2023 Danville Summit by Sterling Lighting


Danville, VA – Two women pioneers in landscape and architectural lighting design, a blind, black diamond skier, and a former MLB Pitcher headlined Sterling Lighting’s annual Danville Summit, an in-person summit focused on design and business growth for outdoor lighting professionals. Lighting designers from across the globe gathered together July 25-28, 2023 in Danville, Virginia to hone their craft and make a game plan to elevate their designs and accelerate business growth. 

Sterling Lighting’s third annual summit in their headquarters city of Danville, VA, included expert seminars held at Averett University and a two-night lighting design challenge at Atkinson Farms, which spans over 800 acres, including lush landscape, picturesque ponds, and stately barns and lodges.

The Sterling Lighting Danville Summit delivered seminars and workshops which focused on enhanced landscape lighting design techniques, actionable business growth tactics, digital marketing strategies, and technological advances in lighting. 

The exciting and dynamic lineup of summit speakers included world-renowned lighting designers, highly sought after experts, award winning landscape lighting designers, and industry leaders. The collaborative and supportive environment was displayed through round table discussions, networking, and design challenge teamwork.

Women in lighting design were celebrated as two pioneers in lighting design, Eleftheria Deko from Athens, Greece, and Janet Lennox Moyer from Arizona, USA, spoke on stage and served as judges during the two-night Design Challenge. 

The event kicked off with a welcome dinner and celebration at Atkinson Farms on Tuesday, July 25. Emcee Sharon Delaney McCloud, Sterling Lighting Co-Owners Patrick Harders and Damien Sanchez, and all Sterling Lighting staff welcomed guests and speakers as they dined and enjoyed live music. Additionally, attendees got a sneak peak of new fixtures coming to market soon and got their first look at the Design Challenge areas at Atkinson Farms. 

On Wednesday, July 26, the opening keynote was delivered by Chad E. Foster who shared his message on how to harness blind ambition. Chad went blind as a college student, and went on to later become the first blind person to graduate from the Harvard Business School leadership program, and he did what Oracle said would be impossible by creating the first customer relationship software for the visually impaired. Chad spoke on how to go from victim to visionary and overcome obstacles, sharing his inspiring message to business owners and designers facing challenges. 

Following the opening keynote, the first session on lighting design featured designing lighting editor, Randy Reid, interviewing Janet Lennox Moyer and Eleftheria Deko on stage, as these lighting legends shared their accomplishments, challenges, career defining projects, and expert tips for lighting design.

Next, Sterling Lighting Co-Owners, Patrick Harders and Damien Sanchez, held a product unveiling, sharing their exciting new fixtures being released soon including a new line of American-made fixtures, including a modern path light, up light, and well light.

During the lunch session, an introduction to ELLI (Experiential Landscape Lighting Initiative) was presented by Chris Mitchell of NiteLiters, who serves as an educator for ELLI's Design-Centric Client Relationship Class and handles ELLI's business relations and development.

For the afternoon sessions, the Technician Track held hands-on workshops outside at Atkinson Farms, while the Business Track remained at Averett University. Dan Ralphs of Dream Leadership Consulting presented on “How to think like a CEO: The Six Foundational Steps to Build a Scalable Business,” followed by Patrick Harders covering “Sales Philosophy” on increasing sales for landscape lighting businesses. JD Brooks of Southern Lightscapes finished off the afternoon presentations at Averett University with “Managing Multiple Locations,” discussing all that went into his company’s massive growth from one location to four locations across three states in just two years.

Wednesday early evening included a tour of Sterling Lighting’s state of the art facility, followed by dinner at Atkinson Farms and the start of the Nighttime Design Challenge. Mentors and team members were announced for each of the three design teams and assigned different areas of the property: the reception barn, the lodge, and the agricultural barn and pond. Tasked with bringing their designs to completion in an accelerated time frame with a limited number of lighting fixtures, designers were challenged to present Atkinson Farms in a new light​​.

Thursday morning began with a keynote delivered by Janet Lennox Moyer on “Using Light as Art in the Landscape.” She presented on her landscape lighting design philosophy and impressive projects over her 40+ year career, as well as some new projects that have never been seen by the public. 

