“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” –Jack Welch
Last month, the Women in Lighting Committee of the ALA awarded its prestigious Women in Lighting Leadership Award to Bulbrite’s president Cathy Choi. However, you won’t find the ceremony, which was held at Lightovation in Dallas, on YouTube. And, if you search the Bulbrite website, you won’t find the press release. But, you can find it on Linked In, not because Cathy or Bulbrite posted it, but people like enLIGHTenment’s Linda Longo published it and linked to Cathy.
A great leader doesn’t have to self-promote and Cathy is a great leader.
Our designing lighting (dl) team caught up with Cathy at her Dallas showroom during Lightovation to discuss the award. She explained how the award was a great honor and attributed much of her success to the Bulbrite team. When I asked her about her leadership style and significant milestones, she used the opportunity to speak about the ALA, their great accomplishments and their mentor program. As I gently pivoted the conversation to focus on her and her success, she pivoted back to mentoring. Cathy recently mentored Miranda Zitting who started a lighting showroom in the middle of COVID. I later spoke with Miranda who affirmed Cathy’s passion, “We exchanged cell phone numbers and we probably talked at least once per week as we were starting. She gave me great advice and also shared many key contacts with me.”
Cathy did finally speak briefly about Bulbrite and their tremendous growth as they celebrate their 50th year in business. She gave credit to her parents and how they started the company in New York in 1971. Cathy’s father, Andrew Choi, was an immigrant from Korea who came to New York in the late 1960’s. His philosophy was ‘Bagels & Bulbs.’ She said, “Starting in Manhattan, he called on one showroom at a time and brought fresh bagels so he could get people to talk to him.” She explained that he went to all 5 boroughs followed with New Jersey.
Bulbrite focuses on bulbs and does not sell complete luminaires. She spoke of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 as a turning point for her company as the bulb became much more important. She said, “Historically the bulb was treated as a commodity, but EISA changed that and showrooms became much more aware of the bulb.”
The company was a national winner named one of The Best and Brightest Companies to Work for by the National Association for Business Resources in 2018 and 2019. Under the careers section of The Bulbrite website, there is a section, “Is Bulbrite right for you?” and it lists their B.E.B.R.I.T.E values:
Excellence in everything we do
Better way of doing things
Relationships are the core of our business
Educate yourself and others
During our interview, it became clear the values are not a slogan, but the mantra that guides Cathy in her day-to-day activities.