Riley Stricklin is the cofounder and CEO of Lume Cube, a lightbox that is the perfect complement to any photo or scene. He was inspired in 2014 by a personal and professional need for a portable, high-quality light when he took pictures of clients at night.
When he saw other people using his product, he realized it had potential beyond helping him take better photos. He wanted to help other people capture their memories with better photos and better content. He started out with a $5,000 investment and little else.
The first iteration of Lume Cube used LED lights to create bright, consistent lighting for taking photos with smartphones and GoPros, and it has continued to evolve into 2023.
Lume Cube is a lightbox that turns your phone’s screen into an adjustable light source for any photo. Lume Cube was born out of a personal need for a portable, high-quality light when Jeremy took pictures of his children at night.
In addition to helping photographers take better shots in low-light conditions, Lume Cube also helps recreational photographers who only shoot using their smartphone cameras.
The Founding of Lume Cube
The Lume Cube was the brainchild of Stricklin, who founded the company in 2014. He was inspired to create it after seeing other people in need of a product similar to his product and realizing that it had more potential than helping him take better photos at night.
Stricklin was born in and grew up in Rhode Island before moving to San Diego. He worked many different jobs in sales and in marketing before he was able to fulfill his deep-down entrepreneurial spirit and create a product.
The inspiration behind the Lume Cube came from a personal need for a portable, high-quality light with the advent of photography technology that made anybody a high-quality photographer. Lighting is an essential part of any shoot, whether it’s with a four-thousand-dollar camera or an iPhone or GoPro.
An Emphasis On Quality
Stricklin saw that people were using Lume Cube for more than just taking photos. They were using it to light up their reading material and camping gear and other things that they hadn’t even considered.
He realized that there was a market for his product beyond helping him take better photos. This realization led him to create new marketing campaigns and messaging that spoke directly to these different audiences on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook.
The product line they offered also began to develop from this evolution of use. Today, Lume Cube’s products still include smartphone lights but have expanded to also offer lights designed specifically for workspaces, others for artists, and still others specifically for content creators — like ring lights.
Consistent Quality Recognized by Consumers
It felt like a no-brainer to Stricklin to use LED lights for his new products.
LED lights are more energy efficient than other types of light bulbs, requiring less energy and lasting longer. LED lights also turn on instantly, so there’s no need to wait for the bulb to warm up before shooting a photo or video. They’re also durable, reliable and bright — important qualities when you’re trying to capture the perfect shot in low-light conditions.
The quality appeared to speak for itself. The company sold out of all of its products on Kickstarter within two weeks, and a waitlist was already building up. A month later, the waitlist (for a $50 light) was worth over two hundred thousand dollars.
Pushing Through Hardship
Lume faced many difficulties as it started up, not the least being its promise of a three-month delivery time to those on its waitlist — it ended up being more like a year. This wasn’t due to laziness, though, and Stricklin wants to make that clear …
“Unfortunately, through that timeline, as much as information we tried to share, they’re certainly the element of people who assume that you just pocketed $230,000, and you each bought a Porsche, and you’re hanging around San Diego surfing every day. So, you have to battle that, and that’s a tough one on the heart, knowing how much you’re putting in 90-hour weeks, long nights,” Stricklin said to Shopify.
The company operated on extremely slim margins for several years, taking wholesale and direct-to-consumer orders using whatever process seemed best at the time. Stricklin, in reflecting back on the process, thinks that he may have done it a little bit more effectively if he could go back.
“If I was looking back on it, I would have done it the reverse way. And I think we did it the opposite, as you mentioned. Most businesses build an online business, and then slowly bolt on a few retailers, and then scale internationally. For us at the time, this was all we knew,” Stricklin said.
“We spent $0 on advertising [the first year]. No Google search, no Facebook advertising.”
At the risk of spinning the obvious tale, though, Stricklin and his partners found a level of success that has made all the hardship worth it. In 2021, Stricklin approximated that over three years, the company had grown 10X to 15X.
This level of growth is incredible and nearly unprecedented, and as the company’s D2C site has continued to add products, features, and customers, Lume Cube just won’t stop growing and improving.