Following her presentation, Janet Lennox Moyer held a meet & greet and book signing for The Landscape Lighting Book (Wiley, 1992) and The Art of Landscape Lighting: A Designer's Companion (Routledge, 2022).

Next, four panelists presented project walk throughs, showcasing projects from their own markets: Ohio, California, North Carolina, and Indiana. Each presenter was a graduate of the illi (International Landscape Lighting Institute) Intensive Course and an AOLP member or board member: Chris Apfelstadt, President of Light Up Columbus; Anthony Bogdanovich, Owner of California Outdoor Lighting; Kevin Bolt Fontaine, Owner & Designer at Bolt Outdoor Lighting; and Chris Mitchell, Designer & Educator at NiteLiters.

Following lunch, all summit attendees participated in roundtable discussions, allowing ample time with experts in a small group setting, giving actionable help and guidance from respected advisors and speakers. Round table discussions included:

  1. Legendary Women of Lighting with Eleftheria Deko & Janet Moyer 
  2. Product Development with Patrick Harders 
  3. Linear Light Optics with John-Michael Ermel 
  4. Scaling Your Business with Dan Ralphs 
  5. How to Sell in a Challenging Market with Chris Mitchell 
  6. How to Cultivate Systems, Processes & People with Damien Sanchez 
  7. Marketing with Corey Halstead 
  8. Lutron Lighting Control with Jeff Dean, Tony Ferrante, and Colt Khoshshekari 
  9. Designing & Selling Larger Projects with Chris Apfelstadt and Anthony Bogdanovich

For the remainder of the afternoon, the Technician Track headed over to Atkinson Farms, while the Business Track remained at Averett University. Corey Halstead of Halstead Media Group presented “Breaking Through the Barriers: Unlocking Stability & Growth in Your Landscape Lighting Business” with a focus on marketing for this niche industry. Dan Ralphs closed out the afternoon presentations with his inspirational session on “People Are WOW: The Secret Sauce to Being the Inspirational Leader of Humans.”

Thursday evening was spent at Atkinson Farms with a final group dinner, followed by the remaining hours of completion for the Design Challenge team projects. 

At 9:00 PM EDT, members of the Danville community, including City Council members and staff from the Economic Development department, came to view the lighting spectacles and hear teams present the challenges, solutions, and specific Sterling Lighting products used to achieve their final designs. This one-night only lighting display and presentation to reenvision the nightscape at Atkinson Farms, Southside Virginia’s premier event venue, was well received by the community.

Teams included: 

TEAM 1: "Reception Barn Area"  
Mentors: Chris Apfelstadt and Mike Long Group 

TEAM 2: "Lodge Area" 
Mentors: Chris Mitchell, Luke Jensen & Andy Shumate 

TEAM 3: "Agricultural Barn" 
Mentors: Anthony Bogdanovich & Kevin Fontaine 

Judges, Eleftheria Deko and Janet Lennox Moyer, awarded the following distinctions: 

Best Feature Focus - Team One. 

Best Functional Lighting - Team Two. 

Best Overall Scene, Best Natural Scene, and Best Structural Scene - Team Three.

For the final day of the summit, Friday morning began with a keynote “Lighting the Space and Form” delivered by Eleftheria Deko. She shared the lighting design principles that guide her practice, plus she highlighted the inspiring lighting design work she has done, ranging from her lighting direction for the 2004 Olympic Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies in Athens, Greece, to illuminating the Acropolis, monuments, temples, and commercial buildings.

Jim “The Rookie” Morris delivered the closing keynote on “Dream Makers: Surround Yourself With The Best To Be Your Best” sharing his life story which inspired the Disney film “The Rookie.”

Emcee Sharon Delaney McCloud, and Sterling Lighting Co-Owners, Patrick Harders and Damien Sanchez, closed out the summit by offering final remarks and gratitude to all the Sterling Lighting staff, speakers, and attendees.

