Many a great business starts with a great product that solves a dilemma. In answer to the escalating need for sustainable energy, Tala LED creates old-fashioned lighting with LED strips engulfed in elegant blown-glass bulbs for an energy-efficient – and gorgeous – alternative to standard lightbulbs.
We caught up with two of Tala’s four founders, William Symington and Ciaran Dawson, to chat about finding a niche and the importance of connecting with the right people.
Tell us about your “lightbulb” moment.
William: We wanted to develop a beautifully designed, low-carbon product that was accessible to the wider market. Lighting was the obvious choice as it is something everyone uses and the existing alternatives were simply not good enough.
Ciaran: The fundamental question we asked ourselves was, ‘why aren’t energy efficient technologies being adopted more quickly?’. We found that the industry had been dominated by a few extremely large organisations since its inception and this had led to the commoditization of lighting, which we saw as a flaw.
Sustainability and conservation seem to underpin your brand ethos. How do you walk the talk?
William: It is our ethos! We want to prove that you can have socially and environmentally friendly products that are commercially viable and not gimmicky. To this end, for every 200 bulbs we sell, we plant 10 trees.
Ciaran: The Heart of England is the charity that we are partnered with up in Stratford Upon Avon. We work with them to plant indigenous trees as part of their wider national reforestation program. Their ultimate goal is to plant 30 million trees so we’re going to play a big part in that mission.
What’s been the response to TALA?
William: Positive! People and retailers really get what we are about so we are very fortunate to be at a stage where we can handpick who we work with and really develop relationships with customers.
How do you make sure the right people notice and care about what you do?
Ciaran: This year, trade shows have been critical to our growth. We have presented in Germany, France, USA and the UK so far. Each show has its own personality and the demographics vary widely so we launched a broad campaign in order to meet as many people as possible before we start refining who exactly we want to work alongside.
William: Our products and ethos garnered much of our early stage recognition in themselves. Having said that, the design and brand team have been working hard on capitalising on this and bringing Tala to an even wider audience so we can plant even more trees!
Lighting isn’t exactly a niche market. How do you differ yourself from the competition?
William: There is nothing, and has never been anything, like our Voronoi range on the market before. Although many others have tried, no one can match our quality.
Ciaran: Our story, our people and our products.
How have your roles and day-to-day changed as the business has grown?
William: Having all started out as jacks of all trades and learning the basics across the whole business, we have now started to find our groove. Mine is in business development.
Ciaran: No day is the same so we have to be pretty flexible. We’ve all worked in every area of the company, but as we grow we have to oversee certain core functions so things don’t slip through the net.
Any advice for somebody wanting to start up their own business?
Ciaran: Do it – it’s simultaneously the most rewarding and most difficult thing you can choose to do. Even after a brutal week or month there is light at the end of the tunnel.
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