In the summer of 2020, Luciano Hernandez IV and his son Luciano V joined the SURGE Boostcamp from Lakeshore Advantage. After four years, the duo finally received a patent for their solar-powered marker lights. It was time to turn their concept into reality.
Amanda Chocko, vice president of strategic initiatives at Lakeshore Advantage, had initially asked Hernandez and his son to join SURGE.
Hernandez says Cooper knew about their idea and asked, “What are you waiting for?”
“It was exactly what we needed to launch the idea,” he says of the Boostcamp.
Luciano Hernandez IV
Hernandez has owned and operated his design company, Tiger Studio, for more than 20 years. He’s served as board chair of Lakeshore Advantage and has been a staple in Holland-area community projects and events.
‘Man or mouse moment’
But even with his vast experience as a business owner, the boot camp served as a “man or mouse moment” for Hernandez. He says it gave him the motivation to launch his first product under the new company, Spirit Fire Aftermarket Products.
“I saw the energy that young people had with new and fresher ways to approach doing business,” says Hernandez. “(We decided), let’s do it. Let’s go for it. Let’s make an impact in the community.”
Spirit Fire’s marker lights are wireless cab lights, primarily for trucks, that require no holes, no wires, and no battery charging. The idea came from visiting the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show in Las Vegas. The automotive trade show had a booth that showcased custom cab lighting for trucks. But Hernandez thought there had to be a better way than drilling holes in trucks that cost more than $20,000.
His son, a student at the time, continued with the business concept, working through pitch competitions and investor meetings.
“Because we were developing a product and (Luciano V) was along, he learned a lot from that,” says Hernandez.
Making a dent in the market
Four years after the initial idea for the product, Spirit Fire has clients committed for purchases for their upcoming launch date on Sept. 1.
“We know that people will want to copy it, so we have to make a dent in the market as fast as we possibly can without compromising quality and delivery,” Hernandez says.
After the launch, his goal is to ramp up securing clients and ensure their new systems — ordering, stocking, and production — are running efficiently. In the next three to five years, they plan to have 10 products on the market and expand the applications to the recreation market, such as kayaks.
With the high demand for accessories and add-ons in the truck aftermarket, Hernandez knows simplicity and expression are essential to the clients and, ultimately, end-users.
“It’s a bling thing, it’s an easy thing,” he says. “Inspire is a big word (for us). We’re going to inspire both the retailers and the end-consumer to do cool things with it.”
With 20 years of experience designing vehicle interiors at Tiger Studio, Hernandez knows the competitive and evolving nature of the car industry.
“Intimidation is not in my vocabulary,” he says. “It’s a daunting task, but certainly not intimidating.”
Hernandez says that, by the grace of God, he’s accomplished every goal he has set for his business ventures.
“Go after what you want,” Hernandez says when asked to offer advice for fellow business owners. However, he is quick to say that one person cannot have all the answers, and help is always necessary.
“Too many of us think we know everything because we’re ‘entrepreneurs,’” Hernandez says.
Passion for business
“Passion-Driven Design” is Tiger Studios’ tagline. Hernandez’s passion comes from childhood and the positive feeling of business relationships. When he was a boy, Hernandez worked with his grandfather to harvest oranges. He says people would empty their buckets of oranges into his grandfather’s truck, then Hernandez would hand them a token to redeem their payout at the end of the workday.
“It makes everybody smile; I’ve always enjoyed that,” he says. “I’m not talking about riches and finances, I'm talking about the transaction.”
With the support of his family and community, Hernandez believes Spirit Fire’s products have the potential to grow beyond his short-term goals. But he recognizes that the company’s success will be directly tied to his passion for success.
“(We want to) make our clients successful with the things we’re excited about,” he says.
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