Women Who Lead: The Adelaide Project creates an immersive way to experience light
Sisters Jennifer and Karolyn Pott are using their unique perspectives as businesswomen to refresh the traditional realm of lighting agencies, reexamining how they interact with consumers to ultimately change how we light up our lives.
Their father Andrew Pott founded TPL Lighting, a commercial lighting agency, 25 years ago, and Karolyn joined the family business 19 years ago, after spending time in the banking world. Jennifer joined three years ago, after spending most of her career life in marketing. As the agency expanded and grew with time, both sisters positioned themselves at the helm of TPL Lighting, making it the only lighting agency in the country to be owned and operated by women. They are now using their backgrounds to rejuvenate the way in which TPL Lighting conducts business within the existing lighting sector in Toronto, and how consumers interact with light itself. Thus, the Adelaide Project is the intuitive extension of Jennifer and Karolyn’s unique efforts.
“The Adelaide project is a studio concept that TPL has created as a way to show our boutique lighting,” Karolyn says. But it’s also something significantly more than that. A more traditional lighting showroom might have the consumer lambasted with light from competing fixtures. “And you can’t experience how [a particular] fixture can make you feel,” Karolyn says. This is what sets The Adelaide Project apart.
Located at 509 Adelaide Street West inside of a heritage home, the studio provides the ability to walk through a display of curated fixtures, both architectural and decorative, designed in a context that communicates an experience of the product, as opposed to pushing the product itself.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, Jennifer and Karolyn have been focused on running the business in a way that ensures the longevity of both the Adelaide project and TPL Lighting.
“Navigating, is probably a more accurate word than “managing” when it comes to the current circumstances – as we don’t just have The Adelaide Project to consider, but also TPL Lighting as a whole. And it doesn’t matter if it’s trigonometry or skiing or how to navigate the new reality of business in a pandemic, being new at things is HARD. I vacillate between feeling excited about the opportunities this opens up in terms of thinking about the business differently….and scared about ‘are we making the right decisions,” says Jennifer.
When it comes to lighting, a focus on products is what has traditionally been done in the overcrowded and boys-club-esque lighting field. “What that ultimately leads to is a commodity game,” Jennifer says. “What we recognized is that if we as a small business, as a niche boutique agency who specializes in mid- to high-end lighting try to go down that path, we’re never going to win.” Hence Adelaide Project’s focus on client experience, she explains — it’s an initiative that focuses on providing a provocative way to connect with clients in a very digital era. With Torontonians now practicing social distancing, innovation in digital marketing is a focus more than ever.
“As it relates specifically to The Adelaide Project, we have temporarily closed the studio, and are spending our time fleshing out ideas on how to create engagement with our clients and community digitally. We are also using the downtime to focus on planning so that we can get new partners lined up for the first quarter turn,” says Jennifer, “looking to find ways to bring the team together, keep them engaged in the business, navigate anxieties that may arise because of the financial uncertainty of these times is where it is especially tough. We are working through a challenging time, but doing our best to ensure our team knows we understand what they are going through, that we are empathetic and supportive of them; that we are all in this together.”
Ultimately it’s about human connection for more than their clients, Karolyn says. The Adelaide Project is also about providing an organic space for Toronto’s design community, provoking innovative ideas and inciting dialogue, all while making experience more personal, physical — something you can touch. By focusing on cultivating a refined experience of a product, The Adelaide Project sets itself apart from anything that has been done before, placing the emphasis on how a consumer feels, what they feel, and catering to that in a comfortable and safe environment. And it’s a project that could only have been carried out by women in this field, Karolyn says.
“The whole notion behind it [The Adelaide Project] is, come in and make yourself feel at home,” Karolyn says. “Women tend to be the host, welcoming people in and making a comfortable environment and I think the Adelaide is, at its core, a woman, for lack of a better word.”
Both Jennifer and Karolyn bring to life their lighting solutions, allowing clients to experience the lighting in contact with art, furnishings, and decor, providing a living space that feeds into clients’ creativity, while also facilitating collaboration. The task now is translating that virtually as well.
Nothing about The Adelaide Project is self-reflexive — it’s about those who enter the studio, and it’s about the community it’s housed in. “When you see these beautiful old historic buildings in our city and they’re just torn down and there’s no care given to restoring them,” Karolyn says it breaks her heart. By housing the project in a heritage site, The Adelaide Project is not just saving an integral part of Toronto’s history, it’s also inspiring others to do the same, to appreciate what makes the city unique, Karolyn says.
The Adelaide Project has a bright future ahead of it, and it’s one that no one but the Pott sisters could have forged, together. An inspiration not just for the potential that lies in the lighting field in Toronto, but also for female entrepreneurs — “Believe in yourself, have that confidence,” Jennifer says to women wanting to blaze trails in male-dominated fields — Jennifer and Karolyn are luminaries reinvigorating a traditional field.