Entrepreneurs

Fareed Alshami

July 7, 2014

Three years ago, at the age of 19, entrepreneur Fareed Alshami started Vibrance Lighting, a company specializing in LED and HID lighting. The son of immigrant parents, Alshami first became fascinated by lighting as a child, and in late 2013, Vibrance Lighting opened their first brick-and-mortar store, located in Tucson, Arizona and featuring various offerings for both residential and commercial lighting, plus a number of automotive LED lighting options.

Readers can learn more at www.vibrancelighting.com.

Fareed-AWhat was your upbringing like, and how did it shape who you are today?

My upbringing was fairly traditional, I would say. I was raised by two immigrant parents, both hard workers. They started from the bottom and worked their way up in most senses of the term. My first language was Spanish, then Arabic, and finally English. My parents both were very educated; father is an engineer and mother a teacher. Both had great families themselves, and I mean that value-wise. They raised me with religious values as well as hard-working ones, so my drive comes from wanting to be as good as them if not better.

How did you get into the LED lighting field?

I got involved in the field on accident. I was handed down a car sort of, — I traded my car in so my father could get a new one — and he gave me his old car. I didn’t like the feeling of being handed something, so I personalized it with LED lights and realized people other than myself could like it. That helped me open my eyes to residential and commercial lighting, and the spark grew from there. I’ve always enjoyed lighting, ever since my grandfather plugged a light bulb into a battery when I was a child. It was the logical progression for me!

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced while building your business?

The biggest challenge is capital, whether it be human or monetary. We started with no loans — maybe a credit card or two — but everything was paid for in cash pretty much, so it slows growth, especially when advertising and inventory is something that would really be helped with a cash infusion. But at the same time, it has helped us grow at the rate supportable by the customer base, so we don’t hyper-expand and collapse when there aren’t enough customers. And worst comes to worst? I owe almost nothing. When it comes to people, it wasn’t easy but I brought on two excellent partners, older than I, but people who respect me and my age and take value in my thoughts, ideas and input, but have the wisdom to clean up the ideas I bring.

What sets Vibrance Lighting apart from similar stores in the Tucson area and beyond?

First of all, there aren’t really stores like ours, we sell ONLY lighting, and only LED/HID, which means no fixtures, only actual light bulbs, and we specialize in this, so our knowledge on the products tends to be better than people selling a broad spectrum of things. We also have incredible prices, something accomplished through special vendor/reseller relationships I’ve managed to forge. This is a tough thing to do, but once done, you have great vendors willing to work with you to help make the sale and expand in ways you see fit.

What does a typical day look like for you?

A typical day for me involves a lot of emails, phone calls, sometimes going business-to-business offering our products and services, networking, constantly trying to grow the business and spread the word. In a business like this, nothing gets done unless we do it. So we’re constantly taking initiative and doing something. And then at noon, I do give myself a lunch/Netflix break; we all burn out and have to eat, you know.

When it comes to marketing your company, what methods have you had the most success with?

Marketing has been an interesting journey for us. I started out with word of mouth, as well as selling at the local swap meet, then expanded to Craigslist and started building a small client base and kept them with excellent customer service. I attended events, handed out cards, and offered people cold hard cash for recommending people to me. Ten percent of whatever I sold would go to them as a commission if they mentioned who sent them. All of these put together were definitely helpful.

I also did some door-to-door selling, which brought in some nice sales. It was a culmination of them all that helped us get to a sustainability point.

Facebook was good for networking, and “Likes” we got organically. Incentivize people liking you, and it becomes a platform by which you can yell about your company directly to people that have bought from you.

We have also recently started doing newspaper articles directed to customers we want. It has brought in qualified customers ready to buy, so the return has been wonderful on that as well.

Are there any recent technological innovations in your field that you find particularly exciting?

LED is constantly evolving; it’s a wonderful technology. For us right now, things we’re excited about are increasing levels of efficiency in LED, as well as more intelligent lighting solutions, like lights that turn on as you walk into the room, or lights that can be controlled over wi-fi. Color-changing LEDs are becoming more popular, and LED in general is evolving to a place where it’s simply much more viable. It will change the way we light things, we’ll begin to see more indirect lighting being used, and light design will play a bigger part in designing structures.

For me, the design of lighting and integration is the most exciting part; entering a room with no visual focal point for light is just fascinating to me!

Who are your role models?

My role models are huge entrepreneurs. They are risk takers, they are willing to do things in a different way. I like that way of thinking. “Leaders” is the best way to describe them. Some of my personal ones are Richard Branson and Elon Musk. For fictional, I have Tony Stark, and I mention him because he’s based off real people, and the traits he portrays are excellent in business. I admire these people for the sheer willingness to believe in their own ideas. Most of us claim to, but people like them believe so much, they are willing to risk all of themselves to achieve it. Most of us aren’t willing to do so.

What motivates you?

My motivation is to be like my family or better, I want to reach for the stars or land on the moon trying. I’d like to have a family someday and take care of my parents when they no longer can. I need to succeed, for everyone around me as well as for my own self-esteem. I need to know that I did something right , and it affected people in some way.

What’s the last great movie you saw?

I see many great movies, to be honest, and I’m not a very good movie critic. I see the work put into them and feel nothing but respect. I recently saw After the Dark, which was incredible, as it ventured into human philosophy. Also the Ayn Rand books recently made into films were really good!

What is your dream car?

I’m a huge petrol head, so I love cars. I currently own a Chrysler Crossfire. My other dream cars would include an Aston Martin DB9 or a Ferrari 458 or California. I can’t just pick one, since I wouldn’t only own one at once!

What are your short- and long-term goals with Vibrance Lighting?

My short term goals for Vibrance are to make ourselves the top resellers in the Tucson area for automotive and residential/commercial lighting with LED. Our larger goals are to become Arizona’s go-to place and hopefully nationwide via an online presence and reputation. I’d like to make the buying experience of these products easy and enjoyable in such a way that people look forward to shopping for these items, since they know it will change the way their rooms or environments will feel. I also want to make Vibrance a leader in efficient lighting and sustainability environmentally.

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