Just over 5 years ago on a very cold and very snowy day, I was sitting in a bathtub pondering my future. Something about hot water and Mr. Bubble really gets my mind going, apparently. I was recently downsized from a very good job which I enjoyed very much, and was facing all of the issues a newly unemployed person typically faces: a whole lot of extra stress, a whole lot less money and a massive amount of uncertainty about what was to come.
What happened in that bathtub is the moment that has defined the past 5 years of my life. I started a company called Blizzard Lighting and set out in the world of entertainment lighting. Within a few months, my basement stopped being for rec room items and began holding light fixtures. A few at first, then more, then more still until the poor little house couldn’t take any more. (FACTOID: In the beginning, it was just Bob and I. We used to slide boxes up and down the basement stairs with an old long board I stole out of my closet!)
So… we moved the operation out to the garage… where LOTS of great small businesses start! (Another FACTOID: We worked in the garage through a Wisconsin winter with nothing but 2 woefully underpowered propane heaters to keep us “warm.” It was cold. Really. Cold.)
Fast forward to now, and fortunately the basement is back to recreation use (although the garage is still filled with crap), but we’ve got a 10,000 sq. ft. warehouse packed to the rafters with awesome Blizzard gear, and we’re planning a move to a 45,000 sq. ft. facility later this year! That’s right, we’ve been in business for 5 years now, and what a fantastic 5 years it’s been! Plus, our offices/warehouse even have HEAT!!
But back to the bathtub for a second. (FACTOID: It is a very small bathtub, and I’m a very large individual. Sorry for *that* visual.) When you set out on a completely different path, you have no clue what to expect, which I guess is part of what I love so much about this job! From the start, there have been daily challenges to overcome, and I’ve enjoyed overcoming almost every one of them. (OK, a few things have really sucked, but by and large, it’s been a lot of fun so far!)
For me, though, the biggest key to our success over the past 5 years is this: I was then, and am now very fortunate to be surrounded by supportive people who—if they think I’m crazy—at least think I’m looney in a sorta productive, intriguing way. They are *sniff* the “Wind Beneath My Wings,” (FACTOID: 30ish years ago, when I was in elementary school, we sang that song in choir. Yikes.) and they deserve some MAD PROPS, which they shall receive… NOW:
My then-girlfriend, now-wife Katy somehow manages to actually live AND work with me, for which I am nominating her for beatification. (FACTOID: I can be stressful to live with… I’m always up to something, and it typically involves things that are messy, smelly, noisy, take up a lot of space, are expensive, time consuming, not completely accepted by “normal” society, or a mixture of all. But most of the time, they turn out OK, I swear.)
My best friend Bob (Bob, yeah, you’re my best friend. Don’t make me feel all weird for saying it!) – who is also one of my business partners and serves as Blizzard’s “Consiglieri” is the best listener and advice giver in the world. (FACTOID: Bob and I met and played together in a local cover band called “Chapter 2,” which was also a big inspiration for starting Blizzard, and was Blizzard’s first “beta tester!”)
This guy named Frank, whom Bob and I met in the summer of 2010, who we immediately connected with like we’d been best pals for years, and who has been our Director of Sales for 4+ years—is the greatest salesman on the planet, and literally the most genuine, kindest, most honest soul I’ve ever met. (FACTOID: Frank is also a ridiculously good golfer, speaks Chinese (better than me, anyways) and has—somewhat unintentionally—created adjudicated some of the most memorable hilarious catchphrases that circulate around the office…)
Then there are all of the guys and gals who have been part of the dysfunctional Blizzard family either then or now. (FACTOID: All but one are still here!): Bruce, Dave D., Dave S., Jack, Joe, Joel, John, Kristina, Katy, Mark, Meredith, Nathan, Roy, Scott H. and Scott M.
Again, I give all of you my deepest and most humble thanks for being part of our success over the past 5 years, and for being my friends!
But OF COURSE the biggest, most bow-down-at-your-feet-incredibly-unbelievably-heartfelt thanks goes to all of the wonderful people who’ve taken a chance on us and purchased our products over the past 5 years (FACTOID: I now instantly have ABBA’s “Take A Chance On Me” in my head). You and the work you do using our products are truly our inspiration. You do things with our products that we could never in a million years dream up, and you are great and loyal advocates for our brand and our company. We appreciate the heck out of each and every one of you, and know it’s no small thing for you to have placed your trust in us. We WILL do everything we can on a daily basis to live up to and exceed your expectations, and will work our tails off to bring you the absolute best lighting equipment for sale today.
To all of you, again, thank you. The last 5 years have been wonderful. Now, that book is closed, and we start writing Chapter 2 (FACTOID: Horrible reference to Bob and my Band… it should actually probably be like “Chapter 6,” but that wouldn’t work, would it?) of the Blizzard story. We’re going to have more humbling moments and more triumphs. But above all, I promise we’re going to have a hell of a lot of fun filling the world with light together!