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From ‘Nada’ to the ‘NASDAQ’ - Our Disruptive Startup's Success Story

Sweltering August summer day in dull Bridgeport, Connecticut. Air condition unit broken. Windows to the office bullpen open with zero air flow. Forearms sticking to the desk as I typed away on my keyboard. Long hours while eating lunch and dinner at our desks. Commuting nearly 2 hours each way to be with the small team of individuals who believed in the vision.

Yes, the glamorous life of a venture-capital backed, high-tech-manufacturing startup.

On one of those days described above, the team anxiously awaited the shipment of our first samples to arrive from our contract manufacturer in China. These LED light samples were to be used at the lighting industry’s biggest tradeshow in Las Vegas to start building our following (like our coming out party), so you can imagine how excited we were to receive them, see them, test them and promote them. As the FedEx truck pulled into our parking lot, we used the noise of its tires spinning on the stone driveway as a notification to all gather around by the loading dock to receive this momentous shipment. The result you may ask?

Grrrrr!

Aside from all the packaging having our company name misspelled (Solais Lighling, instead of Solais Lighting), this was the least of our problems (which resulted in us making our intern take a sharpie and a ruler to correct the hundreds of boxes that would soon follow that summer – but allowing him to add “Graphic Design” to his résumé as a thank you!). After screwing in our first LED light bulb with an eager crowd huddled around… poof went the sample... and so did a bit of our confidence. The joys of a startup!

With a small team of motivated, yet somewhat naïve (at the time), lighting-industry enthusiasts, we were at the very beginning stages of what was Solais Lighting – the soon-to-be LED lighting company that would take the industry by storm and go on to become the LED lighting product of choice for 25% of America’s top retail brands.

Irishman James Leahy - the man with the vision to start this company with an unconventional approach to LED lighting, assembled a team consisting of fewer than 5 key people, each a master of their domain – sales, marketing, product design, manufacturing and financing. With the financial backing of ambitious and encouraging venture capitalists, this dream team would go on to create a success story within a highly-competitive industry that saw many other LED manufacturing startups fizzle away and become irrelevant just a few years later.

In a short, exhilarating period of four years, Solais moved on from its rocky start to become one of the top 5 LED manufacturers servicing business-to-business clients, with hundreds of thousands of our products installed throughout North America in some of the most sought-after sockets. We were competing against industry gorillas like Philips, Osram Sylvania and GE (and actually stealing several accounts away from them early on).

How did we achieve this success?

If you ask 5 different people how Solais achieved this success, you will likely get 6 different answers. It was a combination of our envelope-pushing LED technology, grassroots marketing efforts, key distribution relationships, industry partnerships and the ability to be nimble enough to respond to the requests of our high-profile retail clients. Overall, it was the stability and dedication of a core team of individuals believing in the vision to build the best, most relevant, LED lighting company in the United States, believing in the brand we created and being agile enough to adapt to shifting market demands.

They came knocking on our little door

Four years into our thrilling roller-coaster ride (2013), we were approached by a publicly-traded company that was a leader in power and energy management from the South. With a desire to become a bigger player in the LED lighting space, they saw the potential in Solais Lighting and its core management team. With the success Solais had achieved in just four years and with only a few million dollars of investment behind us, we were quickly acquired and instantly became part of a bigger beast. With more resources, better systems and a stronger support unit, Solais is now in position to better innovate and move forward with the parent company.

From Nada to the NASDAQ

Following the acquisition, a couple members of the core team were gathered in the warehouse discussing the events that happened. The irony was, we were standing in the existing warehouse space that use to be our office space in our humble beginnings when we moved our operations from Bridgeport, CT to Stamford, CT. As we talked about the past and how we use to all help pack orders, create shipments, clean the warehouse and do whatever it took to progress the company forward, we also talked about company stock and how cool it was being traded on the stock market with the parent company. We were proud with how we took this baby from nothing and are now traded on the NASDAQ – coining the phrase: From Nada to the NASDAQ.

Going into this journey, I always believed we could make this succeed one day but never realized it would actually happen… and so quickly. The experiences faced in helping to take this company from point A (startup) to point B (acquisition) are the best experiences in my professional career to date.

Here’s to many more point A-to-B experiences in business… and in life!

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BouliBrand™ is a boutique marketing + entrepreneurship + communications + branding movement focused on creating vibrant, purposeful and revenue-generating media experiences on a partner-by-partner basis. With strategic partnerships in New York, Toronto, Athens, Los Angeles, New Delhi and Shanghai, we work directly with savvy, driven and optimistic clients wanting to produce fresh platforms of communication and target nouveau markets internationally with their startup businesses and services. BouliBrand is propelled by Georgios (George) Stroumboulis (Γιώργος Στρουμπούλης) - an internationally seasoned marketing professional with tangible business experiences across multiple industries and diverse cultures. To learn more about BouliBrand, Georgios and the stimulating team spearheading the BouliBrand movement forward, get in contact at www.BouliBrand.com, www.Facebook.com/BouliBrand, www.Twitter.com/Stroumboulis (@stroumboulis), www.Instagram.com/Stroumboulis (@stroumboulis), www.LinkedIn.com/in/Stroumboulis, www.YouTube.com/Stroumboulis or www.Pinterest.com/BouliBrand. We all have opinions, thoughts and comments about various topics in our daily lives. Stroumboulis likes to write about his in this Opinion / Blog section. Topics and commentary may include: business, culture, Hellenism, entrepreneurship, start-ups, development, branding, marketing, financing, investment and many others. To suggest new blog ideas, please contact Georgios via his contact page at BouliBrand.com.

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