Photo Credit: Bright View Technologies
When Jennifer Aspell joined Bright View Technologies in 2010, eight years after its founding, the Durham, North Carolina-based company did not have a global presence. It wasn’t long after her arrival that the company began to export their innovative American-made LED lighting solutions and expand their global footprint.
While the United States remains the largest market for Bright View Technologies, European and Asian markets have proven to be significant sources of growth for the company’s advanced lighting products.
“We recognized that some of the high growth areas were in regions outside of North America, particularly those who are energy- constrained and might move toward LED lighting quicker,” recalled Aspell.
With fewer than 20 employees when she arrived, Aspell said the company relied on partnerships to reach these new markets abroad. Most of the business is channeled through distributors, though Bright View retains an employee in China to provide technical marketing support locally. The company also benefitted from lessons learned and policies developed by their Richmond, VA-based parent company Tredegar Corporation, which acquired Bright View in 2010.
Aspell noted that exports, “increase our sales volume, so that increases our manufacturing output” and ability to hire more employees to power their operations in the United States. The majority of Bright View Technologies’ manufacturing is based in Durham and the company also uses a Tredegar facility in Pennsylvania.
For Bright View, the internet serves as a portal for prospective clients to gather more information about the company and browse technical documents and as a platform for customers to order products and samples. The website also provides the opportunity for customers to interact with the sales team.
“Our website tends to be a good driver [of new customers],” explained Aspell. “Last year we had our website translated into Chinese so that customers can access all the same information in Mandarin as you can in English,” noted Aspell.
Online videos are an important way for the company to share information on product use, attributes and manufacturing. Aspell noted that the company hired a professional to produce a series of explanatory videos, which they posted to YouTube and embedded on their website to help prospective and current customers get to know them better.
Internet-based communication tools allow small businesses like Bright View to communicate with partners worldwide. “We use WebEx frequently to hold meetings across continents,” Aspell shared.
Bright View Technologies global journey has not been without its obstacles.
“Intellectual property is always a challenge,” said Aspell, adding that they take measures to protect their IP, such as applying for patents in key markets around the world – not just in the United States.
There are also logistical challenges of shipping their products and systems.“It’s a slow boat across either ocean,” noted Aspell.
While complying with foreign regulations can be burdensome, Aspell notes there are cases where new rules or rebate programs to promote energy efficiency can help their business grow. The company’s products can support economies’ transitions to environmentally-friendly lighting solutions. “Our products help our customers meet those kind of regulations,” explained Aspell.
Aspell tells entrepreneurs thinking about taking their company global to “hire people who have done it before.” It is a steep learning curve to figure out how to scale your business in the domestic market, let alone abroad. She adds, “When you have that network setup already, you can just leapfrog a whole bunch of steps and time.”