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Cathie Rowand | The Journal Gazette
1B Specialty Aaron Bentley, right, installs an LED strip light along with Tom Blee at the entrance of Sycamore Hills. 1B focuses on LED and solar lighting.
Business spotlight

Relationships brighten plan

Lighting installers focus on customers and staying current

1B Specialty

Address: 1629 N. Highlands Blvd.

At a glance: Provides LED and solar lighting for residential and commercial customers

Employees: Two

Annual revenue: $200,000

When was the company founded: 2011

Biggest accomplishment in the past 12 months: Installation of lighting at Fort Wayne’s Famous Coney Island on West Main Street in downtown. Owners Tom Blee and Aaron Bentley say it was a privilege to help modernize what many consider a Summit City landmark.

What was your biggest mistake in operating this business: Perhaps not advertising as much as the company should have

What are the key challenges facing your business or industry: There are so many misconceptions out there about what is truly efficient lighting, Blee said. “Actually, LED (Light-emitting diode) lights are better,” he said. “There’s this stigma that all LED lights are going to give off a blue color, but that’s not always the case anymore. The best thing we do is give people demonstrations, so they can see it for themselves.” Blee said the swirly CFL or compact fluorescent light bulbs are bad for the environment because they contain some mercury. “It’s not a lot, but you still don’t want to be throwing them away” to end up in a landfill. Another hurdle, Blee said, is consumers believe LED lights are too expensive. “The truth of the matter is the prices are going down all the time,” Blee said. That’s one of the reasons the company offers reasonable prices. “A LED bulb for a living room may cost $15,” he said.

What is your strategy for staying ahead of your competition: Research. “The market is changing so rapidly,” Blee said. “We have to constantly look at new suppliers to see what they’re using and if we want to use it.”

What resources have you found most helpful in running a business: Good relationships with people, Blee said. “That’s huge. We learn information from product representatives, manufacturers and other industry people. That really helps us out a lot.”

What are your growth projections for the next five years: 25 percent each year

What is one thing about your business that people might not be aware of: The owners of the company are the ones doing the work. “We have less call-backs that way,” Blee said. “When I do the work I know it’s done right and the customers know we stand behind our work. When people see the person that sold them something doing the installation as well it means a lot. We’re not sending some kid out there to do a job.”

If you weren’t running this business, what would you be doing: Landscaping salesman

Source: Tom Blee, co-owner Compiled by Paul Wyche of The Journal Gazette Business Spotlight profiles small businesses that are at least three years old and have 100 or fewer employees. To recommend a business, e-mail the name of the company and the name and phone number of a contact person to or fax to 461-8893.