I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Butters, Founder & Executive Director of The Lighting Agora, about what the Agora is and where it’s heading.
Shiller: What was your original goal in establishing the Lighting Agora?
Butters: I have always strived to work for the benefit of the lighting industry as a whole. In early 2021, I was at a crossroads in my career, and took some time to contemplate what I wanted to do going forward. I have always loved giving back to the industry. There is nothing more rewarding than to open the passion of lighting to someone. The old adage is “If you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.” While I disagree with the “never work” aspect, there is something special about helping to provide someone looking for a career with a path to loving what they do. I started by reaching out to a few individuals in my inner circle who I respected and felt would be a good fit. It is from this original group that we gained respect and buy-in from others, who in turned, added to our group, our offerings, and our credibility. I presently try to explain our model as an “Angie’s Work” for the lighting industry. We don’t have plumbers or carpenters, but we have educators, marketers, quality writers, presenters, outdoor lighting specialists, control specialists and so much more.
Shiller: It seems that you’ve significantly expanded the expert membership of the Agora over the past couple of years. You’ve attracted some of the most respected names in the industry. Has that been a gradual process or was it a recent expansion?
Butters: I think that is testament to our vision as well as a tip of the hat to those who have already climbed aboard. Each member of our consortium are independent expert consultants in specific or multiple areas of need within the lighting industry. The consortium consists of those who I have reached out to and those who have reached out to me. Every member has a skill set that can help the industry and I am incredibly proud and humbled to be associated with all of them. It is an exceptional group of individuals coming together for the betterment of the industry. Stay tuned. We are still growing.
Shiller: What types of projects has The Lighting Agora been engaged in?
Butters: We have developed and delivered a number of custom lighting education programs. Our first client, Phoenix Lighting, for which I customized an introductory course, has become our first return customer and our team is presently working with them on marketing opportunities.
We are two-thirds of the way through a very exciting custom intermediate course with Sonepar and their various opcos. It is great to see a distributor not only care but trumpet lighting education for their staff.
The Lighting Agora recently was the successful choice to deliver the IES’ LC Study Group and we are presently delivering those two nights a week for a record 82 registrants.
The Lighting Agora has also partnered up with the American Lighting Association to add to their already wonderful education offerings by providing guest speakers to their podcasts and webinar series.
Over the last few weeks, we have been approached by a number of manufacturers to provide some marketing guidance, and our marketing team is well positioned to assist in their respective goals.
Another exciting project members of The Lighting Agora are working on is the relaunch of the Lightsearch website. Lighting Designer and member of The Lighting Agora, Julie Johnson has acquired Lightsearch, and a few members have been working behind the scenes modernizing the site. We are expecting the relaunch shortly.
Shiller: Are the projects typically lighting design, consulting, education, marketing, or other types of work?
Butters: We are set to assist anyone with any of the following needs or goals: lighting education, articles, marketing, market research, website design, webinar delivery, development or production, expert guest speakers for an event, technical editing, copy editing, outdoor and municipal consultation, luminaire design, lighting design, codes and standards navigation, lighting controls system design and integration and most recently guidance with electrification of automobiles and the issues this will put on the grid.
Shiller: Has the Lighting Agora evolved in any directions that you hadn’t anticipated at its founding?
Butters: We do have an ever-increasing strength in the lighting controls realm as well as the electrification of automobiles and the subsequent issues of the grid system. There is some talk behind the scenes of having an “Electrification Agora” in the near future. I also, feel there is an acute need for our services within the Utility and Municipal segments of our industry, which we are looking into. One of the more rewarding aspects has been other like-minded organizations (IES, ALA, NLB to name three) connecting with us and pooling our resources to provide top quality content for the end user.
Shiller: How would you like to see the Agora evolve moving forward?
Butters: I would like The Lighting Agora to continue to assist the industry in the myriad of ways that our members can provide, but also reach out to the global community. At home, in North America, I would like us to be in a position where we help young people develop knowledge and a passion in the lighting industry, especially within the HBCU community. There is so much we can do and the only deterring factor, other than the obvious finances (which can be overcome), is imagination. Finally, the industry needs an organization to bring people together, regardless of their differences, for the betterment of the lighting industry and the general public as well. I think The Lighting Agora is positioned to be part of that leadership.
Shiller: Is there anything else that you’d like LightNOW readers to know about the Agora, that we haven’t covered?
Butters: First off, if I have not been crystal clear, I am very proud to be associated with every member of our consortium. We have assembled to provide a “one-stop shop” for the forward progress of the lighting industry. If you are an expert in your field, and wish to become part of The Lighting Agora, or if you or your company have a need you think we can assist with, please contact me at email@example.com.
The answer to “Who you gonna call?” used to be Ghostbusters. We are hopeful going forward, that it may be “Lighting Agora”.
Shiller: Thank you, Tom, for creating the Agora and sharing your vision for it with LightNOW’s readers.
You can learn more about the Lighting Agora here.