CAPE CORAL, Fla. — Success takes tinkering. You have to find the right wires. You have to play around with the sequencing. And you have to realize it's never as easy as just flipping a switch.
"I have to create products and businesses, I have to do it all the time," Michael Fischer says.
Today Fischer runs Energy Harness. It's a cutting edge company in Cape Coral that manufactures and distributes energy efficient LED lighting.
But Fischer has spent plenty of time in the dark. "It was really, really hard," he says. "I mean the stress of not knowing where your next dollar is going to come from is just very taxing. And you have to believe it takes years off your life because it's so stressful."
Fischer's background is in computer software, and he worked in the industry for two decades before moving to Florida. "We created a company in Fort Myers and we were developing software controls for large telephone systems," Fischer says.
15 years ago, the business was booming. He had big-time clients, and he and his partner focused on growing their business even more.
But 2007 changed everything. "All of the telecom companies stopped buying. So we lost a hundred customers within a month," he says. "It was that fast."
"At one point, your revenues stop completely, but your bills continue."
He says he had no choice, he let his workers go and closed the business. "We had to shut down all the facilities, and I moved from a very large building with a lot of employees to a very small with room a single computer in it," Fischer says.
For the next couple of years, he says he had to scratch and claw, just to get his family by. And it wasn't easy.
"I can remember pulling in the gas station, and taking my last three dollars to put gas in the vehicle and pulling out of the gas station, and the yellow warning light is still on. That's when you know, OK, it can't get any worse."
Fischer and his business partner worked software jobs when they could. And when there was no work, he tinkered with solar power.
He says he always pushed and never gave up. And that led to new innovations with LED lighting.
"Eventually, we landed some LED sales," he says. "We began to build the company up, very small. Two people. Finally, we brought in a third person, and he was our first paid employee."
"We ran a couple of years without getting paid."
But he had a solid idea. Starting in the Midwest, and moving south, he sold his lights to school districts, hospitals, and grocery stores.
Energy Harness gradually grew. Today Fischer has warehouses in two states and more than 30 employees.
But because of the dark times, he's still tinkering. He's now developing lights to use for growing crops.
"We can recreate the sun," Fischer says. "We can recreate a lot of the frequencies that the plants need."
"So we can basically build an infrastructure for warehouse-based growing, using all of the components we have."
Fischer says he's learned no matter what, you have to keep pushing and hoping for something brighter.
"Never stop, I think, is the key to everything," he says.. "Keep pushing, keep pushing. It doesn't look good today, keep pushing. Tomorrow might be a little better, the next day a little better. Eventually, the sun is shining, and everything is good again."