Sharing the American Dream
If Electric Mirror’s success story seems a reflection of the American dream, that’s the way the Mischel family sees it too. Starting small, and sharing a vision, their dream is still unfolding even as their business has gone global.
“For us, it’s always been about faith and family,” said founder and President Jim Mischel, a philosophy that hasn’t changed since he first set up shop in his family’s home in the Pacific Northwest.
Jim Mischel Sr., or “Doc”, a former dentist with the heart of an inventor, and now Electric Mirror’s Chairman and Vice President of Research and Development, had spent many happy hours working on projects in the family’s three-car garage. So it was only natural, he says, when son Jim wanted to launch his business there.
That garage, in Lynnwood, Washington, is where the Mischel family turned out Jim’s first innovation, a high-end defogging mirror. In those days, family and workforce were one and same, with parents Faith and Doc, and younger brother Aaron handling everything from sales and phones to manufacturing. Younger sister Mia, though still in school, was also kept in the picture. It wasn’t long before stacks of orders began piling up beyond the garage, moving room to room through the house. When those stacks finally found their way into the kitchen, Faith said, she knew Electric Mirror was ready to take things to the next level.
Jim’s expanded production line soon included luxury Lighted Mirrors and Makeup Mirrors, an area in which he saw huge potential for upscale hotels. That foresight would later be realized in a big way, but in the beginning the hotel industry was slow to share his vision. “It took two to three years minimum before our concept caught on.”
Surprising technology with beautiful design work has distinguished Electric Mirror from the beginning, first in the hospitality industry and now with a growing residential client base. The company’s Lighted Mirrors sell more than any of their competitors combined, along with Lighted Makeup vanities and Mirrored Medicine Cabinets.
Jim, a former patent attorney, has acquired 38 patents, and has 12 more pending, for cutting edge technology specific to his products. “We’ve always been into innovative technology – first with Mirror Defoggers, then Makeup Mirrors, Lighted Mirrors and Mirror TVs. It’s always been about something we wanted to do, then getting the technology to make it happen,” said Jim.
With this success has come an ongoing need for more manufacturing and design space at Electric Mirror. “We went from four employees in a garage to 10 in the house, then 20 in a small facility, then made the jump to 75 and now we’re well over 300,” said Jim.
The company is currently in a 50,000 square foot facility in Everett, Washington, and is preparing to move to a 100,000 square foot building near the end of 2015. Everything from metalwork, glasswork, and wiring takes place under one roof.
“Not a week goes by where we aren’t putting together some customized order for a unique product,” said Doc. He said he’s proud of Electric Mirror’s impeccable track record for standing behind each new project from start to finish. Customers or sales reps know we’re behind them, no matter where they’re located. “From the beginning, high integrity has been part of who we are, and our history shows that.”
“Success in sales,” VP of Sales Aaron Mischel says, “is the ability to be philosophical about rejection, and just knowing that that’s always going to be part of it.” His experience as a soccer player was a good life preparation. “If you take enough shots you will score, and if you knock on enough doors you’ll get a yes,” he said.
The sales teams for Electric Mirror are getting lots of positive response these days. Recently, Electric Mirror held its first global sales conference at its Everett, Washington, headquarters, flying in all their reps so they could see first-hand the manufacturing process and how new ideas are tested.
But you don’t have to travel farther than the company’s facility to see the multi-cultural influence at Electric Mirror, said Faith Mischel, company Vice President.
“We have people here from around the world, and representing all walks of life,” she said, “but to us it’s still like a big family. I always knew we would be here, and we’re not done growing yet.”
Faith’s personal interest in her employees may be one reason she knows a lot more about them than what’s on their resumes, and she said it’s that personal involvement that makes Electric Mirror a very special place to work. That connection is clear as she makes her way along the production room floor, where she has a word with everyone and is ready to share a story or ask how their family is doing.
“No matter where someone is working when they start here, I like to ask them, ‘what would you like to be doing?’” Her advice: “I tell everyone when they come here to outthink your boss,” she says. “We want that, because if you push yourself, you push us, and things come up to a whole new level.” It’s one reason, she believes, that Electric Mirror has an incredibly low turn-over rate.
This commitment to caring, says Jim, is something the Mischel family actively supports through its sponsorship of non-profit organizations.
This is where Jim’s sister, Mia, brings her considerable expertise, as Vice President of Community Relations for Electric Mirror. “Through support of these and other community outreach efforts, Electric Mirror is not only giving back,” says Jim, “but doing what we believe is our mission. We want to go the extra mile for people – that’s what we believe,” he said.
It’s the final piece of what has made the American dream for the Mischel family business come true, both professionally and on a personal level.
“You start with God, that comes first; then family, and then the business,” said Faith. It’s been the foundation for the Mischel family’s version of the American dream, a story that’s still far from being finished.