The American Lighting Association’s Women in Lighting Committee announces the 2021 recipient of the Women in Lighting Leadership Award (WILLA) is Bulbrite President Cathy Choi. The award will be presented during Lightovation in Dallas at the Women in Lighting reception, 5 p.m. Wed., June 23, in the Dallas Trade Mart showroom of host company Allegri Crystal by Kalco (TM 4915). The presentation will also be streamed via Facebook Live on ALA’s page for anyone who is unable to attend in person.
The Women in Lighting Leadership Award recognizes one woman annually for her role in at least two of the following activities within the past two years:
Achievement/leadership in the lighting industry
Support of ALA
Mentoring of other women in the industry
Devotion to community through philanthropy, volunteer work, or outstanding active support/participation
The recipient must be a member of ALA, nominated by an ALA member, and voted upon by the Women in Lighting Committee.
“Reviewing dozens of nominations we received for Cathy Choi, our committee was impressed with the impact she has had on so many people in the lighting industry,” says Dallas Market Center’s Laura Van Zeyl, co-chair of ALA’s Women in Lighting Committee. “Cathy has certainly accomplished a lot herself and exemplifies a passion for her business. She has also invested in the betterment of others with mentorship, resources, education and training.”
Eric Jacobson, ALA president and CEO, adds "I am so proud that Cathy is being awarded the WILLA. Cathy is very deserving of this high honor as she has always been so generous with her time to support the lighting industry. Cathy is a pleasure to work with and is a fantastic mentor for young women coming into the business.”
Choi has a long history of contributions to her community, ALA and the industry. She currently serves on Dallas Market Center’s Lighting Board of Governors; as the Undergraduate Committee Lead on the NYU Stern Women in Business (SWIB) Alumnae Executive Committee; on the Board of Directors for the Ridgewood Public Library Foundation; on the Leadership Development Advisory Council for Seton Hall University’s Stillman School of Business; on the Board of Directors for CRP, a risk management company; as a Council Member of the President’s Council of Cornell Women; and as a member of Chief, a women’s leadership organization. She is also a past Chair of ALA’s Education Foundation; a past member of Vistage, a business coaching organization; and a past judge for Enactus, an experiential learning platform for college students.
Patrick Laidlaw, Director of Business Development-Integration for WAC Lighting, worked with Choi for nine years and says he developed incredible respect and admiration for her over that time. “Cathy is truly an amazing individual, both personally and as a business leader,” says Laidlaw. “I believe Cathy tries to find value in everyone around her and utilizes the strengths of many to feed a growing company that has been sustainable throughout the years. Cathy maintains the ability to pivot on a product or a plan without falling into the trap of a fad or dated technology.”
Choi has already been recognized by numerous organizations inside and outside of the lighting industry. She was Residential Lighting magazine’s 2010 Industry Leadership Award recipient at that year’s ALA Conference in Las Vegas. She also received the Meadowlands Legacy Award in October 2019 from the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce, and was named a Woman of Influence in 2013 by the Commerce & Industry Association of New Jersey.
Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Choi’s company, Bulbrite, has also received accolades under her leadership. The company was a national winner named one of The Best and Brightest Companies to Work for by the National Association for Business Resources in 2018 and 2019. Smart CEO presented the company with its 2016 New Jersey Corporate Culture Award, and Farleigh Dickinson University’s Rothman Institute named Bulbrite the New Jersey Family Business of the Year in 2015.
David Director, President of Connecticut Lighting Centers and Restoration Lighting Gallery, appreciates the four-decade partnership his business has enjoyed with Bulbrite, first established with Cathy Choi’s father Andrew Choi. “Cathy continues the Choi family heritage of being really good people,” says Director. “She has a true desire to listen, learn, and react to whatever the issues may be, always taking her company to the next level.”
“I am extremely proud of Cathy,” says Andrew Choi of his daughter’s recognition. “She has made quite an impact on the industry and I’m excited to see her carry on the family legacy.”
Past recipients of the WILLA include Jilla Farzan, Executive Vice President and founder of Nora Lighting; and Norma Cooper, founder of Lighting Etc.
Jilla Farzan’s daughter Neda Farzan, who handles Business Development for Nora Lighting, considers Choi a role model as a fellow daughter of immigrants navigating working, motherhood, and being part of a family business. “I don’t know how she does it all, but I know that she’s given me the confidence that I can do it, too,” says Neda Farzan. “She has experienced everything in this industry and is one of the people outside of our own organization that I trust for advice on leadership and lighting. She is a treasure and the stellar team she has assembled at Bulbrite is a testament to that.”
Nominations for the Women in Lighting Leadership Award are accepted year-round at www.lightingwomen.com, where additional information about the award and organization is available. Everyone in the lighting industry is encouraged to learn more and get involved by joining the Women in Lighting Facebook Group.