NOLA Businesses Are Leading the Way Through COVID: ORACLE Lighting

Tiffanie & Justin Hartenstein

ORACLE Lighting is a world leader in the design, production, and sale of aftermarket automotive lights. Justin Hartenstein, Director of Development at ORACLE Lighting, founded the company in 1999 as a teenager who was custom-building automotive accessories at home and selling them online. CEO Tiffanie Hartenstein joined ORACLE in 2007. Over the past twenty years, ORACLE has grown to have over 30 employees and more than 11,000 unique LED lighting products. Tiffanie and Justin have been recognized by the Specialty Equipment Market Association and other groups for being innovators in the field and their advocacy for the industry in the face of counterfeiting and regulation.

What impact has COVID-19 had on your businesses?
Like many businesses, we were initially uncertain about the pandemic’s possible impact on our operations. In these unprecedented times, we leaned on our staff’s teamwork (even when working remotely) and on seeking creative solutions to these new obstacles. We are grateful that our business has continued to thrive in the face of COVID-19. Seeing this growth in both wholesale and ecommerce numbers despite challenges has given our team a sense of pride in our ability to overcome.

What changes have your businesses had to make to adapt to quarantine?
Innovation sits at the center of our business, and we leaned into that when we saw people seeking something that would reassure them again. Justin and a business partner, along with our Research & Development team, used expertise in LED technology to create the A.I.R. Device, which is the world’s first UV-C sanitizing face mask. This multi-patent-pending device was designed to give our community a bit of security again. Pivoting into a new territory during a pandemic gave us the motivation to look for the ways we can bring positivity into a worrying situation.

Were there any resources or advice you gave your employees to help them during this time?
During uncertain times, people need confidence in their work environment and support to continue to dedicate their hard work to our goals. The need to feel safe is key to maintaining a sense of normalcy in our daily lives during this pandemic. While we worked from home, sending updated communication and personally checking in on employees remained important. Upon our office re-opening, we provided ample masks and sanitizer as well as implemented new procedures for safe collaboration and continued to be available for our employees’ concerns.

What advice would you give to other business owners specifically in New Orleans about how to restart business when quarantine is over?
New Orleans is familiar with resilience in the face of great challenges, and—while a pandemic is different than a hurricane—we can tap into that same drive to overcome. This has given all of us a chance to remember what is truly important and to explore outside our comfort zone. We may not know how the business scene will change long-term, but this exercise in flexibility and creativity should serve as a reminder that we can always find a bright spot in community and innovation.

Though this is a tough time, what has inspired optimism for you and your businesses moving forward?
Seeing our community rallying behind our medical professionals sparked our optimism and furthered our desire to help those in need. We were able to donate almost 1500 much-needed N95 and surgical masks to Tulane Medical Center through the nonprofit Supplies for Saints. Supporting those who are helping to help our community’s vulnerable makes a big difference in all of our lives, and we are thankful for the opportunity to encourage everyone to find small ways to contribute to the greater good.

As Louisiana is in phase 2 of reopening, we decided to talk to some local business leaders within New Orleans about how they believe quarantine has gone and what they have learned.

Working through COVID has been difficult and posed a new set of challenges. We’ve all had to adapt in one way or another whether that’s in our professional lives or personal lives. It’s been particularly difficult for small businesses learning to navigate through PPP loans, trying to maintain staff and being uncertain of when businesses can fully reopen. New Orleans once again shows its resilience during this tough time and has continued to band together to begin what is hopefully a safe re-entry into normalcy.

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