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Brett Beachner Turned a 20-cent Glow Stick into a Multi-Million Dollar Venture

Brett Beachner

Brett Beachner just wanted to earn a little extra money to fund his flying lessons and achieve his dream of becoming a pilot and aviation instructor. How he decided to make that money put him on a different path that resulted in creating a successful company that was recently sold to a major corporation.

Brett and a Webster Schroeder high school pal, Kyle Scism, took an entrepreneurial route, selling 20-cent glow sticks—small plastic tubes that produce light by chemical or electric means—at the Penfield Fireworks Festival on July 4th, 2009. “At that first festival, we sold out of everything we brought and were able to pocket $1,000, Brett says. He thought “Hey, we might be onto something here.” He and Kyle decided to continue growing the business.

That 20-cent glow stick snowballed into a thriving online retail business, Glow City.

A fan of Disney productions and the Main Street Electrical Parade produced at Disney Parks, Brett wanted to make more of a splash than selling the basic glow sticks. That’s when he came across electroluminescent wire, known as EL wire, that uses a small electrical charge to make a phosphor wire glow in different colors. Using EL wire, Brett & Kyle created the vestige of a stick figure walking around at night.

“We were the first people to have the idea to make a glowing stick figure person,” Brett said. “In 2010 we took them out to the Haunted Hayrides of Greater Rochester in Williamson, NY where there were huge lines of people. When we turned them on in the parking lot, we heard big gasps from the crowd,” Brett reflects. “People loved them, and we were like celebrities because nobody had seen anything like this before.”

Brett and Kyle knew they had a big opportunity to jump on, but they also knew that Halloween was going to be the time of year when they’d sell the most. So they had to be fast. The quick-thinking entrepreneurs started producing the glowing products out of Brett’s 750 sq. ft. apartment in Webster, NY.

“We made every single one of those stick man suits ourselves by hand,” Brett remembers. “We couldn’t afford to buy in huge bulk at that time, so we had to sell the product first to have enough money to buy the raw materials we needed to build them. That first year we probably only sold 50-75 at most.”

Brett and Kyle had a good run with the stick figure costumes, but without money to secure a patent, the popular costume quickly found its way around the world and was produced and sold by competitors. The unprotected technology is now commonplace at concerts and performers on network talent shows even incorporate them into their acts.

Taking the Company to the Next Level

Undaunted, Brett sought new products to sell. By following trends in YouTube videos, Brett and Kyle discovered that light-up sports balls were rising in popularity. Brett and Kyle started selling basketballs and soccer balls that lit up, as well as a number of accessories like basketball rim light kits and even glowing sunglasses.

“Year two of the business, we got invited to go to DRUMline Live. We created a dozen snare drums and lit them all up, we did the costumes and flew down to Atlanta for the event. I went on The View on ABC too. It was really exciting,” Brett says.

Then things really got interesting.

“A buyer for Walmart contacted us,” Brett says. The retailer invited Brett and Kyle to visit their Arkansas headquarters. Through that contact, Glow City started supplying Walmart with light-up basketballs that are now on the superstore’s shelves.

“We grew out of that 750 sq. ft. apartment into a storage and shipping facility in Victor, NY so we could really scale,” says Brett.

In June 2021, a Massachusetts-based consumer products company approached the founders about a buyout. “It was an offer we couldn’t refuse,” Brett said. The company continued to fulfill orders for the new owners from its Victor, NY warehouse until February when operations fully completed transitioning.

“In our final year as owners, we did over $8 million in sales. I never thought a 20-cent glow stick would get me there.”

Since the sale, Brett has founded another venture,, which teaches people how to manage shipping logistics. He’s leveraging his experience of progressing from fulfilling orders in a 750 square foot apartment to moving to a warehouse. “We know a thing or two about shipping and logistics,” he said. The new company also allows Brett to keep his staff in the Greater Rochester area.

Giving Back to the Community

Having once dreamed of becoming a flight instructor, Brett is now quenching his drive to teach by educating aspiring entrepreneurs. Brett volunteers with the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (also known as the YEA! Program) at Finger Lakes Community College.

“I’ve been volunteering with the YEA! Program at FLCC, helping students with their business plans and teaching them different ways to be successful. It’s been fun working with students.”

He hopes to spark the entrepreneurial drive in students at FLCC, allowing them to learn from his struggles and successes as an entrepreneur. Just as he did when he partnered with his school friend Kyle, Brett would like to see a partnership develop among some of the students.

“I turned a 20-cent glow stick I sold at an Upstate NY festival into a worldwide multi-million dollar company and I think that’s proof of what you can accomplish if you set your mind to it. I look forward to sharing that vision with the YEA! students,” says Brett.

As for his dreams of becoming a pilot, Brett will continue to pursue it, but he’s found a suitable alternative: “I really enjoy flying,” he said, “but I love the Amazon space too. I enjoy seeing my work turn into sales results.”

Maureen Ballatori is a LOCATE Finger Lakes Business Journal contributing writer and a member of the organization’s board of directors. She is the founder and CEO of 29 Design Studio, a creative agency for food, beverage, and agriculture brands. Ballatori also owns Metro Collective which helps Upstate NY shared space operators activate their workspaces.


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