It was never lighting. I don’t know how I got into lighting … well, yes I do. But, it was going to be a clothing store. I went to college for fashion merchandising and I wanted to be a fashion buyer. That was going to be “my thing,” and never did I think I’d end up in lighting for nearly 25 years. But one phone call changed all that.
Lesson #1: It’s Only Ever About People and Relationships
I was 22 years old when I attended my first lighting in seminar in Minneapolis. I didn’t know one light bulb from another. I got the job when a lighting company called Moorhead Tech looking for qualified students, and my name came up. I interviewed and was hired. I remember driving back that Sunday from the seminar, and calling my mom when I got home, telling her this is not for me. She told me I had to stick it out because the benefits were so good. So I stayed.
I worked for Border States Electric for 10 years, until they closed their showroom in 2000. What did younger me, a lover of lighting do? I found an investor and opened my own showroom on July 1, 2015. It’s my relationship with my builders and my electricians and the respect I earned from them that helped me make the move to open my own business. When I left Border, I had five contractors who told me, “if you do this, we will support you and stick with you,” and so I did it. Today, those same five contractors are my biggest customers. It’s the people and the relationships you build with them.
Lesson #2: Take Chances
We started out with 1,500sq. ft. of showroom space when we opened. We displayed and sold light fixtures and built our business. Lighting is the fastest-changing industry within the housing market. I always tell people you will walk out that door every single day and learn something. I’ve been doing this for nearly 25 years and I still learn three new things everyday, ranging from products, to customers, to marketing.
As we learned, we grew. Within the first year and a half, we were out of space. We took a chance and decided this community, this industry, this business was worth all the stress, the day-to-day business stuff you don’t think about, and all those sleepless nights.
Lesson #3: Be Different
I once got fired for insubordination. It was in a separate industry and that was motivation for the rest of my career. That event always stuck in my head, because I knew I was doing my job, and they were in the wrong. Whatever that means now, it still stuck with me. Work harder. A little negative reinforcement lit a fire that still hasn’t gone out.
Speaking of working harder, I’m also a big proponent of working differently. When I decided to open The Lighting Gallery, I told everyone I was going to bring New York City-style windows to Grand Forks. We live outside the box here. We do funky; we do different. This month we’re repainting the entire showroom. Everything is being remerchandised, and redone. We’re bringing the mannequins back out of storage. That’s right, mannequins. When people see them in our windows, they wonder if we’re adding clothing to our store. We are not, but it’s all a definite part of the fashion industry. All the fabrics, colors, and trends we wear, we see, and use in our homes. And that’s what we want people to do. To see our windows, our outrageous displays and wonder what we’re up to now.
Stop on in and celebrate 15 years with us. We’ll show you exactly what we’re up to.