8:35am

Mon December 19, 2011
Company Town

mac LEDs: A one-woman lighting firm with global reach

Despite recent Republican maneuvering to gut efficiency standards, the lighting industry is evolving past the incandescent bulb.

Energy-saving alternatives are not new to the market. But analysts say one technology is especially poised for growth: the light-emitting diode, or LED.

"Everybody has to switch over to something - and LED is the most economical," says Kim Nash.

Nash would know. She's the owner of mac LEDs - an international lighting company she runs out of her Rochester home.

"Shipping central"

A spare bedroom in Nash's home is known as "shipping central."

"Every couple of days we get a whole bunch of product in," Nash says. "It just comes in here, it gets all packaged up and then it goes back out."

Nash's product is the type of LED lighting you'd slap under kitchen cabinets or affix to university study carrels. It's all made in Asia, branded to mac LEDs' specifications and sold via retail or in bulk out of Nash's Rochester home.

"I'm trying to learn Mandarin but it's slow going," jokes Nash.

The company is less than two years old, but Nash says "shipping central" may soon have to go.

"Our sales just continue to grow month over month," says Nash. "We're kinda bursting at the seams here. So I'm just going to have to pull the trigger and actually get a place."

"Little old me"

Nash's introduction to the lighting industry began about ten years ago in her native Chicago.

"A job just kind of fell into my lap," Nash says.

Nash was working in database marketing when a lighting company asked her to create a new lighting line for London-based retailer Laura Ashley. Nash says she did everything from design to distribution. "I learned everything about the lighting industry," Nash says.

After that, she helped another lighting company launch their LED business.

"So when I moved to Rochester [two-and-a-half years ago] I thought, 'I'm just going to try this for myself,'" says Nash. "And it worked."

Nash quickly had independent sales reps peddling her energy-efficient lighting across the U.S. and Canada. But her biggest coup was finding a way onto the Home Depot website earlier this year.

"Usually small businesses don't get into Home Depot," Nash says. "I'm up against GE, Philips, Sylvania - and then there's little old me."

Scaling up

In the next six months, Nash says she hopes to get mac LEDs into Home Depot stores. If that were to happen, she says it'll be tough to keep up with her company's growth.

Nash is a one-woman company at this point. She has a part-timer who helps her with shipping. Within the next few years she says she'd like to manufacture her product domestically.

But to go from at-home industrialist to full-fledged manufacturer, Nash might have to ditch Rochester altogether.

Nash says North Carolina is a burgeoning hot spot for domestic LED manufacturing.

"North Carolina is still less expensive," Nash says, "although Rochester could definitely be an option.

"It's just really cold here," Nash adds, laughing.

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