Steve Hubbard, Raymundo del Cojo
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Lightenco designs enhanced lighting systems that help businesses reduce lighting costs and cut down on energy consumption. These self-described “lighting geeks” focus on designing retrofit lighting systems for commercial, multi-residential, industrial and public clients. Their solutions use LEDs, which contain no mercury, emit no UV/IR light, give off less heat and last more than 50,000 hours. Lightenco also ensures old lighting is properly recycled for the betterment of the environment. It operates in Ontario, Québec and Mexico, where it manufactures LED products for public, industrial and commercial use.
Steve Hubbard and Raymundo del Cojo owe at least part of their success to their wives—and they’re the first to give credit where it’s due. After all, their wives (both natives of the same town, San Luis Potosí, in Mexico) first introduced them, starting what would eventually prove to be a fruitful business partnership.
Steve’s first foray into entrepreneurship happened almost by accident. He moved to Ottawa with plans to work in politics, when he stumbled upon a business idea. His wife’s experience trying to keep in touch with people back in Mexico while living in Canada showed a need for a cheap long distance calling solution. He started CampusCom, a VoIP phone company aimed at expats and international students who wanted a more cost-effective way to keep in touch with their loved ones.
When Raymundo and his wife moved to Montréal in 2009, Steve invited him to join in his venture, which had mild success. After that they were both hooked on the rush that comes from building a business and it wasn’t long before they were on to the next. Raymundo and a fellow engineer from Mexico, Eduardo Vargas, were working on launching a new company that would offer turnkey LED lighting solutions and they asked Steve to join in a sales and marketing capacity.
The company is doing very well, capitalizing on a new market demand for energy-efficient lights due to government incentives. Lightenco offers customers efficiency, performance and environmental friendliness, a combination that wasn’t being found with other lighting technologies, especially when packaged with a fully turnkey solution including, among other things, subsidy management, installation and certified electrical work. Together these factors built a strong business case for the success of Lightenco in Canada.
Since then, Lightenco expanded to offer business throughout Ontario and Québec, with the bulk of its sales in Ottawa, Montréal and Toronto. Steve, Raymundo and Eduardo also partnered with two entrepreneurs in San Luis Potosí, Mexico —the owner of an electrical company (Carlos López) and a restaurateur (Ismael Leiva) —and successfully opened Lightenco en Mexico. The Mexican business is currently installing its own locally manufactured street lights in various Mexican cities as well as gas stations, industrial and commercial spaces. The next phase of growth for Lightenco will involve developing a multi-purpose LED luminaire via the Mexican business to cater to the Canadian and international markets, as well as potential expansion in to Latin America.
Steve credits being an entrepreneur for teaching him to think critically and act flexibly: “In the traditional workplace there are constraints to utilizing your abilities to their fullest. In entrepreneurship, you’re able to develop new skills and determine strengths to maximize growth.” He also enjoys that same flexibility with respect to his own schedule and time management.
One their most powerful moments as entrepreneurs came when they were sent to the final round of the Québec Entrepreneurial Contest, representing Montréal, for best business service in Québec. They had to pass three rounds of Dragon’s Den-style pitching competitions to reach the final round, an experience that they felt validated their business model in front of their peers.
Since then Lightenco has been awarded Desjardins Bank’s Créavenir Award and featured by C100 via Accelerate Ottawa. The company has been recognized by Hydro Ottawa for its commitment to Energy Conservation and Environmental Stewardship and it became a proud supporter of Canada’s first official EcoDistrict in Ottawa. Lightenco was even featured on CTV news for an LED retrofit in collaboration with one of its partners, SustainCo.
“Know your market. A business plan isn’t just for the banks! A lot of time should be taken researching your business. Support is offered by many levels of government and private organizations to help you. Also, consider co-working. If you’re on your own and can join a community like HUB and CSI, the benefits are considerable. Get involved and meet fellow entrepreneurs and organizations big and small to share business ideas and find opportunities to help each other grow.”