Kim Pederson is the CEO and founder of 1000 Bulbs, an award-winning business of more than 100 employees which offers everything from simple household light bulbs to cutting-edge specialty lighting systems. He launched 1000Bulbs.com in 1996 after working as regional and national recruiter for two national lighting distributors. Today, 1000Bulbs.com enjoys double-digit sales growth, and Kim was recognized in June 2010 as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in the Dallas–Ft. Worth region.
Sramana: Kim, let’s start by talking some about your background. Where did you grow up, and what were the circumstances that laid the foundation for your entrepreneurial endeavors?
Kim Pedersen: I was born in Iowa in 1954 as one of five children. My parents moved to Omaha, Nebraska, when I was four. I had a normal family life, but I was a non-achiever all the way through high school. I did not really achieve anything!
Sramana: What drove that?
Kim Pedersen: I was unmotivated. I don’t really have that many negative issues with my background. My big brother was really athletic and everything seemed to stem around him, so perhaps that had something to do with it. Nevertheless, things changed for me when I was 30 years old.
Sramana: What happened after high school?
Kim Pedersen: I did not go to college. I joined the Navy right out of high school and spent four years in the military. I got out in 1976 and when I got out of the Navy, I moved back to Omaha to get married. I took some sales positions and probably worked in six different jobs. I ended up unemployed because I was fired from every single sales position I had.
Sramana: Why was that?
Kim Pedersen: I was a pretty wild guy. I was unmanageable for the organizations. I was footloose and fancy free. I was the John Belushi of my time!
Sramana: How did you handle your repeated unemployment?
Kim Pedersen: I was almost destitute. I had no job, no food, and was about to lose my home. It was June 6, 1979. I applied for a job selling light bulbs door to door or business to business, and it was a straight commission, no draw job. I was very successful right out of the shoot, and I really loved it. If I did not sell anything, I did not eat.
I went from sales in that company, and within six months I was the regional recruiter. In that position I doubled their Midwest regional revenues within six months. I was then promoted to national recruiter, and again I was very successful.
I then moved to Texas, which is where I met my current wife. I left that company after eight years to work for a local Texas firm for another eight years in a similar role until they went out of business. The second company was also a light bulb company, and my role had a broader scope. They had a more varied inventory so I had more products at my disposal. They went out of business because the owner ended up getting very ill. When that happened I came home and told my wife that I was going to start a company. I started with $5,000 and two sawhorses for a desk in the back room of my house.