Steel Lighting Co. makes its lights in California, using American-made steel.
Self-described serial entrepreneur Aaron Abergel married his wife Rachel in 2015. Naturally, the next step after the nuptials was to start a business — and the newlywed’s business honeymoon began when they created Steel Lighting Company in Gardena, Calif.
The company makes classic-but-trendy barn-style light fixtures. Aaron Abergel’s parents had been in the lighting business when he was born 36 years ago, and it was just a matter of time before his business acumen returned him to what he knew best.
The No. 1 rule for the Steel Lighting Co.? The lights would be Made in America.
“There are definitely a few other companies that make similar products, but it was very important for my wife and I from the get go to work with companies locally, both for the reason of wanting to keep the business in the United States, which is important to us, but also to have our fingers and pulse and what we are doing,” Abergel said.
The Abergels started by creating outdoor, barn-style lights in their one-bedroom apartment. They were making the components themselves and sourcing materials from the manufacturing supply-rich city of Los Angeles. “I had a lot of different contacts going in and, basically, the type of lights we manufacture represent an old Americana,” Abergel said.
The company’s gooseneck-arm type of light attaches to outdoor buildings such as barns. But the popularity of the farmhouse design aesthetic has made the lights a hot commodity for homes and businesses like restaurants and retail stores, and the company now offers a variety of styles.
“We have farmers and people that put them on their barns and houses, and these are things I know people appreciate because they are American-made products. And that’s not from a political standpoint, it’s from a quality standpoint,” Abergel said. “All the steel product we use is heavy duty, so we’ve gotten a lot of folks coming back to us like after hurricanes and things telling us everything was destroyed, but the light fixtures were still working. It feels like we are making things the way they used to be made.”
The light fixture shades or domes are spun out of 18-gauge steel and then are attached to a building with a bendable arm that is a one-inch piece of rigid steel. Abergel’s crew of 10 employees bend the gooseneck arms into desired shapes at his small factory in Gardena so that the light shades are projected away from the wall when installed.
“We get to pay people, we get to support people — and that’s not just our employees, but also the other folks that work around us here locally in L.A. It’s nice to have success, but it’s nice to be able to involve other people and help their families.” Aaron Abergel, Steel Lighting Co.
The Steel Lighting team also powder coats the fixtures with a variety of colors while keeping the inside of the lamp shade white for optimal light reflection. The lighting fixtures are also available in a galvanized finish which adds additional character and creates a double layer of rust protection.
The heavy steel lamp shades and covers – some people call them bells – are sourced from a local Los Angeles company, but the remaining manufacturing, shipping and wiring for the lighting fixtures are done at the Gardena facility.
“We do our absolute best to get all American-made steel, but in the steel business, it can get a little messy,” Abergel said. “Usually we get markings on the steel, so we are able to reject it if it is not made in the U.S.
“When we first started, we were getting some steel pipe from Korea and it was absolutely disgusting. For us, it became a quality issue that if we got things locally it was obvious the quality was better. It’s really been a part of our success being able to keep our hands on every step of the way and make sure that what we are sending out to our customers is made with the highest quality products.”
During the past year, the success of the durable-yet-fashionable lighting fixtures has provided the company with additional growth.
Abergel wants his indoor lighting fixtures to compete with the flimsy Chinese-made products that sell for much less at stores like Lowes and Home Depot. But you won’t find Steel Lighting Co. products lining the shelves at brick-and-mortar stores.
Instead, the company’s classic American lights are available via the company’s website or on digital platforms like Amazon, and all the fulfillment and shipment come directly from Steel Lighting.
“We’ve had some brick-and-mortars approach us, and it’s just not the kind of product we have,” Abergel said. “We’ve kept that straight line between us and the customer, and it’s just been what’s working and you don’t fix what’s not broken.”
Steel Lighting Co. remains a family business, one that Abergel hopes will eventually be run by the couple’s 1 ½ year-old daughter — and continues to be Made in America.
“We are Americans and we love employing people, and as small business owners it really is a pleasure to have folks working because of the innovations we had to make in our family,” he said. “We get to pay people, we get to support people — and that’s not just our employees, but also the other folks that work around us here locally in L.A. It’s nice to have success, but it’s nice to be able to involve other people and help their families.”
Editor's Note: Blogs like this one are intended to highlight companies that support American jobs and that make great products in the United States. We rely on companies we feature to provide accurate information regarding their domestic operations and their products. Each company is individually responsible for labeling and advertising their products according to applicable standards, such as the Federal Trade Commission's "Made in USA" standard or California's "Made in USA" labeling law. We do not review individual products for compliance or claim that company products comply with specific labeling or advertising standards. Our focus is on supporting companies that create American jobs.