Made in Aspen
Celebrating its first anniversary, LitesNow of Aspen hosted a recent impromptu cocktail party at its downtown loft. All of the members of the LitesNow company team reunited for the festivities, traveling from as far away as the Front Range and China. The team includes President Darrin Frisby, Lead Designer Mark Joseph, Managing Director Erik Giese, Designer Janson Simpson, Designer Art Burrows, Operations Manager Bruce Watts, Sales Manager David Rubine and Controller Brian Robinson.
LitesNow creates and produces innovative, easy-to-install track-lighting systems that are both stylish and affordable. The patented do-it-yourself kits have been an enormous success since first being introduced to consumers a year ago.
“I wanted to design a lighting system that combined beauty and function,” said lead designer Joseph.
“LitesNow products are elegant, simple, and require nothing more than the ability to use a pair of common household scissors,” said Frisby.
The company was formed in 2001, and produced and shipped its first kit one year ago. According to Robinson, the company’s controller, LitesNow sold some 43,000 kits, grossing $1.5 million in sales.
“We’re really proud of how we’ve done with our product,” exclaimed operations manager Watts, who is based in Shanghai. “Within 12 months, we’ve actually turned a profit, which is unusual for the first year, and wildly exceeded our expectations.”
LitesNow’s parent company, Comfort Products, which shares the same office space, was founded in 1973. The Comfort Products team has developed hundreds of outdoor products, including soft goods for the North Face, bike components for Trek, snowshoes for Redfeather and “flexon” systems for Raichle ski boots among other innovations. Typically Comfort Products creates an idea for a product and then sells it to a design firm in return for royalties. When Joseph and his fellow designers devised the track-lighting system last year, they decided to keep it in-house, forming LitesNow so they could control the direction of the product.
Though the actual products are manufactured in Asia, the concept, prototypes and design originate in Aspen. Designers Joseph, Simpson and Art Burrows conceive and test their ideas on the slopes, trails, mountains and, with the track-lighting kits, inside their homes.
“One of the best parts about being based here is that you can design and test your product in the same day,” said Burrows. The owner of Ajax Design and a member of the LitesNow team, Burrows is busy on both ends of the spectrum ” both inventing and testing products.
The 2,000-square-foot Comfort-Products/LitesNow office is located just blocks from the gondola and mere steps away from the testing ground. “The location is definitely conducive to design,” said Simpson. The office includes various workshops where they can sew, weld, glue, draw and hammer ” even tune their skis ” with an abundance of resources. “Having an all-in-one space enables us to reduce the turnaround time,” noted Joseph.
“This job has allowed Janson to utilize his creative abilities,” said college friend John Miller, visiting from St. Louis.
“And it’s a helluva lot more fun than accounting,” joked Simpson.
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