I recently connected with entrepreneur Dylan Sievers. He’s the founder and CEO of Bulldog Lighting. They make tough, affordable LED light bars for off-road vehicles, RVs, and boats. The company is based in San Carlos, California. And it will soon be moving its manufacturing operations to the Dallas metro area.
Dylan is only 19 and he’s a full-time college student. But, he’s built his company up into a successful business in a short amount of time. Dylan told me he loves California. So, why did he decide on partially moving to Texas? Basically, the California State Legislature and unions were making life difficult for Bulldog Lighting. Texas offers more freedom for him to expand his business. Here’s what Dylan had to say about the upcoming move to the Lone Star State.
Tell me about Bulldog Lighting.
I started this business about a year and a half ago because of the need for affordable LED Light bars. Actually almost two years ago but I spent about six months doing research and development on the product before I introduced it to the market.
Is this your first business?
This is my first business but I have great entrepreneurial parents and family that helped me get it going.
What do you love about your job?
I love my job because I get to design and manufacture a USA made product. I help factories keep people employed right here in the United States. That means a lot to me. I love vehicles, trucks mostly, and I get to do and see some really cool things in this industry! Bulldog LED Lights have been on four covers of Truckin magazine among many others this year! That is exciting! Going to college at the same time is not that easy but I managed to make Deans List my first year. I look forward to being closer to my business and going to events that I need to be a part of because I am the CEO.
Tell us a little about your background.
I was born and raised in San Carlos, California. My mother is from Little Rock, Arkansas. And my father is from San Francisco. I have a sister who is a senior at Loyola Marymount, in Los Angeles. I went to Junipero Serra HS in San Mateo. I was accepted with Honors into Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga. My degree focus will be Business and Marketing. I am excited to start Saint Mary’s! It’s close to home and my business.
Moving a business to another state is a major decision. What happened?
Moving our business to Texas is hard work! Our R&D and Marketing people will stay in California. Our whole team is going out there next week to get things set up. We were just tired of California and the anti-business climate.
We want to truly thank California Senator Jerry Hill for bringing the SB661 revised labeling law before the senate. And thanks to California Assemblyman Brian Jones for trying to push AB891 bill. Both bills were attempts to change an obsolete, 50-year-old law. The old law says that any product coming in to California MUST be 100 percent made in the USA. Otherwise, it cannot use a “Made in USA” label. Even if only 1percent contains foreign parts. And even if those parts can’t be made anywhere in the United States! A company can be sued in California for false labeling.
We have brought jobs back to California, the USA. The unions and the consumer attorneys were against us. They hold more power than we do. The Consumer Federation says that they are for the consumer, they only help consumers find attorneys to sue companies. I’m only 19 but even I can clearly see the issues with our system.
We are happy to be working with Joel Joseph, of the Made In USA Foundation, on a National Made in USA Certification. If you want to use the Made in the USA label, you must be certified. But not everything can be made here. LED’s and the components on the pcb are not made here. But the aluminum board that all of those pieces sit on is made here in the United States. If everyone had to be certified to use a Made in the USA label, it would be a level playing field and it would help protect the consumer so they know that something is certified, much like certified organic. This outdated law was passed to protect consumers. But it was passed back in 1961 when imports were 8 percent. Today they are over 64 percent! It has not protected the consumers or even jobs.
We simply wanted California to be like the rest of the country by applying the Federal Trade Commission guideline and requiring a type of certification that would be implemented across the country. We even suggested California could lead the way in this certification. Now we hope someone in Texas will help our cause.
Why do California politicians have such anti-business attitudes?
I’m only 19. And granted, my opinion was helped formed by my business parents. But California politicians are anti-business because they are attorneys. They have never owned businesses. Senator Jerry Hill is different because he was a businessman first.
Why did you choose Texas over other states?
I think I will like Texas because it is close to my mom’s roots, in Arkansas. Texas is part of the South, and she has taught me a lot about those ways. Although, she is still very progressive. That’s part of the reason why she came to California. We did consider Wyoming, but the South is where we wanted to be. We liked how Texas is pro-business and seems active in seeking companies to come to the Lone Star State.
What is Texas doing right when it comes to business, taxes, and regulation?
I believe Texas trying to become the next Silicon Valley. That is a good thing. Many Californians are tired of our politicians and the excessive taxing and regulations. Texas just wants to create an environment to help business whereby it puts people to work. No corporate income tax is a bonus.
Many California businesses are moving to Texas. Where has California gone wrong?
A California senator recently said something to my mom, after hearing that we were moving our business to Texas. “Good luck with little regulation down there…like with that fertilizer plant explosion in West, TX” I guess they are tired of hearing about people leaving to Texas, but still. Afterwards, we sat with friends and family and thought about it. With all of the regulation in California, how did California laws help the victims of the big PG&E gas explosion in San Bruno, CA several years ago?
Maybe California should stop focusing on how attorneys can gain off big lawsuit payouts and pay attention to the concerns of residents, businesses, and consumers. I don’t know enough about politics and government to know if it can be fixed. But I do know that we don’t want to grow a business in California only to be harnessed or held back by the state.
Will you ever leave Northern California?
I live in California, I love California. Northern California is the best! I am not sure if I ever see myself moving from here. We own property here and such. But as we spend more time in Texas and see the value for what you can buy there, it might change our minds. We will keep our Bulldog Lighting R&D and Marketing here in California, so we are not totally gone.
What can California learn from Texas?
California is progressive in its lifestyle thinking. California can learn much about having to be supportive of business if people want jobs. Businesses need to make money. That isn’t a bad thing. Texas seems like a great state. We hope that we made a good choice in relocating. Texas has infectious pride. We look forward to being there!