|By Bob Sweet|
Cascade LightingLong before she started Cascade Lighting, a business that sells and distributes landscape lighting, Linda Haslage worked at balancing a career with the needs of her family and community.
Born and raised
in Akron,Ohio, when Akron was the tire capital of the world, it was a
natural progression from Akron University to the rubber
industry. Haslage worked in purchasing and material management for
companies that manufactured equipment for making and molding rubber.
Little did she know that her knowledge of material
processing methods would equip her for a new career in landscape
lighting. This experience, coupled with over a decade working with
Underwriter's Laboratory, provided a valuable understanding
of quality and functionality of a manufactured product.
That opportunity was presented to her by Ohio Edison, a local utility now a part of First Energy. They were interested in developing a landscape lighting program for the utility's residential customers. Through referrals from local business associates, Haslage was contacted and met with the utility?s marketing department. They were looking for someone who had a background in business, distribution, and most importantly, lighting products. It appeared to be a perfect match for all involved.
Haslage put together a program for Ohio Edison, dealing with manufacturers to obtain the materials sought by the utility?s contractors. "I enjoyed it so much," said Haslage, "and soon realized there was a growing demand for access to a variety of quality decorative outdoor and landscape lighting products by contractors in the green industry."
Thus Cascade Lighting was born. Cascade carries more than thirty-two lines of lighting equipment, and is one of only a few companies that specializes solely in landscape lighting. There are not many women in the industry, but Haslage doesn't believe that hurt her. "I think women work in business a little differently than men do. I've had the same challenges, difficulties, rewards, and obstacles that anyone, especially in a new market, would be facing."
When Haslage started her company, she quickly realized the need to educate contractors on the use of lighting in the landscape. "I've been on some jobs that were overkill, and others where the lighting did not show the landscape in the proper light," said Haslage. "To rectify this, we began to hold seminars. It's one thing to just sell lighting but another when you know the contractor who attends your seminar will serve his clients' best interest."
Haslage has always had a busy life. While she was advancing in the corporate world, her two children, Christine and Michael, kept her busy at home. Christine played T-ball and softball and became a competition skater. Michael played soccer and football and served as editor of his high school paper.
In addition to
being involved with her children, Haslage also worked with local
elections of community officers and school levies; participated in
parent/school organizations; and was a member and officer in several
Today, Christine is 32 and working in employee benefits, and 24-year-old Michael attends law school. While neither child has chosen a career in lighting, the influence of the industry sometimes shines through. Michael worked at his mother's warehouse while he attended school, often setting up displays in the showroom. During his last years at Kent State, he installed landscape lighting at his fraternity house.
While Haslage's work still requires plenty of evenings and weekends, she isn't ready to hang up the sconces. "I can't picture myself retiring. I really enjoy what I'm doing. I enjoy the seminars; I enjoy working with the contractors; I enjoy the new products that come out every year. I just can't imagine retiring."
"Cascade Lighting presents me with the opportunity to be involved in community and charitable areas, along with the participation in industry organizations."
For relaxation, when time permits, Haslage is a boating enthusiast. "I've loved boating ever since my dad had his first 25-foot Owens Cruiser." She and her husband own a 39-footer, where they spend most of their weekends in the summer. "It's a nice break from business. It causes you to move into a totally different picture."
If Haslage's business rubbed off on her children, her involvement with her children and her community has certainly rubbed off on her business. Her life outside business has helped her learn to relate to employees and contractors as people with lives of their own, not just as they relate to her business life.