iLED is a Vancouver-based startup that offers stylish Low-Carbon LED furniture and decorations. Here, we speak with Sara, the founder and owner of iLED on her company; the journey to creating iLED; her product; and, her advice for students.
Staff Writer: Felix He
Tell us a little bit about the company.
I began all the research and testing for iLED during the summer of 2015, here in Vancouver. Since then, we have grown to employ about five employees.
Our products are low-carbon LED furniture and decorations. We are also trying to build a lifestyle brand, which I call GreenLuxe. The word “luxury” implies that there is a high consumption of energy and resources, and a high production of waste. When we say sustainability, people will think about conservation and minimal waste. Having a GreenLuxe lifestyle means enjoying a colourful, luxurious life while still being eco-friendly. That is the main idea behind iLED. We are not just selling our product, but we are also selling our brand, our experience.
What gave you the idea for iLED?
When I moved into my first house in Vancouver, I had nothing to fill it with, so I began designing and making my own products. I pulled from my engineering, fashion, and design backgrounds to create Low Carbon LED furniture and decorations. I really liked them, so I decided to turn it into a business.
What does iLED offer?
We have three services. First, we sell our products. We focus mostly on commercial projects, but we also have a website for retail. Second, we rent out our products to many different types of customers, such as those looking to stage their apartments or even to build movie sets. Lastly, we do design and decorating consultations with our products.
What are you planning to do in the future with iLED?
The company is rather young. I want to build a strong team in Vancouver that can function without me, so that I can travel and develop iLED in other areas of the world. I will continue building my brand, but I want to take my time as I really love what I am doing right now.
Are there any new products coming?
We are planning to introduce solar panels and chargers. Last year, I tested a first generation of panels, but we changed the design to make the sockets smarter and more efficient. The second generation was ready last March, so we are now entering the production phase of the panels.
How did you finance iLED?
Everything is self-financed, but things are developing pretty fast. To continue developing, I’m going to be looking for investors.
Where does iLED get its products?
We design the products, and have suppliers that make them for us. We then store the products in a warehouse for future use.
As an entrepreneur, what does your work-life balance look like?
I don’t believe in working hard – I believe in enjoying life. I don’t want to spend all my time working. As iLED is still a startup, however, I know that I will need to work hard and eventually build a home office so that the company can run without me. This past year, I worked really hard, but this is not me. There are many things in life more important than work, business, and money. I think in the end, it’s about efficiency. When you work, you need to be very efficient.
As for my schedule, most of my days are spent running around having meetings with my employees and going to appointments around Vancouver. I don’t have much time for other things; iLED is my full time job.
What’s the best way to organise employees and keep them productive?
Encouragement and inspiration. You have to love your job and the company, and the employees have to love it as well. You have to find the right people to work with you, and your product has to be great.
What do you look for in employees?
I always tell people that the most important thing is efficiency. It’s not about how hard you work. It’s about getting things done and reaping the results. This is why I always give my hires and team a lot of flexibility in terms of schedule and how they work.
What advice do you have for budding entrepreneurs?
First of all, I think it is great that young people are thinking about creating their own businesses. In the older generations, most people wanted to work for companies. It is very good for the economy when young people create their own businesses.
My first piece of advice is to believe in yourself and go ahead with your plans. Second, you need to have a passion, and you need to love it from the heart. Otherwise, don’t use your time for it. Also, confidence; if you believe you are going to make it, you will make it.
The last thing is leadership. Entrepreneurship is all about leadership. In the end, we can’t do everything by ourselves. It’s important to be able to read people, to put the right person in the right position. You need a team – you can’t run it all by yourself.
What advice do you have for people in general?
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Life is a big school, and each event, no matter good or bad, is an opportunity to learn and improve. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes.
Also, this is what I normally tell my staff: if you think you need one week to finish it, don’t say two days. Of course it looks good, but it’s more important to keep your word.
Lastly, when I interviewed students, I heard many say that being CEO is their dream job, and that they don’t want to touch the smaller jobs. You need to be able to handle the small jobs before you can handle the big jobs. You need to be able to handle the foundation before you can be a CEO.
Thank you Sara for sharing your experience and energy with The Cavalier, and providing advice and information about running a startup.
More information on iLED can be found on the company website, at http://www.i-led.ca/. Periodically, iLED also hires students from around UBC, including students from Sauder, so be sure to keep your eyes open on the UBC COOL and CareersOnline postings.