HISTORY OF FOUNDERS FORUM
The Mission of Founders Forum is to inspire, educate and connect entrepreneurs. Established in 1985 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the needs of entrepreneurs within Brevard County, it was originally a forum where new businesses could meet with funding sources and potential investors. But the Forum has evolved into an educational and networking organization where entrepreneurs can learn from and build relationships with many of the region’s most successful business leaders. As part of its mission, Founders Forum seeks out and honors business excellence within our community through our Founder of the Year Award. This award, formerly known as “Entrepreneur of the Year” has highlighted accomplished local businesses, and the men and women who drive their success.
This year, the Founders Forum Founder of the Year award goes to Bryan and Donna Scott of Barn Light Electric.
When Bryan, an air marshal and Donna, a registered nurse, left their professional careers in 2008 to run their fledgling business full-time, their dream was to revive the art of manufacturing porcelain enamel lighting in this country. They saw their dream come true when their first fixtures came rolling out of the porcelain oven they purchased in Italy and were assembled in their Titusville based manufacturing facility. Today, Bryan and Donna Scott’s company brand, Barn Light Electric, much like Kleenex or Jacuzzi, has become the universal descriptor for the style of lighting they make. Barn Light has since been featured by both CNN and CNBC in stories focusing on how the Scotts turned their one-time hobby into a successful business.
The inspiration behind Barn Light Electric stemmed from a hobby the couple nurtured while spending their weekends attending garage and estate sales, collecting antique and vintage items, some of which were restored and later resold. After accumulating a collection of vintage lights and warehouse shades from the early 1900’s, Bryan started playing around with the idea of creating his own barn-style lights (which got their name from their primary use in agricultural and industrial settings). He stayed true to the style of these lights and sought out an American manufacturer who could produce the same designs using only the best materials. They’ll candidly tell you that the desire to start their business stemmed from careers that had both of them traveling long distances to work each day and spending long hours away from home. To have a home-based local business was the goal, but they never guessed that the company would grow to the size it is today. At this time, their expansion appears to have no end in sight. They have had the opportunity to work with several major television networks and shows such as ABC’s “Extreme Makeover,” DIY Network’s “Garage Mahal and Man Caves,” Discovery Channel’s “Construction Intervention,” and the list continues to grow.
MAKING IT WORK
Working so closely together as a couple was another part of the strategic plan that they hadn’t strategized. As Donna remembered, “When Bryan proposed that we should make a full-time opportunity out of this, I was more than skeptical since we both had full-time jobs and great benefits. The thought of letting that go as the economy was taking a drastic downturn was quite daunting. Bryan is the equivalent of a gas pedal whereas I am the brake. We complement each other nicely in that way. Bryan is more involved in the growth and manufacturing side, whereas I am more hands on, day-to-day operations focused.” Donna added, “I think the biggest challenge for us was learning to turn it all off. We have to make sure we cultivate our lives and interests outside of our business.”
Their advice to others looking for entrepreneurial opportunities?
“Use the resources you have on hand and be passionate about your ideas; then find a niche that is underserved. Don’t start a business just to generate money; your business should be a natural extension of your passion.”
At first, Barn Light Electric’s customer base was the Internet retail market and the individual homeowner, but now things have expanded rapidly towards the commercial market. They employ a team of salespeople who sell to clients designing and building everything from chain restaurants to commercial spaces who want their iconic, authentic look. Today, Barn Light Electric has nearly 150 employees, the kind of people who not only run the business, but grow the business without the daily involvement of Bryan and Donna. They continue to add critical systems, processes and personnel that keep raising the bar, all while looking at what the future will hold for them personally and for their company.
Brian and Donna Scott are being recognized as this year’s Founder of the Year by the Founders Forum. The event will talk place at 6pm Tuesday, September 20th at the Hilton Melbourne Rialto Place.
P.O. Box 360066 | Melbourne, FL 32936