I love to travel. Especially to places that most people don't seem to want to go. I love meeting new people and experiencing other cultures. My most recent travels have included a safari through the desert outside of Dubai, a trek to Everest base camp in Nepal (along with a few days getting to know Kathmandu), a short visit to explore Nanjing, China and a week long river trip down the Rio Grand through Boquillas canyon on the Texas/Mexico border. I head up to Colorado every so often and hang out for a while. I hope to travel the 600 or so miles on foot of the Camino de Santiago as my next big trip.
I spend as much time as I can with my family. I read Malcolm Gladwell and Seth Godin. I try to be more involved in my church. I am Mayor Pro Tem and Alderman, Place 5 for the Town of Providence Village, Texas. I'm always looking for ways to keep my business growing, I enjoy my family time too much to care about building anything too big to manage. It all started with a Christmas light show at my house (see "Providence Christmas") I love being self employed. I enjoy live music. I enjoy teaching my kids new things. I enjoy and cherish the little things.
Entrepreneur, multimedia designer, marketing professional and six-time ADDY award winner. I am the founder & head elf at Extreme Lightscapes, LLC, founded in 2007. Extreme Lightscapes utilizes advanced illumination techniques to create holiday light shows for retail and commercial venues. We also dabble in architectural and other permanent lighting installations. For more information on our services, please visit www.extremelightscapes.com.
I also run an ecommerce operation offering Christmas lights and Christmas decor to consumers, decorators and hobbyists. Please visit our primary outlet at www.thechristmaslightemporium.com.
Fiat Lux! | Hágase la luz!
I think it's more fun to look at my life like a timeline rather than like a resume. A resume sounds overly planned and manipulative while a timeline is simply a documentation of historical events; key events. Typically these are the milestones that have been reached - either intentionally or, as is often the case, unintentionally - in succession and have cumulatively resulted in the current state of the subject. That's a complex (and probably grammatically incorrect) way of saying, "I am what I am because I've been where I've been." Click the "+" signs below to learn more.
from 2017 to present day
Sound. Light. Immersive experiences. You’ve never felt anything like this.
We design immersive lighting and sound experiences that stir the soul. It is our belief that simplicity is at the heart of all complexities.
Lumyn Immersive Media is based in Dallas, Texas and offers design, consulting, rental and sales of immersive lighting experiences, technology based sound and light systems, displays, shows, and art pieces for events throughout the United States.
Learn more here: Limbic Media Forms Strategic Partnership with Texas-Based Lumyn
from 2012 to present day
TheChristmasLightEmporium.com is a wholesale and retail Christmas lights and Christmas decorations supply outlet and sister company/supplier of the products used by our parent company, Extreme Lightscapes, across the U.S. and the world, Extreme Lightscapes designs and installs Christmas lights, Christmas displays of all sizes and world-class custom Christmas light shows for commercial clients. By 2012 it became clear that many clients were looking for a reliable source to purchase their Christmas decorating essentials. They wanted to buy from a reliable company with easy 24/7 ordering, great customer service, free and speedy shipping options, no hassle returns and wholesale pricing on professional grade Christmas lights, Christmas decorations, greenery, wreaths, garland and installation accessories – and TheChristmasLightEmporium.com was born and in 2015 became The Christmas Light Emporium, LLC – moving out from under the Extreme Lightscapes umbrella to stand on it’s own as one of the fastest growing Christmas lighting and decor retailers in the United States.
“We love what we do and I think it shows in our work, our people, our contractors, suppliers and partners. Most importantly I think it shows in the results of the service we provide to you and in the quality of the products on display by our customers all over the United States. I very much look forward to helping you add some holiday magic to your display this year!” ~Darren Vader. The Christmas Light Emporium
→ View website
from 2007 to present day
I am the founder of Extreme Lightscapes, LLC and The Christmas Light Emporium.com, it's retail outlet. Being a jack of all trades has certainly been handy with this enterprise as it has allowed me to accomplish things that some other entrepreneurs who started with $0 like I did, may not have been able to successfully execute. Not only am I responsible for all of the day to day activities revolving around sales and running of the business, but I am the hands on guy who built all of our websites with no external assistance. As a matter of fact, I've had no outside assistance with any aspect of the business at all. I do rely on a fantastic team that helps with installation and take down of big commercial displays - and I couldn't do that part of the business without them! But the rest of the year, it's basically a one man show. I'm certainly proud of that.
