Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions shines a light on savings
Morgan Smith was 4 years old when he decided two things about himself: he wanted to be an entrepreneur, and he wanted to make the world a better place. It’s not surprising, then, that when he got older, he attended Babson College, one of the nation’s leading colleges for entrepreneurship.
Upon graduation, Morgan moved back in with his parents to contemplate his first business venture. It was then he noticed that some of the canned halogen lights in the kitchen needed to be replaced. So, he went online to order some LEDs (light-emitting diodes).
“The lightbulbs at Lowe’s were listed for $35, but on Amazon they were selling for $3,” he says. “I thought, ‘All right, this is an opportunity.’” Not only were the bulbs on Amazon cheaper, they also reduced his family’s energy consumption by 90%.
That’s when a lightbulb went off in Morgan’s head, and he embarked on a quest to make the world a brighter place for a much lower cost. In 2012, he and colleague Alex Kamergorodsky created Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions. It’s a manufacturing and sourcing company that specializes in alternative lighting applications for contractors, project managers and business owners. They first set their sights on customers throughout Texas, then across the U.S., and now around the globe.
Over the years, they established a business model and integrated supply chain that allows them to offer quality lighting packages that cost generally 50% less than others on the market, helping clients to win more bids.
“We offer full ‘soup-to-nuts’ lighting packages that use our own products, or we source ones similar to ours but at a lower cost,” says Morgan, who serves as CEO and Lead Illuminator at the company. “We’re setting a new standard in the industry.”
Flipping the Switch: Retrofits to New Builds
In the beginning, Morgan and Alex turned to Amazon to source their lights, and focused their services on helping businesses change out old, inefficient lighting.
“We started out doing retrofits and changing out lights in existing buildings to LEDs,” Morgan says. “We’d install these based on the energy savings and customers would make their money back in a year or two, a fabulous ROI.”
Over time, however, the company pivoted to focus on the installation of lighting options for new construction. It began sourcing lights and components from factories in China, with Morgan and Alex making trips and getting to know their suppliers. They became so familiar with the process that, in 2017, they started Bright Ideas Supply Chain Solutions to handle freight forwarding and quality control, giving them the ability to replicate expensive lighting at a lower cost.
“We control the entire supply chain—from the components and the assembly, through shipping and delivery,” Morgan says. “We went from buying a couple of bulbs on Amazon to having three full offices in China and working with hundreds of factories.”
The strategy worked. Since its founding, Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions has achieved exponential growth. It’s sold millions of lights for interior, exterior, industrial and architectural uses, growing the business 400% year-over-year in gross revenue since 2017 and averaging about $2 million per week in client proposals.
Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions strives to make the process of working together painless for clients, who can simply go to the company website and send in information on a project that they’ve won and are looking to make a higher margin on, or one they’re currently bidding on.
The team then researches the products listed across the line items and provides cheaper alternatives. The client gets a free side-by-side comparison of list costs versus the cost of using Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions’ products, all within a guaranteed 24- to 48-hour turnaround.
“We value engineer our proposals, so our team searches for originally specified fixtures—from their efficiency, to who makes them,” Morgan says. “We often find errors in plans that are sent to us. Our goal is to find those, correct them and offer cost-effective alternatives that will help clients win more bids.”
One of their big selling points, Morgan notes, is that their lights are made to order, so the team can add accessories or customize them to make the installation process faster.
“If a contractor has to hang a light from the ceiling or work in drywall, they have to modify it to fit the location,” he says. “We can do that in the factory by adding brackets or hinges, which can save installers anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour. When you’re doing an installation with a thousand lights, that becomes a lot of savings.”
Morgan points out that many new building projects already involve LED lights, so it’s not a hard push to get clients to opt for packages from Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions instead of the ones specified in an original bid.
“We prepare the lights ahead of time, from the factory, so our clients are ready to go as soon as the products get to the job site,” he says. “That reduces the amount of labor time for the electrical contractor, and results in a more competitive bid.”
Morgan refers to the Davio’s Northern Italian Steakhouse project in Irvine, California, as an example. The architects had specified 48-inch-diameter hanging lights that were around $4,000 each. “This was really a sticking point and the architects were not wavering on it,” Morgan says, but the project was already way over budget. Working with artists in China, Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions was able to do nearly identical lights for about $800 each, a nearly 85% savings.