Key Speakers: 

  • Eleftheria Deko - Trailblazer in stage & architectural lighting design, Emmy Award Winner for “Outstanding Lighting Direction” for the 2004 Olympic Games ceremonies in Athens, Assistant Professor, and Lighting Designer for the Acropolis.
  • Janet Lennox Moyer - Pioneer in landscape lighting design, Founder of the International Landscape Lighting Institute (illi), Author of The Landscape Lighting Book and The Art of Landscape Lighting: A Designer’s Companion
  • Chad E. Foster - Resilience Leader, Author, and Blind Black Diamond Skier.
  • Jim “The Rookie” Morris - Former MLB pitcher and the real life inspiration for the Disney film, The Rookie.

Additional Speakers, Panelists, and Moderators: 

  • Patrick Harders - Co-Owner of Sterling Lighting, President of Enlightened Lighting, and Former illi Board of Directors Member.
  • Damien Sanchez - Co-Owner of Sterling Lighting. 
  • Randy Reid - Editor of designing lighting and The Edison Report, Executive Director of the National Lighting Bureau, and Former Illuminating Engineering Society (IES) President.
  • Chris Apfelstadt - Owner of Light Up Columbus and Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals (AOLP) Board Member.
  • Kevin Fontaine - President of Bolt Outdoor Lighting and Creative Director at Outdoor Inspirations.
  • Anthony Bogdanovich - Owner of California Outdoor Lighting and Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals (AOLP) Board Member.
  • Chris Mitchell - Lighting Designer and Trainer for NiteLiter’s Inc., Experiential Landscape Lighting Initiative (ELLI) Instructor & Advisory Board Member.
  • JD Brooks - Co-Owner of Southern Lightscapes.
  • Corey Halstead - Marketing Expert and AOLP Member.
  • Dan Ralphs - Business Coach and TEDx Speaker. 
  • Jeff Dean - Senior Sales for Residential at Lutron Electronics.
  • Tony Ferrante - Territory Manager at Hill Residential Systems 
  • Colt Khoshshekari - Territory Manager at Hill Residential Systems
  • Sharon Delaney McCloud - Emcee, Emmy Award Winning Broadcaster, Olympic Torch Bearer, and Past Speaker at the American Lighting Association conference.

Tickets to the event included access to all presentations, meals, participation in round table discussions, and the two-night team design challenge. 

About Sterling Lighting

Sterling Lighting is a manufacturer of professional-grade, low voltage, landscape lighting fixtures sold exclusively to contractors and trade professionals. The company was founded in 2011 by landscape lighting professionals passionate about developing the perfect fixture, with both the contractor and homeowner in mind. Sterling Lighting luminaires merge the latest advances in LED technology with premium quality components and all the cutting-edge features a professional contractor could want. Their signature line of fully-dedicated and integrated fixtures, features high-grade materials, including marine-grade, virgin brass and 316 stainless steel, and innovative designs that result in better performance, longevity, and ease of installation. In 2021, Co-Owners Patrick Harders and Damien Sanchez strategically moved Sterling Lighting headquarters and main operations from Northern VA to Danville, VA to facilitate their continued growth in operations and manufacturing.

To learn more, visit Sterling-Lighting.com

About Averett University 

Since 1859, Averett University has grown and developed into a dynamic institution that serves students of all ages, offering more than 30 undergraduate majors, minors and special programs, along with 13 graduate programs with a number of concentrations. Dedicated to preparing students to serve and lead as catalysts for positive change, the University’s historic main campus is embedded in the heart of Southern Virginia with regional campuses throughout Virginia and online. Averett enrolls a diverse student body, and boasts an alumni network that spans the globe. Visit averett.edu for more info.

About Atkinson Farms 

Atkinson Farms is Southside Virginia’s premier event venue, nestled in the countryside of Danville, Virginia, just minutes from North Carolina. Upon entering the venue, guests will notice the ornate gates and expansive view of the beautiful countryside. The property has hundreds of acres of well manicured fields, trails, woodlands, streams, and ponds, plus a spacious barn, stately lodge, and cozy cabin. Newly constructed in 2016, the Atkinson Barn is constructed from beautiful reclaimed wood beams from the American Tobacco Company and Dan River Cotton Mills. Guests may wind down the evenings and enjoy sunsets on the expansive covered porch, complete with beautiful landscaping and water features. Visit AtkinsonFarms.com to discover more about this impressive venue.