A Pool Skimmer & A Dream – The Prism Origin Story
Growing up in downtown Toronto as a kid in the mid-60s, Charlie Simpson lived down the street from a Cobbler shop. In the window of that shop was a sign handmade by the owner that said, “I’m a nice guy”. Charlie never forgot that sign and years later as an entrepreneur, he made a commitment to apply this rule to the principles of his business. Proving that “nice guys” definitely do not finish last!
As a young man working as an Electrician in the Exhibit industry in the early 90s, Charlie recognized there was limited innovation in the industry. The “ah ha” moment was seeing the exhibit industry was evolving and yet the lighting used in the industry was not. By 1998 he knew there was an opportunity to change the industry, with lighting costs on the rise for outdated 20-year-old technology and no return on investment for customers.
With an idea from a pool skimmer, an old fashion telephone coil cord and a dream, the first Prism Lighting Original was created. “One of the smartest things I did early on was the telescopic pole.” Up until this point, this concept did not exist in this industry. He also knew he didn’t want to just create a product; he wanted to make something that truly brought value for the customer. In 2001, he found a telescopic pole being used in the industry for banner stands made in New Jersey. From his experience in the electrical trade, he knew of the old telephone coil cord concept and convinced a company in California to make the smallest coil cord to fit in the telescopic pole. The first light stand prototype fell down like a clumsy baby. However, with some “MacGyver” like moves, using old film canisters to support the pole, Charlie eventually had a functioning prototype.
The Prism Original Light Stand hit the market in 2001, successfully selling 500 on the first order to a large multinational company in the highly competitive US export market. After traveling and working in the US, he could see there was a larger market opportunity but targeting both Canada and the US. With his first large sale under his belt, the next successful move, in 2004 was the introduction of the LED. Charlie recognized early on before other competitors, that the combination of a powerful light from a tiny source was the perfect fit with a small footprint of an Exhibit space environment.
In 2010 with sales continuing to grow and the competition heating up Charlie headed to Hong Kong for the world’s largest Light Fair. Recognizing he needed to develop a manufacturing partner who could scale up, meet demand and was capable of helping to bring his innovations to life. He took 3 days to do the more than 3,000 exhibits because he went to every booth (laughs). He has learned a lot of “what not to do” over the last seven years of manufacturing overseas.
As Prism continued to lead the industry in innovations, in 2013 a USA sales agent, Roman Moszkowicz approached Charlie with a proposal to launch in the US. Being a true to form Entrepreneur, the chance for a new opportunity couldn’t be passed up. From this meeting Prism USA was born and has grown into a commercial distribution facility in upstate New York. Also in 2013 looking for some business development support, Charlie reached out to long-lost first cousin Shelley Simpson, who specialized in this area. Although, they had never met before, they immediately recognized a shared entrepreneurial spirit. Together with Charlie’s uncle as a backer, they co-founded SGS Solutions Inc. With the primary product Showbattery™ addressing a huge challenge in the industry by combining the energy efficiency of LED’s with the power of lithium ion.
Fast forward four years and Prism is still on the “Innovation Trail”. With the successful introduction of many first in the specialty lighting industry and having won multiple product buyers choice awards for innovation. A merger of companies and a continued expansion Prism has grown from its Exhibit Industry roots to a multi-faceted global lighting supplier with a team of highly talented industry experts, all with a shared passion and vision for creating innovations that add value for our customers.