“We do that relatively frequently, where we’re able to cover 90% of the lights with our own line of products,” he adds. “Some of these are very overpriced fixtures, essentially pieces of art. We’re able to replicate them with our own team.”
While Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions is headquartered in San Diego, California, the company does business anywhere in the world—and it’s expanding its price-saving offerings in Houston, Texas.
“We love the Texas market,” Morgan says, noting the company receives a lot of bids from the region and has developed strategic partnerships with warehouses there. “There’s a lot of new construction there right now, which we specialize in. We offer an excellent alternative to whatever specified lights are being used for large building projects, and at a great price.”
“We offer full ‘soup-to-nuts’ lighting packages that use our own products, or we source ones similar to ours but at a lower cost. We’re setting a new standard in the industry.” Morgan Smith, CEO and Lead Illuminator, Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions
A Brilliant Team
When asked what he loves most about his Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions team, Morgan lights up. “Their bright ideas!” he says. “I love their creativity.”
He relies on 20 employees located across the U.S. and internationally to creatively help source and design the company’s high-quality products.
“Our team is specialized in specific tasks, so they’re able to research products, design superior projects and fully understand the nature of a plan,” he says. “Each person excels for the sake of designing alternative lighting packages and getting customers the most value. That extends all the way down to shipping—we know exactly where a shipment is going and at what time, and how to charge fair prices for freight.”
Meris Walsh left her corporate role three years ago to become the Vice President of Sales at Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions, and she hasn’t looked back.
“In some roles, you feel like just another body in a chair, but at Bright Ideas my opinions are valued,” she says. “Our team is diverse and from all over the globe—from San Diego to New York to the Philippines—so it’s awesome that we’re as tightknit as we are.” Meris has brought the company clients throughout the Texas region, such as 7B Building & Development, a commercial construction company that specializes in design-build projects spanning the state.
“We love to help our clients every step of the way,” she says. “We understand construction can have setbacks like product delivery delays and projects coming in over budget. We make it a priority to alleviate these problems in any way we can.”
Keeping the Lights On
While the Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions team has been focused on making the world a brighter place, its members are also working to make it a better one—especially as businesses learn to navigate supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19.
“We’re one of the few companies that can get products in without issues because we control our own supply chain and manufacturing,” Morgan says. “Our projects have not been delayed when others’ have, so we’ve still kept our prices low.”
In April 2020, the team decided to use that unbroken supply chain for good, bringing in large volumes of personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks, gowns, face shields and sanitizing wipes for those who desperately needed them.
The firm has partnered with hospitals across the U.S.—and throughout the state of Texas—such as the Texas Non-Profit Hospice Alliance to provide PPE. Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions has also been donating to organizations such as the Houston Food Bank.
“Everyone just came together to help people,” Morgan says. “That made me feel good about our team and company culture—how we all stuck together. We made a direct impact, and that’s the legacy I want for us: doing good in the world.”
Making the World Brighter
While Morgan, who is now the sole Owner of the company, always expected to own a business, he never predicted it would be in lighting. What he did predict is that he’d help people get what they want by offering them greater value.
“Just because something is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s of lesser quality,” he says. “So often, people charge a high price for items just for the sake of doing so. We try to be as efficient as possible because we want to pass savings to others without cheapening anything in the process.”
His team is making an impact not just on its customers’ wallets, but on the environment as well. By switching to more efficient lighting from Bright Ideas Lighting Solutions, businesses can reduce their carbon footprint by lowering greenhouse gas emissions. This, in turn, means fewer trees are absorbing the damaging carbon dioxide that is emitted from greenhouse gases.
Morgan says the efficiency savings the company has facilitated through its retrofitting business has taken the equivalent of thousands of cars off the road and reduced the amount of emissions and electricity consumed.
“I don’t sell people on that benefit,” he says. “I sell them on the finances. But it’s great to be able to say, ‘By the way, in addition to $50,000 in savings over the past year, your energy efficiency saved 150 trees!’ No matter your politics or beliefs, everybody loves that. It’s a win-win and it makes me feel really good about what we’re doing.”