Extreme Lightscapes provides Animated Christmas Lights, Commercial Christmas Decorating and Christmas Light Installation for any venue with the desire to go the extra mile. We specialize in designing marketing driven Christmas light events and displays for shopping centers, retailers, resorts, municipalities, hotel/casinos, amusements parks, churches and other commercial venues. Synchronized Christmas lights can create an eye catching spectacle in any environment that needs to make a statement and increase traffic. Learn more www.extremelightscapes.com.
The Christmas Light Emporium is the retail outlet for the products we use at Extreme Lightscapes to design and build large scale commercial light shows and Christmas displays. We provide the highest quality products and the best customer service in the business. Learn more at www.thechristmaslightemporium.com.
2008 - 2010
If the name looks familiar it's because 2 of the 3 co-founders were also the same 2 guys (me being one of them) who tried to get Silicon Grey Digital Media rolling a few years prior.
This was a fascinating idea and one that we were right on top of the market with and came very close to succeeding with. It was the first time I had worked on a startup team exclusively in the capacity of marketing and user interface design. The technology was developed by another partner who is a bloody genius.
The technology featured a proactive way to monitor cable internet customers and automatically manage outages, disperse tickets to the field, manage geographies of crews, etc, etc. It was extremely feature rich and mobile friendly. So we set out to sell it. We came very very very close to getting it into 2 or 3 of the biggest cable providers in the country before the market started to open up and we started rapidly seeing competition from much bigger companies than us.
We had a better product, but nobody in the cable industry knew who we were. So we pulled out before the losses got too large. It's too bad, really. It was a superior product. I think the morale of the story is that it is usually best to stick not only to what you know, but also to what you are known for.
from July 2007 to November 2010
Develop and execute marketing strategies with the goal of improving the sales pipeline for this global provider of integrated enterprise-wide software solutions for food and fuel retailers and distributors including supermarkets, convenience stores, fuel stations and restaurants. Strategic development and hands on execution of press releases, brochures, case studies, newsletter, webinars, tradeshows, RFPs, Advertising, web site, symposiums, global user conferences and other activities in both online and offline environments. Work closely with outsourced agencies to deliver on target messaging to media and analysts.
from June 2005 to February 2007
Led the marketing and business development activities for this provider of hosted voice-over-ip PBX services to the SMB market. Primary challenge was focused on the integration of acquisition targets and the development and implementation of organic growth plans. This included the need to expand the technology solutions available for direct and indirect distribution teams through internal development and strategic partnerships, alliances and acquisitions. Responsible for strategic P&L management, business-to-business marketing, advertising, public relations, press releases direct sales and channel sales initiatives. Managed a staff of 6 including product managers and direct sales team members. Reported directly to the President and COO.
from June 2000 to April 2005
Directed the domestic and international marketing operations of this $225 million high profile hospitality technology firm. Primary challenge was focused on the development of new sales channels in support of the company’s aggressive growth plan. Managed a staff of 8 marketing specialists covering the areas of graphic design, public relations, copywriting, special projects and administration. Reported directly to the Vice President of International Sales & Marketing.
1999 - 2000
This was a short-lived effort to start a digital media agency. We had a great brand and a few small clients, but in the end it was way too early in the game for what we were trying to do. We wanted to bring big time digital marketing to mid size and smaller companies. But even most large companies didn't know what we were talking about. It didn't take us long to realize that this idea was ahead of its time. We did have 1 project that stood out. They were a high powered airgun manufacturer. They paid for our services with a used Mac Pro and a .50 caliber rifle. Good trade.
