2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Bethany Istok

2013 30 Under 35 Profile: Bethany Istok


Bethany Istok
Lighting Specialist, K/E Supply

By Joe Nowlan

Sometimes a person just falls into something special. Bethany Istok can identify with that.

A lighting specialist at K/E Supply, Mt. Clemens, Mich., Istok started there in 2000 as a receptionist. It was actually a part-time position while she was going to the local community college.

“My uncle is also an employee. They were hiring someone for the office and he called my mom, asking if she wanted a job,” she said. “She wasn’t interested, but she asked me if I wanted to go and apply.”

Initially, Istok was answering phones and also working with K/ E’s accounting department, “just figuring out what I wanted to do,” she said, in describing her first days there.

She found the work enjoyable and K/E must have realized they had a good employee because after a year or so, Istok was offered a promotion when a position opened in the lighting department.

Once she moved to lighting, she soon began to realize that K/E could represent a career, rather than just a pay-the-bills type job.

“After working in the lighting department for probably a couple of years, I realized that I really liked what I was doing. It was challenging, different every day,” Istok explained.

As advanced a technology as LED is, there can still be a difficulty getting people to make the upfront investment it requires, Istok explained.

“A lot of people don’t want to do that initial up-front cost. It is still a problem that we have to deal with. But since it’s out there and the technology keeps getting better and better, the price is coming down [and] it is slowly becoming easier to sell,” she said.

Istok, a single mom, has a 10-year-old daughter, Brianna.

“She loves school. And she loves me having my job here,” she said. “Recently she said that when she grows up, she wants to be a businesswoman and come and work for K/E.”

Her mom adds, though, that young Brianna has more than professional reasons in mind at this point.

“It is a great family company and they’re always doing activities, like summer picnics. And they have Santa come around Christmas time for the kids,” Istok said.

Many of Istok’s customers are in commercial work, she explained, but K/E also deals with restaurants, schools, and the big three motor companies. One client in particular was among her most satisfying and it’s one she literally sees every day—a nearby shopping mall.

“At the time it was our largest [lighting] order we had ever had. It was within a couple of miles of our offices. So I would go out on site and see the different artist sketches, the color palette and the stonework and everything they’d picked out—along with the lighting fixtures,” Istok explained. “It was behind the scenes stuff. Because normally we would just quote, sell and ship the job but never see anything. But we got to see it built from the ground up so it was a different experience.

“That’s why I think I’ve like my job—because it’s different every day. Every job is different,” she added.

Q. What advice do you have for other young professionals in the electrical industry?

A. My big thing now, even with my coworkers, is don’t be afraid to ask questions because the worst answer you’re going to get is no. And you can always go back and figure a different way. But there is nothing to be scared of. The worst thing they’re going to say is no.

Q. What has been one of your most successful sales strategies given the current economic climate?

A. I think part of it has to do with our customer base. Our department as a whole has great customer service. We probably go above and beyond the needs of our customers. And it keeps coming back when they do get [new] business. They may not hand it to us but they will give us a first look. I have wonderful customers. I have customers call to say thank you…because I treat customers right and go above and beyond what my job requires to make sure everybody is happy.

Joe Nowlan is a Boston-based freelance writer/editor and author. He can be reached at

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