Jul 8, 2020

Over the past year, the EVP of Nora Lighting celebrated the company’s 30th anniversary and received the Women in Lighting Leadership Award from the American Lighting Association. Here, she reflects on both achievements

Q+A: Jilla Farzan
Jilla Farzan Nora Lighting
Let’s start with your entry into the lighting industry. How did it all begin?
My journey into lighting was certainly not typical or planned. In 1987 my husband Fred and I emigrated to the U.S. with two daughters and a third on the way. Like most immigrants, we faced the challenge of how to best provide for our family. Fred quickly established a business in Los Angeles, manufacturing women’s clothing, while I took care of our family.

In 1989, we identified an opportunity to enter the lighting industry. A good friend had just opened an electrical wholesale house in Los Angeles and was looking for manufacturers to supply lighting products. Since Fred could not leave his garment business, we decided that I would start a new company featuring interior lighting fixtures.

Nora Lighting started with a 900-sq ft building, two SKUs and two employees. Today we have more than 300,000 sq ft of warehouse space across the county and more than 50,000 SKUs.

What do you consider the key to your business’s longevity and success?
Our company would not be where it is today without the wonderful team that we have, especially our employees who have been with us for 15, 20 years and more. As a leader, you must be able to recognize your shortcomings and identify the right people who can bring out the best in you and in your company. Time and time again, as Nora Lighting evolved, our team also evolved and grew with us. Together with our core values of honesty and integrity, the team has propelled our success.

What are some of the major changes you’ve experienced during your career?
I could go on for days about major changes in the industry, but what really stands out is the evolution of the LED. With the invention of LEDs, the lighting business evolved into high-tech companies with semiconductor chips at the heart of the products. This brought changes to the industry that none of us had ever anticipated. How do you deal with stock that gets outdated in months because the chips are rapidly getting more efficient? How do you manage pricing when the price erosion is alarmingly rapid?

Before LEDs, we could sell the same recessed can and same trim for decades. It never went out of style, it never got obsolete, and it never saw any major cost reductions. Then, in 2011, everything changed. For me and and many of my industry peers, this was the biggest change in our professional history.

Have you seen the role of women in lighting change?
When I joined the lighting industry, there were very few women. It was extremely male-dominated, and I certainly had to prove myself to many people. I have seen this evolve—there are many more women in our rep agencies; at the distributor and showroom level; and in key management positions—and it has been beneficial for the entire industry.

What do you expect Nora Lighting to look like in another 30 years?
We talk about this all the time. We expect Nora to look and feel the same. Yes, we hope to continue to grow and increase our sales and footprint, but at the core, we will still be the same Nora we always were—an honest, family-owned and operated business that puts customers first.

What about the future of women in the lighting industry?
We will continue to see women join the lighting industry in all roles—management, sales, engineering, etc. At Nora, we have always had women in all departments, and many in management positions throughout the company. I don’t know if this is true of our competitors and customers, but in 30 years, I think this will be the norm.