He was just too much for one fast food parking lot to hold.
It was six years ago when Brian Lim was first kicked out of a restaurant parking lot where he was hawking a brand new type of LED-embedded gloves.
“I was selling them right out of the trunk of my car,” Brian Lim says.
Word quickly spread about the gloves, which artists use to perform personal light shows until the growing crowds lining up at Lim’s car became too much. “We got kicked out of the parking lot,” Lim recalls with a laugh.
It wouldn’t be the last time demand for Lim’s gloves overwhelmed a restaurant parking lot. “We went parking lot hopping week after week,” Lim says.
It was a bootstrapped effort started with one hundred dollars, a category-creating idea, and enough hustle to overcome his long shot in life; Lim grew up poor as the son of hardworking immigrants who arrived here with nothing.
Lim may not have fully grasped it at the time…
But his parents’ well-being and that of a generation of geeky kids looking for a creative way to express themselves all hinged on a business idea that would eventually turn what should’ve been the best day of Lim’s life into the worst.
I’m a Glover
Lim was hooked.
Not only on the beautiful woman who would years later become his wife but on the gloves embedded with lights she had introduced him to and the couple would use to perform light shows at various festivals to which they’d travel.
“I’m a glover,” Lim says with a grin. “I love it.”
The gloves, as Lim describes, are the creative medium for light show artists who use glove lights to create mind-blowing dance performances to the tune of their favorite music. Unfortunately, though, first generation glove lights left a lot to be desired. The only product available to Lim and his wife at the beginning of the decade were white gloves with microlights or micro-flashlights attached.
“The first gloves off the shelf were terrible for gloving,” Lim says. “They were big and bulky and didn’t allow us to perform the way we wanted.”
Lim thought he could do better.
So he took the money he made selling gloves out of his car trunk, hired an engineer, and began producing gloves that would lay a foundation for the future of gloving.
“I didn’t like the product we were using and wanted to create something better,” Lim says.
It was a decision that would dramatically change Lim’s life.
It also saved many others.
A Bigger Mission
“Our customers were not the cool kids in school,” Lim says proudly.
They were the shy and unpopular kids.
Unfortunately, never feeling as if they fit in, according to Lim, has caused some to experience potentially deadly mental health issues. “We have saved some of these kids from suicide,” he says. “We have a bigger mission, and that’s saving lives.”
Lim says he gets messages every day from customers who say the gloves he sells via Emazing Lights, which is pioneering the art of gloving into a legitimate art form and competition, has changed their lives in ways they never thought imaginable. “Gloving makes you feel like a superstar,” Lim explains. “When you perform for an audience of one like many glovers do it’s the first time some of these kids have ever felt like a superstar.”
The performances, especially when well received, build confidence.
It has also helped Lim grow Emazing Lights into an $11 million dollar business in 2015 that’s now on track to do $17 million in 2016. “I feel I’m actually making a difference in the world,” Lim says. “To affect this many lives so positively, I can’t imagine doing anything I’m more passionate about.”
But that passion crashed recently.
It cost Lim hundreds of thousands of dollars and countless opportunities to transform lives.
The Worst Day Ever
One hundred people had elbowed their way into Emazing Lights’ headquarters.
Lim’s friends, family, and co-workers had come together to celebrate the biggest opportunity in the company’s history; Lim’s Shark Tank appearance that yielded multiple offers. The group had planned to watch the episode live on one large screen and monitor site traffic and sales on an adjacent screen.
Lim thought he was ready for the expected spike in traffic that often accompanies an appearance on Shark Tank. Emazing Lights scaled up to thirty servers, load tested its site, and prepared for the show for an entire year. “We spent an arm and a leg,” Lim says.
But Lim says the site crashed during his appearance on the show.
It was terrible. No one could purchase anything. When you get a massive amount of traffic like that, you have to capitalize or you’re screwed.
Despite spending as much as $200,000 to bulletproof the site against the spike in traffic, Lim says the crash not only cost him countless sales but opportunities to impact young lives. “It made what should’ve been one of the happiest days of my life into the shittiest,” Lim says of the crash.
It was demoralizing.
And the meltdown continued as the site, according to Lim, performed only marginally better for the West Coast rebroadcast. “It was really bad,” Lim says. “I was on the phone with three service providers when the shit hit the fan and no one could fix the site when it mattered most.”
Lim could no longer trust his ecommerce site to build the company of his dreams. While Emazing Lights had been successful enough to allow Lim to write the $95,000 check necessary to prevent his parents from losing the home they loved…
He needed a platform that could scale on demand if he was to save lives and make an even bigger difference.
Shopify Is Heaven
What about Shark Tank reruns?
That was just one of the questions Lim asked after the site crash. Investing so much money in a platform that didn’t work the first time Lim’s Shark Tank episode aired, would not be a mistake Lim would make again during reruns. Shortly after the Shark Tank crash, Lim replatformed EmazingLights and its two sister companies iHeartRaves and IntoTheAM to Shopify Plus, an enterprise ecommerce solution for high volume merchants.
Oh, absolutely, I wish we had switched to Shopify Plus sooner. Everything was such a struggle with Magento but with Shopify Plus, it’s so easy.
Besides the Shark Tank debacle, Lim says the old site routinely crashed when Emazing Lights would offer big sales that attracted lots of traffic. With Shopify, Lim says his team no longer feels as if it's wasting its time preparing for and marketing sales as the new site automatically scales to meet demand without any effort or additional preparation on Lim’s part. That includes surprise Shark Tank reruns.
“The best part is I don’t even have to plan for surprise reruns,” Lim says. “I didn’t even know the episode was re-airing recently, and all of a sudden traffic and conversions were both up. It’s heaven with Shopify, man!”
Since moving to Shopify Plus, Lim is on longer focused on technology or employing a bevvy of developers to maintain his site.
“I employ ten fewer people now,” Lim says.
Switching to Shopify is going to save us as much as a half-million dollars this year.
It’ll also allow Lim to refocus on Emazing Lights’ ultimate mission: saving and transforming the lives of young people struggling for acceptance and to find something at which they can excel.
Lim is now free to grow his business and the gloving phenomena the following ways:
- Glove4Glove — With every glove sold Emazing Lights donates a glove set to someone in need who is currently struggling with a physical or mental ailment that prevents them from creatively expressing themselves
- Global Gloving Network — Lim is creating gloving regions around the world where glovers can perform and compete and benefit from the camaraderie of fellow glovers
- Learning Gloving Center — A one-stop-shop where people unfamiliar with gloving can educate themselves and learn how to perform and headline their own light shows
What started as a hobby with roots in a fast food parking lot has turned into a phenomenon with global reach. Expect Lim to grow the gloving community and carry out the company’s bigger mission of changing lives; a mission that has also changed Lim.
“I get a message every day from someone who says we’ve helped them beat depression or have helped them through a hard time,” Lim says. “We’re having an impact on the lives of real people and helping them feel like superstars. It’s one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done.”