They say that the best businesses always begin by solving a problem. For the founder of Huey Lightshop, Bret Williams, this was the impetus for her entire brand. Amidst a home renovation, Bret couldn’t find the lighting she craved. As a product designer by trade, she figured she may as well just design something herself. From that, Huey was born. The Lighting Brand has quickly grown in popularity with their vintage-inspired line that serves up quality pieces at an accessible price point. Read on for more from the founder and shop the Huey line here.
Huey was created due to the frustrations you encountered amidst your first home renovation. What was the lighting industry missing and when did you know it was something you wanted to pursue professionally?
In 2020, I was renovating my first home I had ever purchased. There were low ceilings in some areas that needed a flush mount light fixture, but I was desperate to avoid the iconic 80’s boob light at all costs, so I sleuthed all around the internet. It was surprising to come up empty handed! I thought a cute flush mount fixture was something a lot of people need in their space. The thought was quite literally, “well, I suppose I’ll have to make one myself!”. At the time, I was a product designer for an interior designer in Toronto and gained a lot of expertise in that role which helped kick start the process. After designing, prototyping, and essentially becoming an electrician, the Cherub flush mount was born.
I have always been passionate about light fixtures as I feel they are crucial to making a space warm and personable. With a new light fixture and a fresh coat of paint, you can truly transform any space, especially when on a lower budget too. After the launch of Huey, with only our inaugural Cherub style in tow, it was clear that people shared the same sentiment.
Equipped with this old and newfound knowledge, my immense passion for lighting, and orders starting to pick up, I knew that this was something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Like any true love, when you know, you really know!
What is your process of designing a piece and where do you go for inspiration?
Every design process is so different, especially since I always want to incorporate new materials. It’s a lot of upfront research to find the best method to execute my vision successfully but it’s also very collaborative, as I look for new/local artisans to help my vision come to life. Getting it “right” is the hardest part of designing but one of the most fulfilling when you do finally nail it. Inspiration hits me in so many different ways from so many different places but from the beginning, the natural beauty of Southern Ontario has always been a driving force for me. Lately, I’ve also been deeply inspired by vintage pieces, which possess a certain unique quirkiness you don’t find in modern designs.
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How do you approach the decor of your home?
I have actually been thinking about this a lot lately. This past summer, I purchased an old, converted schoolhouse built in 1873 and am currently in the process of redesigning and renovating it, all while keeping its historical integrity. It’s so hard to find your own style these days when you can be bombarded constantly by Instagram and Pinterest. They can be useful but when I realized I was trying to emulate something specific, I started to ask myself if it was something I truly loved or just something I’d seen before. While designing and renovating my home, it has been a true quest, and an exciting one, to really find my own style. Like I mentioned, I’m currently having quite the moment with vintage pieces and antiques, and I think antique shows or flea markets are great ways to test what you naturally gravitate towards without someone else showing you what you should be doing. Forget perfectly styled lifestyle or product shots – what do you pick out of an uncurated lineup? At antique shows and the like, you are not so conditioned to think “this is what’s current and popular, buy me!” It is a much more personal approach. Antiquing is also a fantastic way to make every piece in your home feel intentional, special and the truest expression of yourself. I’ve ended up with a collection of highly unique and personable items that seem that much more valuable because I scoured high and low for them. As I have been filling my home with these found objects, my personal style is revealing itself to me in a really fun way. If I had to put a name on it, I suppose Traditional Eclectic captures the chaos and the order of my style.
How does your background as a product designer influence your work? And is there a specific aesthetic you would like to always be present in your designs?
I feel like many of my different past jobs have contributed to where I am as a designer today. The restaurant/retail jobs in my teens aided my work ethic. My internship as an album designer for Warner Music Group in LA confirmed my love for creativity and design. And my product designing career solidified my love for interiors and the objects that fill them. All of these experiences molded me into the person I am today and gave me the necessary skills I needed to create Huey. As I am always finding inspiration in different avenues, the fixtures I design change as I discover new possibilities and new ideas. I want my designs to grow with me and with our clients, all while retaining a unique timelessness and classic appeal.
We love your Prairie lighting and its modern twist on a traditional style. Any styling tips for this collection into peoples' homes?
Thank you SO much! Honestly the Prairie Collection really is so versatile. It can immediately soften up a modern space but it can also act as the perfect modernizing touch to a more traditional space. The duality of this collection is really unique and can truly fit in any style of space with an ease – almost like it was always supposed to be there. The lifestyle shots we receive from clients keep surprising us with new ways to incorporate the Prairie in a space. One styling tip I am always telling people is that since the Prairie Pendant cord is adjustable, you can actually turn it into a semi-flush mount. This way, it can be the perfect addition to a ceiling height on the lower end or it can help maintain consistent heights when placing multiple lights on a sloped ceiling.
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If you had to give advice to someone just starting a business, what would it be?
It feels surreal to even be answering this question as I feel like I just started Huey yesterday. Firstly, I would say, just do it. I feel like a lot of people have a fear of jumping in, a vulnerability with fully trusting their own vision. I was raised by a single mom who had a salary position at the same company for over 30 years. She was incredibly supportive but also extremely apprehensive about me quitting a reliable 9-5 job. If I was a little more fearful, I might have stayed but once I made the break, it was honestly the best thing I have ever done. I worked on Huey after work and on weekends and pulled many all-nighters before I let go of my day job. But it gave me the chance to launch the brand and get feelers out there to see if this was going to be something people felt a need for in their lives.
Also, make sure to do your research when it comes to your audience. Before I launched Huey, I was putting together extensive spreadsheets of every single person I thought aligned with Huey’s style and vision. I made note of their Instagram handles and any other contact info I could find and plugged it into the spreadsheet. When I launched, I spent weeks reaching out to hundreds of accounts to get my products in front of them. Modern day cold calling you might say?? Pretty soon, I had a few larger names following me and once those accounts follow you, then others who trust their taste will be more likely to as well!
Aside from owning Huey Lightshop, what do you love to do in your free time?
This took me a second as Huey takes up the majority of my time, but I can honestly say it’s one of the things I love doing most. Especially on the weekends when I get to have the shop to myself, casting pieces, blasting music and creating! Other than Huey, I have been trying to have more of a social life with my wonderful and supportive family and friends, who have been so loving and supporting throughout this adventure, especially when I’ve had my head down trying to give Huey my best. I love the outdoors and am a sucker for a good British mystery! If you haven’t played any of the Nancy Drew computer games, do yourself a favour!
What’s next for you and Huey Lightshop?
Keep growing and creating! We have a bunch of incredible launches coming up that I am over the moon about, most of which involving materials that I haven’t worked with before that are turning out beautifully. Stay tuned - thank you for reading and making it this far!