Custom light features company gets help from eBay
For Whiskertin entrepreneurs Aaron Novak and Glenn Miller, starting a business wasn’t just a bright idea — it was a passion they stumbled upon. Now, the Akron-area store is making custom industrial lighting fixtures from “old” parts with the help of eBay’s Retail Revival program. After flying out to New York City to be part of eBay’s pop-up shops, the company is on to its’ next adventure: lighting the way for another Akron startup star, Bounce Innovation Hub.
“At Whiskertin, we make hand-crafted custom light fixtures and lamps,” said Glenn Miller, co-founder. “These lights are unique — almost like art installations — and are made up of industrial materials and found objects. When we first started, Aaron was working in heating and air conditioning and he saw scrap ductwork on a site and was like, ‘Hey, I think I want to make a light out of this.’ He gave me a call, we got the pieces and parts that we needed, drilled holes in it and turned it into a lamp.”
After posting their creation on Facebook, Novak and Miller were shocked by the response: people were interested in purchasing their custom lighting solutions. It was then that the hesitant co-founders realized they might have a business, and they began to experiment with different materials and products.
“We didn’t really set off to start a business, it just kind of happened,” said Miller. “We’ve been pushing ever since, getting new products, making the lighting options with new details like vintage-style cord and porcelain sockets. We even started doing some custom jobs, like our light fixture made out of a skateboard, and that took off and became our number-one seller.”
As Whiskertin grew, Miller realized they needed help with other aspects of the company, including online marketing and website design. They turned to eBay’s Retail Revival program, which was designed to offer businesses a year of ecommerce training and access to tools that would boost their reach and revenue in global markets. With the eBay’s help, Novak and Miller soon saw increasing interest in their products.
“We were pretty small as a business when we started with eBay, but this last year has really blown up for us,” said Miller. “Right before we entered their program, we established our brick and mortar. We had been working out of the basement before that. Now we have a space in an old industrial warehouse that includes areas for production and a showroom. Retail Revival also helped us increase our online presence immensely.”
For Novak and Miller, balancing Whiskertin with their day jobs has been a challenge, but one that has proven to be just as exciting as it is impactful. In fact, they recently landed big clients including J. M. Smucker Co. and the newly renovated Bounce Innovation Hub, a partner of the Ohio Third Frontier.
“We love working with Akron-area businesses,” said Miller. “One of the nice things about the city is that it’s a small community, and everybody takes care of each other. If it weren’t for the network and all the help that we received along the way, our business would be nothing of what it is now. I think that’s one of the things that eBay saw when they decided to launch their program here. There’s a lot of growth happening in Akron right now. And we all have the same goal: we want the city to be great.”