]. We’ve also seen the popularity of various mediums, such as resin, over the years.
Lighting styles also change more frequently. Years ago, a lighting style might last 15 or 20 years, but now they are being updated every two years or so. Today’s younger consumers don’t want to hang onto lighting fixtures to pass onto their children; it’s become a disposable society. Consumers will totally change out their room décor every few years, and for that reason we have to stay on top of current trends and watch those price points carefully.
Lighting styles have always followed furniture trends, but even that has accelerated. Where once lighting would have lagged several years behind furniture trends, now it’s one year or less. We are more fashion-oriented and value-driven than we ever have been before.
Another change I’ve observed is the end of specialized businesses. When I first got into lighting, there were companies that focused on crystal or a specific niche. Now everyone has become a melting pot, broadening their product range to be everything to everyone.
What has been the key to your success?
I inherited a strong work ethic and perseverance from my parents. So often people will tell you something can’t be done, but you should follow your dreams.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out?
Looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing. I can’t imagine going to work in any other industry. What impresses me is how you can make such a big impact in this industry just by getting involved with organizations like the American Lighting Association. That’s especially exciting for a young person to be able to make a noticeable difference (and make a name for themselves) so quickly; that doesn’t happen in other industries.
What do you think the future holds for lighting retail?
I think that lighting showrooms will continue to remain an important part of the consumer’s buying process. Brick-and-mortar stores will never go away, especially with lighting technology becoming more complicated. Therefore it’s vital to train showroom personnel, using the certification process offered by the ALA, so that they can educate our customers and help them make informed decisions. We also have to stay current with the home fashion trends while offering the best value.