Proof That Nice Guys Don’t Always Finish Last
by Heather Gillis
Growing up in downtown Toronto in the mid-Sixties, Charlie Simpson (pictured above on the left) lived down the street from a cobbler shop. In that shop’s window was a sign handmade by the owner that said, “I’m a nice guy.” Simpson never forgot that sign and years later, he chose to apply this rule to the principles of his business and prove that “nice guys” definitely do not finish last!
As a young man working as an electrician in the exhibit industry in the early ‘90s, Simpson recognized there was limited innovation in the industry. His ah-ha moment was seeing that the exhibit industry was evolving and yet the lighting used in the industry was not. By 1998 he knew there was an opportunity to change the industry, with lighting costs on the rise for outdated 20-year-old technology and no return on investment for customers.
With an idea from a pool skimmer, an old fashioned telephone coil cord and a dream, the first Prism Lighting Original was created. “One of the smartest things I did early on was the telescopic pole,” says Simpson. Up until then, the telescopic pole concept did not exist in the tradeshow industry. But he knew he didn’t want to just create a product; he wanted to make something that truly brought value for the customer. In 2001, he found a telescopic pole being used in the industry for banner stands made in New Jersey. From his experience in the electrical trade he knew of the old telephone coil cord concept and convinced a company in California to make the smallest coil cord to fit in the telescopic pole. The first light stand prototype fell down like a clumsy baby. However, with some MacGyver-like moves, using old film canisters to support the pole, Simpson eventually had a functioning prototype.
The Prism Original Light Stand hit the market in 2001, successfully selling 500 on the first order to a large multinational company in the highly competitive U.S. export market. After traveling and working in the U.S., he could see there was a larger market opportunity by targeting both Canada and the U.S. With his first large sale under his belt, the next successful move, in 2004 was the introduction of the LED. Simpson recognized early on, before other competitors, that the combination of a powerful light from a tiny source was the perfect fit with the small footprint of an exhibit space environment.
In 2010 with sales continuing to grow and the competition heating up Simpson headed to Hong Kong for the world’s largest Light Fair. He recognized that he needed to find a manufacturing partner who could scale up, meet demand and could help bring his innovations to life. He took three full days to visit the more than 3,000 exhibits because he went to every booth, he recalls laughing. He has learned a lot of “what not to do” over the last seven years of manufacturing overseas.
In 2013 a U.S.-based sales agent, Roman Moszkowicz (pictured above on the right), approached Simpson with a proposal to launch in the U.S. Being a true to form entrepreneur, the chance for a new opportunity couldn’t be passed up. From this meeting Prism USA was born and has grown into a commercial distribution facility in upstate New York. Also in 2013, while looking for some business development support, Simpson reached out to his long-lost first cousin, Shelley Simpson, who specialized in this area. Although, they had never met, they immediately recognized a shared entrepreneurial spirit. Together with Simpson’s uncle as a backer, they co-founded SGS Solutions Inc., with their primary product, Showbattery, addressing a huge challenge in the industry by combining the energy efficiency of LEDs with the power of lithium ion.
Fast forward four years and Prism is still innovating with the successful introduction of many firsts in the specialty lighting industry and having won multiple product buyers’ choice awards for innovation. Through a merger of companies and a continued expansion, Prism has grown from its exhibit industry roots to a global lighting supplier with a team of highly talented industry experts, all with a shared passion and vision for creating innovations that add value for their customers. For more info, visit www.PrismLightingGroup.com