I’m so very excited to show you guys this interview. Brian Lim is a good friend from UCLA who is part of my business fraternity: Delta Sigma Pi. Brian has always been ambitious and entrepreneurial: in college, we knew him as the guy who drove a Lexus GS 350 that he paid with his own money. So it was no surprise to anyone when he landed a prestigious job at Deloitte Consulting.
Brian is currently the Founder of Emazing Lights, the largest and globally recognized company in the EDM (Electric Dance Music) scene that has pioneered gloving and helped push the EDM world mainstream.
I love this interview because it’s a great example of how someone can successfully make the leap from the corporate world to the entrepreneurial world. But more importantly, Brian never had to live off of savings and eat ramen noodles to make his startup dream a reality (like many of us); instead, he built his company to profitability while working a corporate 9-5 job, and only made the leap once his company was able to pay him a full-time salary.
This interview provides a strong and important contrast to the interview we did last week with Anthony from Kitchen Cabinet Kings. While Anthony was an expert in the kitchen cabinets vertical because he worked in the industry for 6 years before building his own company, Brian is deeply passionate about the EDM scene. It’s an example of how someone who is not an expert can completely dominate an industry because he’s passionate about it.
Furthermore, while Anthony has steadily built his company throughout the past 3 years through hard work and steady growth, Brian jumped into a market opportunity at just the right time and has seen explosive growth. It shows the massive potential of jumping into a hot market at just the right time with the right execution and work ethic.
How to listen to the full interview and read the entire transcript word-for-word
If you’d like to listen to the full 25-minute interview with Brian from Emazing Lights and read the entire 3,849-word transcript word-for-word, then download our free Ecommerce Rules Insider’s Kit that’s available at our sidebar to the right of this webpage or click on this link right here. The interview is included for download in our kit.
Below is a summary of what you will learn in the interview:
Take me back to the beginning: what was the initial idea and what were the first steps you took?
Back in 2009, Brian worked for Deloitte Consulting and was introduced to the rave scene by his girlfriend. Her friends were a part of the glow stringing, gloving community. His girlfriend bought a pair of LED light gloves and had a horrendous experience: she ended up paying $100 for the gloves and the customer service was just plain terrible.
To resolve the situation, Brian took the lead and began to call and email the company. After several exchanges, he felt like he was dealing a bunch of unprofessional kids.
This was his introduction to the gloving scene and quickly became something that he was passionate about. He realized that purchasing LED gloves was a major pain and an opportunity to provide a product and experience to a growing community.
So you found a pain and something that you’re passionate about. When did you sell your first product?
Because Brian was part of the gloving community, he saw all of the problems associated with the product. He decided to provide the community with an easy way to purchase high quality products.
It was at first difficult to find a manufacturer. But after some research, Brian found his first supplier in Coin Pro. He purchased a couple thousand products and began selling it from the trunk of his car and via Craigslist.
The best part was that because he started a growing gloving community in Friday Night Lights (hosted in the parking lot of their local In-n-Out), he knew that he immediately had customers that would purchase his inventory.
He eventually rolled the profits together and opened up the first retail location located in West Covina, CA.
Was your first batch of inventory branded “Emazing Lights” or was it a generic brand?
Brian is a great example of the lean startup mentality. He didn’t spend thousands of dollars to “get it right” before he sold the product. Sure he didn’t yet have experience in supply chain, manufacturer, and customer fulfillment, but he still decided to move as fast as he could and begin selling any type of product immediately.
The first batch of products that he sold were a generic brand — it wasn’t until a year and half into Emazing Lights that he had the capital and knowledge to create his own branded products. He now owns all elements of the supply chain and customer fulfillment.
How did you build your first ecommerce store?
Brian started with the Magento Community Edition. He’s not an engineer by any means, but he’s smart and curious, so he tried to set it all up himself. Eventually he hired a freelancer on oDesk to build and design his site.
An amazing statistic that Brian provided was that 95% of his sales are online! He doesn’t necessarily make a profit from the brick-and-mortar stores (he has 4 stores in total).
Now, the obvious question is, “If you don’t make a profit with the brick-and-mortar stores, then why keep them running?”
And the answer eloquently shows the power of building a tribe:
The purpose is just to build the community, have a place where people that enjoy light shows come together for weekly events with DJs and just the right atmosphere where – versus going to these media events to meet up, once every couple of months. You just want to be able to foster community that way.
Brian isn’t successful because he jumped into the market at the right time, he would have been successful regardless of when he jumped in. Brian is successful because he has built a powerful tribe and established a brand that resonates with his audience. By providing his community with a place to compete, play, and interact with each other, he has positioned himself and his company as the leaders in the industry.
It’s one thing to build a site and sell product from the trunk of your car; it’s another thing to sell product online. How do you drive traffic to your store?
Brian attributes his success in marketing to social media channels. As of today (May 2013), Brian has achieved the following milestones on his social channels:
- Facebook: 268,000 fans
- YouTube: 42,000 subscribers and 23.8 million views
- Instagram: 15,000 followers
- Twitter: 9,000 followers
But Brian doesn’t place a heavy importance on the number of fans; rather, the most important stat is the level of engagement in his community.
Download the Ecommerce Rules Insider’s Kit and you’ll also find out the following:
- The mistakes the Brian made while building and launching Emazing Lights and what he learned from it
- How his role has changed as his company evolved from a 1-man-show to a new 50-person company
- Who has been his most important hire while growing his company
- The advice he gives to current 9-5 corporate professionals for how to make the jump to startups