The idea for Rely-a-light began in 2009 during the worst ice storm that the south has seen in 25 years. My father who suffered from Alzheimer’s lived with my husband and me. He also had COPD, a chronic lung condition, and was on oxygen 24 hours a day. We all knew the ice storm was coming and the weather predictions were only a few hours off, instead of mid-afternoon, we were plunged into darkness on a cold February night around 9:30 pm. My father was already in bed but when his TV went off he got up to investigate, got tangled in his oxygen tubing and fell. Thankfully he was ok, but it put our thoughts in motion. How could we prevent this from happening again? What if he had been badly hurt and lived alone? How many people fumble around in the dark during a power outage? How many power outages do we have a year? Benjamin Franklin once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” He was right. Rely-a-light was born that week at the kitchen table during the daylight hours, as we were out of power for 6 days. My husband and business partner, his background in electrical contracting, came up with the electrical configuration and materials from stuff in our garage. My background is in Interior Design and together we designed our product, the perfect mix of form and function. We compare ourselves to the peanut butter cup, the exquisite blend of peanut butter and chocolate! We have four children, four grandchildren, a wonderful daughter-in-law and a very talented son-in-law, all very supportive.
The next 2 years were filled with obstacles that slowed us down in the development of our product. My father passed away, I was diagnosed with cancer and then 8 months later with Parkinson’s disease. But we didn’t stop, throughout this time we continued to improve our prototype and finally applied for our patents. In essence, with the onset of disease, I became my target demographic. So the obstacle became the path!
Opal Group, LLC was formed in 2012 and Rely-a-light, a name thought up by my childhood friend, became a subsidiary of this company in early 2012. My mother-in-law came up with the slogan for our t-shirts, hats and business cards, “Blackouts turn me ON!” In late fall 2012 we ordered components and built the first 280 lamps in our garage with our family. Word of mouth spread quickly and we kept getting calls and emails from people that wanted a Rely-a-light. We opened our fulfillment center in the fall of 2013. We really started moving forward with more style additions in 2014 and the development of LampAngel, the newest addition to our Rely-A-Light family, in 2015.
With the help of family, friends and co-workers, we are realizing our vision of making sure that lack of light during a power outage is no longer an impediment to all people, any age, any gender or in any location of America and available to everyone. A dream come true!