Today, I chat with one of the men behind the lights, Brady Stone, to talk about their creations and the work behind them, starting up their business and the challenges that came with it, and looking down the road to see what they'll be creating next. (All pictures courtesy of Black Steel Lighting.)
Gavin: Hey, Brady. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Brady: I was born and raised in Utah, I’m 24 years old, and I just graduated form the University of Utah last spring with a bachelor’s degree in economics. I’m currently working as a financial analyst while building Black Steel Lighting.
Gavin: How did you and Brett Millet first meet up and become friends?
Brady: Brett and I met through a mutual friend a few years back and have been great friends ever since.
Gavin: What drew each of your interest toward engineering, and, more specifically, toward lighting?
Brady: Engineering and designing have always intrigued me. I have always admired great design. I enjoy the creative use of lines, shapes, color, depth and textures.
Gavin: What kind of bulbs do you offer, and what made you make such an array rather than focus on one type?
Brady: We have a variety of bulbs available of all shapes and sizes. Our two most popular bulbs are the vintage Edison seen in The Knight and The Rook, and then the T8 seen with The Bishop. The Edison bulb is a unique bulb that looks great; it provides a nice warm glow. The T8 bulb is long, skinny, and personally my favorite because of its long filament. The bulb is just short of a foot in height and the filament runs from top to bottom; because the filament is so long, when electricity runs through it the filament becomes unstable and dances. When turned on, it almost looks like lightning in the tube. We like having multiple types of bulbs available, because it offers flexibility in our designs and provides or clients with customization to fit their needs.
Gavin: When did the idea come about to start running the electrical works through pipes, and how long did it take you to perfect the design of your works?
Brady: The idea of making lights out of pipe came about when I was in the market looking for a new desk light for my nightstand. After a trip to IKEA, Target, and Home Depot, I was disappointed with the quality and lack of selection available. A few days later, I visited a local hardware store where came across a lamp-part kit that provided all the electrical-light parts need to make a light. This is when I decided I was going to make my own lamp. I explored many different materials, but decided I liked the look and functionality of black steel. Perfecting the designs has taken countless hours. Much of the process is trial-and-error, and at times can be frustrating.
Gavin: What made you both decide to start up a business, and where did the name Black Steel Lighting come from?
Brady: Soon after making my first light, The Knight, many people questioned and commented on my new creation. With the amount of attention my light was getting, along with how much I enjoyed designing and creating lamps, I thought it would be fun to continue creating and producing lights, so we decided to start a business. The name Black Steel Lighting came about because of the material we use is called “black steel.” It made sense to us to have the name of the company somewhat explain what our product is -- a light made of black steel.
Gavin: Before you got the business going, you went to Kickstarter for funding. What made you choose Kickstarter, and what was it like for you meeting double your goal?
Brady: We made the discussion to lunch BSL on Kickstarter because of the fundraising opportunity. Many wholesalers require large-quantity purchases to set up an account, which requires lots of cash, which we did not have. Kickstarter provided the funds needed to purchase the minimum quantities and start Black Steel Lighting. We were very excited about our success from Kickstarter and doubling our goal. It has given us confidences in our designs, which has made taking risks much easier.
Gavin: Tell us about the designs you currently have available and how they function.
Brady: Currently, we have four designs available online: The Pawn, The Rook, The Knight and The Bishop. When I created my first light, I needed the ability to adjust the direction of the light, so I built in a pivot joint that would allow the light to move where needed. We also implemented the pivoting joint in the Bishop to allow for the lighting to be altered. We had a floor light named The Queen, but because of the size and weight the cost of shipping the light was not feasible. We do plan on adding a Queen and King to the line. Currently, we are testing a few designs. At times, we do display them at Urban Vintage to see what type of response we get.
Gavin: You've also created lights for a number of businesses in SLC and Provo. What was it like creating custom designs for clients, and where can people check out your creations?
Brady: We have created custom lighting for people and business here in Utah, but currently we are reviewing this part of the business. If we decide to continue custom lighting, we would post our creations on our website.
Gavin: I know most of your sales are online, with some also found at Urban Vintage. Are there any plans to expand into local shops more than you have, or will you mainly focus online?
Brady: Yes, we do plan to expand to more stores in the SLC market; we are in talks with a few local business owners. Also, we thought you would like to know that a store in the L.A. area is carrying our lights and we are in talks with more stores in the L.A. market to pick up our designs.
Gavin: What can we expect from you and Black Steel lighting over the rest of the year?
Brady: Besides completing the chess lines we are working on, some new designs/ideas. We are experimenting with new parts, materials and technologies. We are projecting to launch a new line mid to late spring. To give you an idea, I have been experimenting with shaping light.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Brady: Josh at Urban Vintage is great. He is an asset to the small-business community here in SLC. We really enjoy working with him and are grateful for all that he has done for us.
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