2003 - 2006
So, part 2 of The Big Blue Box started shortly after I married my lovely wife, Angela. I had by this time discovered the power of selling to a mass audience through Ebay. At the time Ebay allowed the sale of 'information products'. My hottest selling CD for nearly 2 years was a self compiled interactive CD Title "How to Sell on Ebay". Seriously. I was selling $1,500-$2,000 of these a month at $5 a pop. We used that funding to start buying closeout merchandise on the dollar. We eventually found it difficult to locate products that we thought would sell very well. Then we discovered a liquidator called "Luxury Brands" and the floodgate opened. We were buying bulk year end liquidation items from the biggest designer names on earth and selling them at great markup on Ebay. We ran through several large loads of products and got all ramped up just as Luxury Brands went out of business. We never did find a replacement. But we managed to sell off a boat load of women's clothing and accessories, bathing suits, blouses, dresses, slacks, suites, purses, wallets - you name it.
By the time our inventory dried up Ebay had also made it against their rules to sell information products. I miss those days.
So, The Big Blue Box went back to be being just me - building an occasional website.
1997 - 2000
Managed the development of internet, multimedia and print-based marketing campaigns for internal and external clients, including the re-branding of Graphic Technologies. This was a startup division of a commercial printing organization. Primary challenges included growing web-based application and multimedia revenue while managing growth against the company’s budget.
1995 - 2001
The Big Blue Box started out as a one man web design shop. It evolved for a while to become a sort of virtual group of designers and technology gurus doing all sorts of things including web design, custom programming, print design etc. We even had a spinoff (iSun Media some will remember) that was created mainly so that I could funnel overload design work from my day job back to me and my croonies as outside contractors without the boss knowing it was still me doing the work after hours. We eventually setup a web hosting business under the iSun name and setup the data center in the breakfast room of the house we were renting near Fort Worth. It was a risky plan, but it worked for a long while.
I remember New Years' Eve 1999 in that same rental house. We setup webcams all over the house and broadcast our party live on the web. We even created a giant MP3 jukebox just so that our guests (some of whom were prone to hijacking the party tunes) couldn't change the music. It may all sound trivial now, but in 1999 how many people do you know that had their entire music collection on an MP3 jukebox and broadcast their parties live on the web to friends in Europe and Australia?
The tower of champagne glasses in the kitchen - right next to our 'data center' was priceless. We were most certainly some righteous dudes.
As we all got a little bored with the craziness, the virtual team went away and we got rid of the hosting business and the bulk contract work went away when I quick the job to found a design firm - The Big Blue Box collected dust for a while.
1995 - 1996
Co-founded an early adopter internet service provider (ISP) serving more than 30 metropolitan areas across the United States. This was an amazing experience and a wild ride. I remember that our office was in the basement of what was known as the White Swan Building on Lamar St. in Dallas.It's now the House of Blues. Every time I go in there now I look over stage left to where our office used to be and I remember the good old days.
I remember spending all day and night building and setting up our first mail, web and DNS servers on RedHat Linux. At the time there was a language option for "redneck" as part of the RedHat installation. So all of our servers initially ran Redneck RedHat. ,br>
This was back before high speed broadband so we had racks of "access servers" - which were nothing more than banks of 56k (in our case 56klfex) modem cards. I remember that our first upstream pipe was a whopping 768k in total capacity.
And I remember when local sports radio station "The Ticket" came out to the Hooters next to our office to do a promo for us, they hit a transformer with their truck and blow out the power to our building. We didn't have any battery backup at the time. Oops. So much for that promotion.
It was a crazy ride. It wasn't all fun. but in hindsight it was by far the most valuable education I've ever received.
1987 - 1995
Started this creative career driving a delivery truck for Bob’s Printing in Hurst, Texas. The next ten years included operations positions in electronic pre-press with Retail Graphics (RG Color), Blanks Color Imaging, Williamson Printing and Wilson Engraving as well as electronic pre-press management positions with ColorScan Dallas, Graphic Technologies and Overlake Press in Seattle, Washington.
I loved working in the printing industry and I miss it still to this day. The business is very different now than it was in my days. Digital printing doesn't have the same pull on me that film-based printing did. I learned a lot about attention to details, quality control and accuracy of execution during these years.
