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You’ve Got What it Takes: Phillip Schwab of Living Lighting

How he got here

  • Phillip’s passion for lighting began early in life, when he attended the Banff School of Fine Arts’ technical theatre design program. After earning his diploma, Phillip moved from Alberta to Toronto, to pursue his bachelor of fine arts degree at Ryerson University. He is also a certified electrical/electronic/electromechanical technician.
  • After graduation, Phillip went on to establish a successful 18-year career in the entertainment industry, providing lighting design for live theatre productions, rock concerts (for acts such as Sting and Deep Purple), television shows (including My Secret Identity and Kung Fu: The Legend Continues) and feature films.
  • During this time, Phillip also started a company that designed and sold lighting, sound and video projectors for nightclubs. Although the business was successful, he ultimately sold his share to his partner to focus solely on his first love, entertainment industry work. “I really enjoyed being out using the equipment and designing with it, rather than staying in the background,” he explains.
  • In 1997, Phillip decided to switch gears and move into the architectural and specifications side of the lighting business, as the Canadian distributor of a new colour-changing, light-emitting diode (LED) product line. Overseeing a nationwide team of sales reps, Phillip’s projects included outfitting some of the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation’s (OLG) government-run casinos, as well as several high-end retailers, such as Holt Renfrew.
  • After some corporate restructuring in the U.S. manufacturer’s business, Phillip ended his tenure as a distributor. For a year, he unsuccessfully attempted to retire. “I was too young,” he says. “I was going crazy, so I started looking for something else to do.”
  • Though his interest in lighting was well established, there was one sector of the industry Phillip had never ventured into—retail. In search of a new challenge, he found Living Lighting and considered signing on as a franchisee.
  • As he researched the opportunity further, Phillip was impressed with the franchise system’s buying power, flexible franchise agreement and openness to franchisee input. “If a product is selling in my store, my franchisor might take a more serious look at it, rather than trying to tie our hands and keep us limited to a certain number of products,” he says.
  • Despite his years of experience, Phillip was still as green as any new franchisee, working hard to learn the basics of the point-of-sale (POS) system and brush up on his administrative skills. Luckily, with the support of his franchisor, Franchise Bancorp, Phillip was able to make a successful transition.

DSC_0121Roger Noble says:
As a franchise consultant, I’m often asked, “What is the best franchise for me?” The better question is, “Given my own skills, interests and abilities, which franchise system can best provide me the opportunity to leverage my own unique assets?” A prospective franchisee should not ask what franchise is best for them, but rather to what franchise are they best suited. It seems Phillip intuitively knew the right question to ask.

Phillip sought and found a franchise system that could accommodate his extensive background and knowledge and allow him to use that work experience as the basis upon which to build a new, better business.

He knows himself and did his homework. He is clearly passionate about the industry and has the formal educational background, both artistic and technical, to make the transition to retailing easier.

The final ‘icing on the cake’ is Phillip’s previous business ownership experience. This taught him that his franchise would prosper better if he was active in it. He also knew himself well enough to realize he would prefer an active role to ‘staying in the background,’ as evidenced by the great satisfaction he gets from interacting with customers and leading his team.

With Phillip’s education, work experience and business background, it seems almost inevitable he would make a successful transition to life as a Living Lighting franchisee. His assets are complemented by what the franchisor is bringing to the table—something for which he, his customers and his franchisor are thankful.

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