The Magargee family, owners of Light Pole Systems

The Magargees say working with a consulting team from Mihaylo College’s Small Business Institute was crucial to the establishment of their business. “The largest benefit we saw from working with the team was an outside perspective that brought in ideas that we may not have seen,” says Kurtis Magargee (right).

Father and son entrepreneurs Paul Magargee ’86 and Kurtis Magargee ’14 founded Light Pole Systems Inc., a leader in providing products and services to prevent copper wire theft and assure parking lot owners that their light poles have staying power. Kurtis discusses the passion and vision behind their concept and opportunities in the Southern California entrepreneurship and manufacturing fields.

When Kurtis Magargee ’14 (entrepreneurship) walks or drives through a parking lot, he thinks of the liability that poorly-protected light poles are to property owners and how his family’s startup, Light Pole Systems Inc., can assist. From copper wire theft to corrosion, institutions ranging from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to small strip malls have experienced light pole-related losses and turned to Magargee’s company for solutions.

The Placentia-based business manufactures and distributes locking hand hole covers to thwart copper wire theft, a pole repair kit to eliminate the danger of falling poles, stylish base covers and anchor bolt adaptors. They also provide inspection and consulting services, which are used by major institutions, such as LAUSD and the Moreno Valley Unified School District, to identify the need for light pole maintenance.

“Most property owners don’t look at their light poles,” says Magargee. “But when a rusted pole falls, it can cause damage to property or injury to pedestrians. Our customers are increasingly installing repair kits on every pole in a lot, so they do not have to worry about rusted poles again.”

Mihaylo College alumnus and entrepreneur Kurtis Magargee (left) and his fiancee, Katlyn Thomas '14.

“Staying focused on the mission statement will guide you in making decisions that keep the startup on the path to achieve the original goal,” says Kurtis Magargee ’14, co-founder of Light Pole Systems, pictured with his fiancée, Katlyn Thomas ’14 (marketing).

Launching the Concept

When Paul Magargee ’86 (finance) founded Light Pole Systems, he had 22 years of experience as general manager of Day-Lite Maintenance, which specializes in exterior lighting repair.

“My father saw the pain points in the industry and the ways to soothe those issues, so he started his own company to address these concerns with innovative products,” says Kurtis. At the time, copper wire theft, driven by the high value of copper as a commodity and the continuing poor economy, was a major concern for property owners, which the Magargees used to their advantage in launching their business.

“Our locking hand hole covers are not the only ones on the market, but they are the most universal design,” he says. “Most customers do not purchase and install the covers until after they are victims of theft and some properties are hit multiple times before the covers are installed. Other customers had the foresight to install covers on all properties after their first experience with theft.”

While a stronger economy and a fall in copper prices has led to a decline in wire theft, the Magargees’ company has diversified, solidifying a niche in the market. “Over the past four years, we have expanded to seven product lines, inspection services and consulting,” he says. “Our largest marketing campaign is attending industry trade shows, while our website is the source of most of our growth, with our clients coming from school districts, public municipalities, commercial property managers, electrical contractors and electrical wholesale distributors.”

Light Pole Systems co-founder Paul Magargee (left) and his wife, Judy

Paul Magargee ’86 and his wife, Judy, who provides accounting, human resources and other administrative support for the startup. After serving in the exterior lighting repair industry for more than two decades, Paul started Light Pole Systems Inc. to address concerns in the field with innovative products.

Mihaylo Student Consultants Help Launch the Startup

When Light Pole Systems was in its first year, they engaged a Mihaylo team of marketing students in fall 2014 in planning their startup through the Small Business Institute.

“The largest benefit we saw from working with the team was an outside perspective that brought in ideas that we may not have seen,” he says. “One of the best ideas was an industry-specific blog outlining many of the lessons specific to light poles and copper theft to establish ourselves as a reputable knowledge base in our field. The team also researched and outlined a number of potential trade organizations and industry events for us to attend and connect with a customer base. The team also researched potential customers whom we had not yet targeted, such as local electrical contractors and wholesale houses.”

Light Pole Systems has also recently manufactured custom adapter plates for installation on parking lot light poles on the CSUF campus.

Opportunities in Manufacturing and Entrepreneurship

When many people think of American manufacturing, the industrial powerhouses of the Midwest and Great Lakes come to mind. But according to the Orange County Business Journal, Orange County ranks fifth in the nation in manufacturing employment, and unlike in some other regions, employment in this sector has been relatively stable in recent years.

“In talking to our manufacturing partners, their largest struggle is finding motivated employees willing to work in factory and machine programming positions,” says Magargee. “Some positions do not demand advanced training, but typically do require knowledge of computer numeric control, or CNC, machines. Advanced skills in computer-aided design, or CAD, is critical for moving up in the industry.”

Regardless of what career one may aspire to, Magargee believes that entrepreneurship is a versatile and rewarding path, though it requires effort and hard work.

“Be prepared for the time commitment and low income for a while,” he says. “Owning and running a business can allow for scheduling flexibility, but it requires a lot of unforeseen work and will take time to become profitable, but in time and with a good concept, you can eventually make a better living than you would working for someone else.”

While creativity and spontaneity are vital, Magargee says staying true to a mission statement has been essential to the success of his family’s entrepreneurship.

“Think about what you want to do, how you are going to do it and how you will make money,” he says. “Staying focused on the mission statement will guide you in making decisions that keep the startup on the path to achieve the original goal.”

Magargee also encourages entrepreneurs to develop themselves and not be afraid to take quality time away from their work. “Do what needs to be done to make you as strong as possible, because if you are not the best you can be, you will not do the best you can at work or with your family,” he says. “Don’t be afraid to take time out of your schedule to read and learn, go to the gym, or relax.”

For More on Starting a Business

For more on how to launch your business concept, including mentoring and a startup incubation program, stop by Mihaylo’s Center for Entrepreneurship at SGMH 3280 or visit them online.