Grow Your Business

Manufacturer Keeps Eye on Innovation - And Gets Results

The West Palm Beach, Florida, suburb of Delray Beach is a long way from Silicon Valley. Yet, there’s innovation in its water—literally, thanks to Lumitec, an engineering and design firm that specializes in conceptualizing, developing and manufacturing extreme-environment LED, or light-emitting diode, technology, primarily for the marine industry.

Because he started his career at the dawn of the digital age, developing products and software in the San Francisco Bay Area, John Kujawa, Lumitec’s founder and president, knows a burgeoning market when he sees one. That recognition led Kujawa to start the company in 2007. By 2015, Lumitec had appeared on Inc. Magazine’s list of the fastest-growing companies in America for five consecutive years. What’s more, the company has seen three-year sales growth of 145 percent.

“When LED technology started to generate a critical mass of excitement, people in my industry took note,” Kujawa says. “LED as a light source tends to have low energy consumption and, since you don’t have to replace the bulbs, you can design in such a way that [the light] can be completely sealed.” 

Seizing opportunity

This versatile design made LEDs ideal for marine lighting at a time when most lighting companies and manufacturers were using incandescent bulbs.

“Many people in the industry were still building products with conventional technologies,” says Kujawa, who saw early on the benefits of LED technology in pioneer industries and began thinking about other applications.

Lack of innovation in the marine market created an opportunity. Kujawa modeled Lumitec after an innovative technology company instead of a traditional manufacturer. Like a technology company, for instance, Lumitec places a high premium on product development and design, employing six engineers for every one salesperson. This strategy has helped the company achieve consistent growth.

“[Other marine lighting companies] didn’t have the ability to move at a pace that would fully exploit the rapid evolution of LED,” says Kujawa, whose small size and start-up status gave him the flexibility his competitors lacked. “I had the freedom to make bold decisions and take risks I felt were worth taking.” 

Managing size and operations

Achieving so much growth so quickly hasn’t been easy to manage. Like most manufacturers, Lumitec is challenged daily with fundamental questions related to size and scope of operations.

“When you’re a manufacturing company, the idea of scale is omnipresent, whether it’s how much equipment to bring on, how much inventory to invest in or how many people to hire,” Kujawa says. “Making the wrong decision either way—too much or too little—can be detrimental.”

Lumitec’s solution is a steadfast commitment to its strategic principles. Kujawa is confident in his company’s engineering and design capabilities, but he recognizes that many larger businesses have superior manufacturing capabilities. Instead of competing with them, he has made a conscious effort to remain a small- to mid-volume manufacturer that’s agile in the face of change, even going so far as to turn down high-volume purchase orders.

“Just because we make 10,000 of something doesn’t mean that 100,000 is 10 times better,” he says. “As soon as you start making 100,000 of something, somebody else can copy your design, find out who you’re selling to and make it for 30 percent cheaper. We can profitably make 1,000 pieces of a $200 product, and the reason we can do that is that we have a very flexible, configurable manufacturing environment.”

Lumitec succeeds not on the basis of volume, but rather on the basis of service. Its smaller production runs allow the company to design custom products that meet customers’ unique specifications, which it can sell at higher prices.

“If you’re a small business and a manufacturer, it’s incumbent on you to stay clear on your vision of exactly what you are trying to build, for whom and in what quantities,” Kujawa says. “We’re not optimized for highly efficient, long-term, high-volume manufacturing. Rather, we want to be very nimble with respect to our product evolutions, very niche-oriented with respect to our product offerings, and customized with respect to the features we can offer our customers.” 

Diversifying within scope

Kujawa’s approach is also evident in the company’s growth strategy, which offers a single solution to a broad base of customers. For example, while still specializing in marine lighting, Lumitec recently expanded to provide LED lighting for fire, emergency and military vessels.

“Somebody may look at our product and say, ‘You should make self-charging solar panels that will charge your lights,’ but that’s a whole other set of competencies,” Kujawa says. “If we take the same core expertise we have in circuit design, optic design and mechanical design and apply them to markets that have the same exact technical requirements, then we’ve diversified our sales base without diluting our technical capabilities.”

This content does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.


Investment and Insurance Products:

Are Not FDIC or any other Government Agency Insured   Are Not Bank Guaranteed  May Lose Value 

© 2018 SunTrust Banks, Inc

equal housing logoSunTrust Bank is an Equal Housing Lender. Member FDIC

equal housing logoEqual Housing Lender. SunTrust Mortgage, Inc

SunTrust, SunTrust Mortgage, SunTrust PortfolioView, SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, SunTrust Premier Program, AMC Pinnacle, AMC Premier, Access 3, Signature Advantage Brokerage, Custom Choice Loan and SunTrust SummitView are federally registered service marks of SunTrust Banks, Inc. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners.

Services provided by the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: Banking products and services are provided by SunTrust Bank, Member FDIC. Trust and investment management services are provided by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company and SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited. Securities, brokerage accounts and insurance (including annuities) are offered by SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a SEC registered broker-dealer, member FINRA, SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency. Investment advisory services are offered by SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered adviser. GFO Advisory Services, LLC is a SEC registered investment adviser that provides investment advisory services to a group of private investment funds and other non-investment advisory services to affiliates. Mortgage products and services are provided by SunTrust Mortgage, Inc.

SunTrust Mortgage, Inc. - NMLS #2915, 901 Semmes Avenue, Richmond, VA 23224, 1-800-634-7928. CA: licensed by the Department of Business Oversight under the California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, IL: Illinois Residential Mortgage Licensee #MB-989, Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, 100 W. Randolph, Suite 900, Chicago, IL 60601, 1-888-473-4858, MA: Mortgage Lender license #-ML-2915, NJ: Mortgage Banker License - New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, NY: Licensed Mortgage Banker—NYS Department of Financial Services, and RI: Rhode Island Licensed Lender.

"SunTrust Advisors" may be officers and/or associated persons of the following affiliates of SunTrust Banks, Inc.: SunTrust Bank, our commercial bank, which provides banking, trust and asset management services; SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., a registered broker-dealer, which is a member of FINRA and SIPC, and a licensed insurance agency, and which provides securities, annuities and life insurance products; SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc., a SEC registered investment adviser which provides Investment Advisory services.

SunTrust Private Wealth Management, International Wealth Management, Business Owner Specialty Group, Sports and Entertainment Group, and Legal and Medical Specialty Groups and GenSpring are marketing names used by SunTrust Bank, SunTrust Banks Trust Company (Cayman) Limited, SunTrust Delaware Trust Company, SunTrust Investment Services, Inc., and SunTrust Advisory Services, Inc.

SunTrust Bank and its affiliates do not accept fiduciary responsibility for all banking and investment account types offered. Please consult with your SunTrust representative to determine whether SunTrust and its affiliates have agreed to accept fiduciary responsibility for your account(s) and if you have completed the documentation necessary to establish a fiduciary relationship with SunTrust Bank or an affiliate. Additional information regarding account types and important disclosures may be found at

SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of SunTrust Banks, Inc. and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRA and SIPC.