Sarah Dresher is not your typical manufacturer rep — or, for that matter, industry consultant. With educational and professional experience that has given her deep insights into the relationship between residential integrators and their manufacturing partners, she has created a new agency called Luxury Integrated Technologies (LIT) that will provide customized services for both dealers and the lines she represents with the goal of giving them a deeper, tailor-made experience that addresses and solves their specific technology pain points.
Dresher graduated with a degree in engineering management with a specialization in electrical engineering in 2016, which explains where her break-it-down-and-build-it-back-better mentality comes from. After a stint at ASCO Power Technologies, which invented the automatic transfer switch that flips power between the grid and emergency generators — something residential integrators are hearing more and more about — she received her MBA from Rutgers and joined Lutron’s Sales Leadership Development Program.
“I started working on Budget Blinds and the inside shading team,” says Dresher. “Once I completed my six-month training, I was deployed to my first sales role, and I was blessed because they chose Texas for me. My focus was on residential distribution channels and starting up the Lutron Pro business with the just-launched RA2 Select.”
That is around the time when Lutron acquired Ketra, whose headquarters were in Austin, Texas, getting Dresher in early with hands-on experience and training. It was also around that time when her boss left the company, and she took on additional responsibilities. “All of a sudden I was reporting up to the director of business and had to develop the distribution for not just the battery-powered shades and Caseta products, but also I had to manage our direct dealers with Homeworks and Palladiom shades in the luxury space,” she says.
Always interested in the latest technologies, Dresher then moved over to sonnen, inc., to work on bringing energy automation to the CEDIA space. “I started as a regional energy automation specialist for the Southeast territory — so now my territory expanded to encompass the Carolinas and everything south, including Texas,” she says. “I quickly became a national specification manager, which meant I managed all the architects, designers, engineers — basically anyone working on a residential project from a specification side.
“When we were finally ready to make a product for our space, I became product manager, as well as this new role called the ‘operations project engineer,’ which was the bridge between engineering and operations, reporting to the COO.”
When the pandemic hit — and sonnen was purchased by Shell, shifting focus from residential integration — Dresher made the move to the manufacturer rep side, joining Coresential, which featured some familiar brands to her and many she would have to learn. “Coresential had Lutron in the Carolinas and 26 other lines that I was supporting,” she says. “I started learning about audio and TVs and seeing the whole technology space, and I absolutely fell in love with it.”
While she loved the relationships and connections that she made there, Dresher’s experience was that manufacturer’s agencies in general needed to get back to their roots — namely, education and service. So, she decided to do just that.
“I wanted to start something that I felt was needed, which is more of this service/design consultation — especially when it comes to lighting,” says Dresher. “My roles to this point have exposed me to the different levels of the dealer and what the needs are at those different levels. I formed a service plan that is very customized, and I really feel the best way to help is to not have just a blanket plan but to tailor it to the needs of the dealer’s business.”
Dresher started Luxury Integrated Technologies as a technical consultancy that offers dealers in the Southeast region assistance and support in areas like lighting design, automated shades, and control system integration, as well as advising on educational opportunities to train team members.
Naturally, with a business tailored for each client, what service areas LIT provides is fluid, as is its pricing packages, which also vary according to client needs. “I have a couple of clients that are doing hourly rates for now,” explains Dresher. “I have one project right now that is a flat fee. My service monthly packages are the most affordable plan, and the goal originally was to convert all the business to that subscription model.”
If she had to pick a main wheelhouse for LIT, Dresher says, it is “to help dealers embrace new technologies, incorporate them, and successfully roll them out. For example, I have several dealers that are just starting to add lighting into their businesses and figuring out how to make that profitable. I work with them to create different comparison charts for them to understand how to evaluate different fixture lines and how each one can impact their business. Those are the kinds of things I work on with our dealers so that they can understand how to make money with lighting and make it something that works for them.”
Education is a big part of LIT’s offerings, which are listed on the company’s website under the heading “Phrontistery.” “I don’t know who subscribed me to a ‘Word of the Day’ email, but I started getting one and I love it,” says Dresher with a laugh. “One of the words was ‘phrontistery’ and it was defined as a place for thinking or learning. It made me think back to what the true value of a manufacturer’s representative in the market is. Besides knowing where all the bodies are buried and going deeper with your relationships — a local rep is boots on the ground with you — education is the other added value. That’s where I see LIT being successful, especially in the specification world and educating on what’s out there from the availability standpoint of technology and how to incorporate it into homes without ruining the design intent.”
Return to Repping
When manufacturers discovered what Dresher was building with LIT, several reached out and asked her to rep them in the Southeast. With her experience in being a manufacturer’s rep and her knowledge of the dealers in the territory, it seemed like a natural fit.
“Once I started networking and telling everybody what I’m doing, some of my former manufacturers have started calling me and asking for me to rep them,” explains Dresher. “It started to turn into an agency and that’s exciting for me because I really loved my day-to-day at Coresential.
“One of the things that I’m focusing on is finding new technologies that don’t know about the CEDIA space and that might have some applications and good technology that just needs to be spun a bit to work in this business.”
Although the business is just getting started, LIT has already added some luxury lines to its roster, including Klus Design (architectural LEDs), Architettura Sonora (audio design), Nakymatone (invisible audio), and Waterfall Audio (glass loudspeakers) to name a few.
“I am being very selective and strategic about which partners that I bring on,” she says. “It has to cater to the luxury market. Also, all our lines are design-centric with technology performance. We only offer the most aesthetically pleasing technologies out there.”
For more information on LIT’s line card and education opportunities, visit http://www.litsoutheast.com.