1985 - 1987
What can I say. These are the part time gigs I held down while I worked on my hair and prepared for my career as a rock 'n roll god.
summer of 1983
My second attempt at starting a business was a mail order catalog selling computer supplies like printers, printer ribbons, green bar paper, floppy disks, etc. I will always remember talking to the folks at one of the printer manufacturers of the time (Genie or GenStar or something like that) trying to get them to set up a dealer account for me. They asked for my tax ID and I made up a number. I had no idea what they were talking about. But i was now a dealer. I made the catalogs by handle using photocopies, tape and staples and my mothers Smith Corona typewriter to type copy and prices next to the black and white photos. Then I "final copied" everything and stapled all the pages together and distributed them far and wide across the neighborhood. I will never forgot that first order.
The first time you make a dollar that you earn 110% through your own effort; that's a dollar you will never forget. I certainly never have.
I was still 14.
My first attempt at starting a business of my own was a service business using the steam cleaner my mother had purchased - to steam clean peoples cars for a fee on the weekends. This turned out to be way too much manual labor for my taste and I found it hard to find people willing to pay for the service.
I was 14.
1979 - 1981
Delivered local newspaper and collected monthly payments from about 40 customers within a few blocks of my home. Great training in customer service and learning lessons about what happens if you don't meet a deadline. This was my first foray into self employment. Probably closer to being a franchise owner. But a great first lesson either way.
1975 - 1979
From the time I was 6 years old my family always had a garden. A pretty good size one at that. Every season I'd get my mothers permission to take a small number of each item; usually some combination of green beans, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, and sweet corn - and carry them down to our local park in a shoebox to sell.
What made my product different than anyone else's (the other kids anyway - I did have 2 or 3 competitors) is that I would make sure to clean my vegetables very well and shine them up really good. No one else made that effort towards presentation.
I loved my shoebox vegetable days.
1975 - 1981
What can I say *shrug*. Here are the highlights:
fall of 1981 to spring of 1982
I only attend 1 year of school at Ray Middle School, but I remember some interesting things. I remember my math teacher (Mrs. Brown I think her name was) being very angry that I left school before the school year was over so we could move to Texas. She did not like one bit having to give me my final exams a couple of weeks earlier than the other kids.
I remember winning a lot of awards at the spring awards banquet. Especially with regard to art and music. I was very involved in both.
And I remember most - earning a spot in the all region choir. This was the last time that would happen. My voice changed after my 7th grade year and I have never been able to sing a lick that anyone wanted to hear ever since.
1982 - 1984
8th grade was a terrifying year for me. This was the summer (prior to) that my mother was transferred to Texas from New York for her job. It was pretty major culture shock for me. I become stunned and intimidated and fascinated with what I perceived as the massive wealth all around me. I distinctly remember reading a Texas Monthly issue back then with the cover story about wealthy Texas households being those with a household income of more than $50,000. So that become my first big goal in life.
It is also the year that I fell in love with technology. I took a programming class. The TRS-80 got me hooked. The Apple IIe took me deeper. The passion never ended. To this day every computer (and now phones and soon to be watches) in my household in an Apple product.
I started my first 2 businesses in 9th grade.
from fall of 1984 to spring of 1987
I started playing the trumpet when I was in 4th grade. By the time I reached high school I'd already been playing for about 3-4 years longer than most of the other kids. I loved music, but didn't care much for the education part. hence I never really gave it much effort. That is until my Junior year when I realized that if I wanted to attend the Berklee College of Music, I'd better find a scholarship ASAP.
So I started playing, participating and practicing like my life depended on it. In less than a year I went from a ho-hum 2nd band middle of the line player to 1st chair, 1st band, all state soloist and playing a solo on the 50 yard line at Texas stadium in front of 40,000 people.
And I *almost* got my scholarship to Berklee. The problem was that I couldn't afford to get to the auditions in Atlanta. I vowed right then that if/when I had children of my own I would do anything in my power to make sure that I could get them to whatever audition/interview they needed to be at to help reach their dreams.
Incidentally, I do now have 2 children who will be headed down that path shortly. My son has just started playing the viola and has turned out to be very gifted. My daughter is only 8 and is still looking for her calling. All that matters to me is that I am able to provide them with whatever next step they need in order to continue pursuing their dreams when the day comes.
I did manage to get auditions at schools all over Texas and the region and scholarship offers from most of them including Arkansas, UT, SMU, North Texas and TCU. I really liked the size, atmosphere and proximity of TCU. Plus the scholarship they offered would cover more of my expenses.
