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Woman on the Move


The contributions of women in the world of tradeshows and exhibitions have been transformative and far-reaching. In recognition of females whose innovations have advanced the industry for the better, Exhibit City News is recognizing a Woman of the Year.

Countless elements factor into a successful tradeshow, including effective marketing, compelling design and proper staffing. One of the key elements, however, is profitability. Lowering the cost of exhibiting while simultaneously maximizing potential revenue is at the core of each exhibitor’s goals at a show.

Shelley Simpson-McKay, CEO and co-founder of SGS Solutions Inc. and president at Prisma Management Consulting, has twice delivered award-winning products at “The Trade Show for Trade Shows” in the two short years she’s begun offering lighting solutions to the exhibition and events industry.

Shelley Simpson-McKay displays her award-winning Showbattery light and battery kit.
Shelley Simpson-McKay displays her award-winning Showbattery light and battery kit.

Lightweight and rechargeable, Showbattery is a lithium ion-powered LED light kit that is portable and adaptable to exhibits or events, energy-efficient to reduce waste and, most importantly, cost-saving for exhibitors. Winning both the Innovator Award and Buyers Choice Award at EXHIBITOR2014’s New Product Showcase, and again bestowed the Buyers Choice Award during EXHIBITORLIVE 2015, the products speak for themselves.

Working closely with Canadian universities in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Simpson-McKay collaborated with the Innovation in Design Lab at Dalhousie University, her alma mater, and the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at Sobey School of Business on R&D to develop and manufacture an innovative lighting solution for exhibitors and event planners.

“Building on last year’s success with the introduction of Showbattery, a portable and rechargeable lithium ion technology and a gold standard for energy storage, [Shelley] partnered to evolve the technology to meet specific needs of exhibitors in the industry, saving them thousands of dollars in electrical cost,” commented Sobey School Professor Dawn Jutla, Ph.D. “Moreover, her product satisfies exhibitors’ desire to reduce waste, and is a significant option in the purchase of green exhibit products. Shelley teamed up with strategic partners in energy-efficient LED lighting to create further value and give exhibitors a complete 360° solution in an easy and affordable lights-and-battery kit.”

Main Place Lighting President Damon Delgado, who distributes Showbattery in the western U.S., remarked on the popularity of the LED light and battery kit among exhibitors.

“There have been many inquiries and much buzz around the product following its debut at EXHIBITOR,” said Delgado. “Showbattery is a game changer due to lack of electricity on the show floor. It is 100 percent an innovative product. The way it is designed is a plus for the industry – a universal light, small, not bulky.”

Oftentimes, power must be rented from convention centers, adding to the cost of tradeshow marketing

“One of the biggest challenges of exhibiting is the high cost of rental services for electrical wiring and outlets,” explained Shelley Simpson-McKay. “Showbattery combines the energy efficiency of lithium ion and the portability of a battery.”

Delivering an inventive solution, the battery-powered light systems offer power and efficiency, allowing exhibitors to light their entire booth space without renting electrical power, ordering installation services or handling under-carpet cabling.

Packaged in a convenient carrying case, the compact SHOW 6 kit comes with two 6 watt LED arm lights along with a 24V Li-ion 100-watt battery measuring 5” x 3” x 2.5” and lasting 11 hours if both lights are in use. Quickly recharged within six hours, the turnkey light kit can light island displays and exhibit back walls with a 15-watt capacity.

The larger SGS 220 kit includes a 10-pound battery measuring 11” x 9” x 6” in a heavy-duty carrying case powering 72 watts of LED light for up to 18 hours. With lighting sold separately, each battery pack is customizable with options such as arm lights, strip lighting, down lights, etc. A 40’ x 40’ booth space could feasibly be lit with four SGS 220 kits, according to Simpson-McKay.

Lasting approximately five years, each battery unit provides exhibitors a substantial return on investment with a price tag equal to the cost of renting a single electrical outlet just once. Equally beneficial to saving money on energy, exhibitors are also saving the planet. Approximately 60-70 percent of the exhibit industry have expressed interested in sustainable practices.

“Showbattery saves exhibitors thousands each year in terms of electrical costs,” Simpson-McKay remarked. “It takes the industry as a whole off the grid, making it more sustainable in the long run.”

Able to incorporate the light and battery pack into modular units, kiosks, freestanding tables and other design components, exhibit builders and designers have the freedom of light placement without the worry of extensive wires under flooring. Without wiring, exhibitors ultimately save time and money on installation services.

Simpson-McKay mentored other woman business owners before starting her own firm.
Simpson-McKay mentored other woman business owners before starting her own firm.

Before becoming a successful entrepreneur, Simpson-McKay was a partner in an industrial manufacturing company within a primarily male-dominated industry for nearly 15 years. According to Simpson-McKay, the lack of fellow female entrepreneurs between the late 1990s and 2000s motivated her to begin supporting other woman business owners.

Advising women in the fields of manufacturing and product development, IT technology, retail and even the exhibit industry, Simpson-McKay assumed the role of executive director of the Centre for Women in Business for four years, lending to her strong leadership skills and calculated business ventures. Later, as founder of Prisma Management Consulting, she continued to mentor female managers and entrepreneurs in Canada while running her own business.

“Shelley has provided coaching training and consulting to hundreds of companies. Her creative approach allows her to spot insights that others are likely to miss,” commended Eric Crowell, director, Sobey School of Business. “Shelley has developed training programs for entrepreneurs ranging from ideation to implementation to commercialization to growth. She is a brilliant and engaging instructor and can reinforce topics with her own practical experience.”

In line with her business tactics, Simpson-McKay’s solution-driven approach to entrepreneurship and commercialism translated seamlessly to the tradeshow industry in the form of an LED light and battery kit. Her father, Hugh Simpson, himself a technology consultant for the ship-building industry, pitched the idea for portable power in the exhibit industry. Thus, the two Simpsons went from exhibitors to exhibit industry vendors.

“We weren’t surprised when Shelley told us about her newest venture, LED SGS Solutions Inc.,” shared Tanya Priske, executive director, Centre for Women in Business. “This innovative product represents the way Shelley thinks about how she finds solutions for business challenges.”

Applying her business savvy to her new enterprise, distributors of the Showbattery are not only praising the product’s proficiency on the show floor, but also its creator.

“Shelley has been invaluable getting us set up as a distributor for her company,” stated Jerry Tyler, president, Tyler’s Display Supply. “Between providing excellent marketing materials, flexibility with contract terms, lead generation, product orientation and responsive support, she has always been positive and professional.”

Continuing her own education in business, Simpson-McKay is completing her graduate degree in the Master of Technology Entrepreneurship and Innovation program at the Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University, a top-rated program in Canada.

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