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A Light Conversation with Caroline Chauvet

Debi Moen • February 2021PLSN Interview • February 5, 2021

Caroline Chauvet

Caroline Chauvet was born into the business. Her parents, Albert and Berenice, founded their Florida-based lighting company in 1990, and since then, the Chauvet brand has grown globally to encompass five related brands: Chauvet DJ, Chauvet Professional, Iluminarc (architectural lighting), Trusst (truss and supplies) and ChamSys (consoles).

Caroline had her own dreams. Seeing her surname printed on products didn’t mean her path was predetermined. But when her studies and passions led her to look at lighting in a fresh way, she joined the firm, forging ahead from the bottom floor as an intern to flourishing in her current title as global brand manager.

PLSN is calling the followspot to shine on Caroline Chauvet, to get the story on growing up in one of the fastest growing and evolving lighting companies in our industry.

PLSN: Caroline, how would you describe your childhood world growing up in this lighting environment?

Caroline Chauvet: My brother, Christian, and I literally grew up alongside the business and jokingly referred to it as the third and favorite sibling. All we saw as children were two busy parents who constantly talked about building something bigger than themselves, and we’d just shake our heads, puzzled over what could be bigger than the family vacation trips that kept being postponed. My upbringing taught me the importance of giving your all to whatever you set out to achieve, and that the American Dream is not for dreamers, but for doers.

We assume you were immersed in a world of concerts, trade shows and other live events. Any special lighting memories?

Believe it or not, it wasn’t until I was 17 that I attended my first live concert as a PR intern for Chauvet. Miami’s indepenDANCE was the first time I experienced firsthand the vibrancy of the production world, the many people involved in putting a show together, the adrenaline rush backstage, the underground feel of that community and the artistry associated with it. I was hooked!

Another memorable moment was LDI 2007 when we won a best booth award for our all-LED presentation. I was a teenager then, helping as a greeter. At the time, I thought LEDs were cool and, of course, I was excited to see us win an award; but it’s only in hindsight that I grasped the significance of the moment for Chauvet. This gutsy, early move to LED by our CEO and product development team was key to the successful trajectory of the company overall, but also kicked off the disruptive entry and rapid ascension of the Chauvet Professional brand into rental and staging productions.

When you set your sights on a journalism degree at Northwestern University — enhanced with a film/cinematography program in Paris — what was your original career path?

In high school, I produced a documentary about poverty and homelessness that was well received. I realized I had a knack for storytelling and loved the idea of being able to touch and influence people through the visuals and story lines I created. But I had no concrete career plan in mind. An amazing teacher and mentor encouraged me to pursue journalism and recommended Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism. In truth, it’s the challenge of gaining admission to a school known for its selectivity that tickled me and prompted me to apply exclusively to it. Once admitted, I thought I’d be a documentary filmmaker, but lighting also captivated me. It dawned on me that lighting is a form of storytelling. Both allow people to experience life more fully, to re-think, re-imagine and expand their reality. Both provoke visceral and memorable reactions with visuals.

How much pressure — if any — was there on you to join the family business?

My parents never pushed me in one direction or another. I am here because I love the industry. While in college, I bought — yes, bought — Chauvet lights and a basic controller, rented them out, installed them and programmed them at events and parties as a moonlighting gig. Later on, I delved into lighting production as the subject of my senior thesis, “Masters of the Spotlight, Yet Never to Be Seen”; and became increasingly fascinated by the transformative power of lighting as science and art. When there was a vacancy in international marketing at Chauvet when I graduated, I agreed to help out, at least temporarily, until a permanent hire would be found. I never left and never looked back.

You’ve had earlier roles at the company as an intern and as a junior brand manager. What was it like having your parents as your boss?

I have been helping and learning along the way ever since I can remember. Being formally hired at Chauvet felt like a natural progression. It’s a tricky proposition when you share the founders’ name and even the company’s name; and it brings a particular set of challenges in terms of pressure to measure up and scrutiny; but I am blessed that my parents, bosses, our executive team and my co-workers give me the space and latitude to develop my own voice and earn my own keep at the company.

In 2017 you were promoted to global brand manager. Describe what your role entails.

My current role entails defining and championing our Chauvet Professional and ChamSys brands globally, directing related product positionings, commercialization plans, marketing communications; defining go-to-market and expansion strategies and ensuring a great customer experience with a particular focus on the rental and system integration markets. I am lucky to be surrounded by a rock solid team of driven and committed peers, managers and mentors.

What skills are you using the most in this role?

You definitely need a good grasp of the products and technologies and a working knowledge of lighting and control systems, but what matters most is to gain a deep understanding of industry trends and the customers’ needs. You must sincerely embrace lighting as both art and science. The most important thing I can do in my role is to listen to the customer, both business and end-user. This is what we do best at Chauvet, collectively. Listen, absorb and deliver customer-centric solutions based on the feedback received.

How is the pandemic affecting your duties in keeping the brand out front?

This has been a challenging experience. It forces us to think of new and different ways of using our products and connecting with customers. We have doubled down on our online training and demo offerings. We’ve also gotten more creative with financing options for our customers; and we are committed to help the less fortunate among us through a variety of programs including the recently activated ReSet Fund we kicked off last month with a $20,000 donation to the Behind-the-Scenes organization.

Your parents have long supported benefit causes. You have also interned back in 2009 for Food For The Poor. Can you comment on the importance of corporate responsibility?

I am proud and grateful that Chauvet Professional was able to start the ReSet fund partnership with BTS. When our industry is healthy, mentally, and financially, we all benefit. So corporate responsibility is not only a way to say thanks, to show you care, it’s vital for your own survival and your own health as a company.

The company is currently hiring for several job openings during these trying times. That’s impressive.

Our CEO likes to say that if you don’t move forward, you are moving backward. Things are undeniably tough for everyone in our industry, but we are blessed that Chauvet is a thoughtfully managed company, with a unique breadth of products and a large brand portfolio that keep us going. And so, we are blessed to have set aside the resources to stay afloat and to be in a position where we can continue to improve as a team as we plan and prepare for the strong, spectacular comeback of our entire industry post-Covid.

Enough about business. What is the fun factor of being in this industry?

The live event production world is a small community. Everyone knows or knows of everyone, so it feels like one big family. I miss hanging out with that family. And I miss the live event experience.

How are you de-stressing and/or recharging during the pandemic?

Working out. A lot. Music, always. And reading more these days.

Finally, what is your vision of what Chauvet will look like once we get “back to normal”?

The new normal will be richer and fuller when it comes to entertainment. The increased adoption of remote and virtual technologies bodes well for market expansion and new design opportunities. Covid-19 improved our awareness and ability to connect with customers digitally, and to engage more often and speak more specifically to their needs. Our sense of community is heightened forever because of that and because we all experienced firsthand the threat and fear of losing it. This idea of togetherness and live experiences built around it will be bigger than ever.

For more information on Chauvet visit www.chauvetprofessional.com

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