My entire family received TCU Christmas ornaments for Christmas 1988. The TCU bookstore is the only place that would 'put it on my account'.
from fall of 1987 to spring of 1988
This is where I killed off the first year of my college education. Working at a movie theater part time, playing in a rock band and snoring through geology and astronomy classes.
from fall of 1988 to spring of 1991
I learned that as a scholarship student, things would be a bit more hard core than for the non scholarship students. So it wasn't all that much fun. I also learned that I was a lousy jazz player. Which basically meant that I was pretty much a lousy player, period. At least relative to the long list of those better than I was.
After just 2 seasons with the TCU music program I cracked a tooth - badly. And couldn't play without getting it fixed. I couldn't afford to get it fixed. I lost my scholarship. I took out students loans and worked full time trying to keep the dream a live. But alas. I was making more money in the printing business than either of my parents were at their respective jobs. So I quite school to focus on the paycheck. And that's where the dream ended.
I bleed purple to this day.
from fall of 2001 to fall of 2003
Yes, I fell prey to the all mighty and powerful UoPH marketing powerhouse. And I borrowed the money to do it. I think I still owe the feds upwards of $50k for this privilege. Don't get me started on what I think about the value of higher education. Let's just agree that it's value has a direct correlation to your chosen field of focus/major. If you don't need a license to practice your trade, then high ed is probably not a great bargain unless someone else is footing the bill. It also depends on your personality type. Starters, entrepreneurs, leaders etc. will statistically far much better by just hitting the streets and forgoing the formalities of higher ed.
But I digress. I felt like I needed to finish what I started with my undergraduate degree. So I did. I graduated with my BS in Marketing in 2003. 13 years after losing my scholarship at TCU.
fall of 2004 to spring of 2006
Yes. I went back. At the time I thought that maybe my boring corporate career could get a much needed boost if I carried some extra credentials on my resume (I despise the word ' resume' by the way). And, admittedly, I am proud to have gone through the effort to earn my Masters degree.
What I am not proud of is two-fold. 1) that I probably still owe the feds around $50k for the pleasure of the experience (Kids listen up - DO NOT TAKE OUT STUDENT LOANS TO PAY FOR COLLEGE - TRUST ME! - THEY WILL OWN YOU FOR LIFE). and 2) Other than looking really cool in the fancy frame on my office wall, my Masters degree hasn't opened a single door. So, nice accomplishment and I am proud yes. But it's value is essentially null.
I did enjoy the professors and the other students at Regis. Even though it was all online, they did a really great job of including the online students in the activities on campus whenever possible. And kept us in the loop to make us feel more like a part of the on campus family than you might expect. But in the end, it was a lot of hard work on nights and weekends when I should have probably been spending them with my bride and newborn son.
I don't regret *doing* it. I regret taking out the loans to get it done.
See my entry for my time at Texas Christian University and UoPH for more on my thoughts about higher education. It's not for everyone.
Here's a mish-mash of visuals that represent some of the more recent projects I've been working on, places I've been, things I think are funny. Whatever. Just another little glimpse of me.
I don't spend a lot of time keeping up with this personal blog/news feed. But I like to share major milestones, big trips and all the details about our "Providence Christmas" light show every Christmas. Typically I'll post anywhere from once a week to once a month. Just depends on how interesting life happens to be ay any particular junction.
Posted by darrenvader |03 Oct 18 | 0 comments
I’ve been so busy over the past 2 years managing the growth of the businesses and launching a couple of new ones that I haven’t kept up with things here
Posted by darrenvader |03 Mar 16 | 0 comments
I have been spending a huge amount of time planning and preparing for growth of The Christmas Light Emporium and working on new projects for Extreme Lightscapes. Our online
Posted by darrenvader |02 Apr 15 | 1 comments
One year ago today I arrived in Lukla, Nepal after have spent a week or so romping around Dubai and Kathmandu. This is the anniversary of the beginning of my
-R. Buckminster Fuller
I'm always open to meeting like minded folks. Whether its a business idea, a grand travel adventure, fund raising effort; I like hearing about all good things. Feel free to reach out.
+1 940 453 4701
1807 Concord Lane, Denton, Texas 76205