Written By Lori Hoerl
The realization of Crane Island is the culmination of some very talented, driven people coming together to create a distinctive community by design. The dedication and passion our team has shown is truly inspiring. Their collective knowledge and expertise are truly impressive.
A very special part of our team is Jan Clouse, President of Carolina Lanterns & Lighting.
Jan’s lanterns have been seen around the world. In fact, 70 percent of her business is national and international.
She has created lanterns for celebrities including Barbra Streisand as well as for a number of exclusive developments and notable hotels and inns.
The Art of Selling
Jan Clouse is a rare breed. She will tell you that herself. Born and raised in Charleston, Jan has lived her entire life in the richly historical waterfront City. She is also the real deal when it comes to sales and design.
Inspired by her grandfather who was a Vice President of Sales at General Electric, Jan was told she was meant to be in sales. Her first attempt at selling came when she was in the glee club and was given candy bars to sell. Jan brags, “I sold 22 cases, not 22 boxes of those candy bars. That broke the record for the glee club at that time.”
Even at a young age Jan appreciated the value of building relationships in making sales happen. She had an older sister who worked at Belk’s. Jan approached the manager at the back of the store one day and asked if she could sell the candy bars to salespeople as they left for the day. When the manager, Mr. Derrick, saw how many candy bars Jan sold he told her, “When you turn 16, you can come back and I’ll give you a job.”
And that’s exactly what Jan did. When she turned 16, Jan called Mr. Derrick back and he gave her a job. Jan will tell you that’s when she knew she had it in her to be successful in sales.
The Real Deal
Jan started Carolina Lanterns & Lighting out of the trunk of her car, literally. She’ll tell you that she started her company because no one had what she wanted so she decided to make it herself.
It all began with a trip to a local store in Charleston, South Carolina. Jan says, “I used to be a long-distance runner and I was wearing my workout clothes. The lady at the store asked me how much money I had in my pocket and when I told her, she said I’d spend more than that on the front door and walked away.”
That same day, Jan went to Staples, made up a name for her company, set up an email address and a website and starting making calls letting people know, “I’m in the lighting business.”
Jan had previously worked in the international shipping industry, handling sales up and down the East Coast. Jan says, “I’ve always enjoyed networking and sales. I like to meet people and I get excited about the projects I’m working on. People like people who are excited about what they are doing.”
Jan applied the same approach to her lantern business that had proven successful in shipping. She divided up the list of who she would call on by categories and go see them face-to-face.
It started with calling on developers for their preferred builder lists. Jan would ask builders for a few minutes of their times at their weekly minutes to introduce her company to them. That quickly grew to include architects and other people who could use her lanterns.
The Early Days
Jan says her catalogs in the beginning were largely CAD drawings. She had a few lanterns she had made for meetings and would work out of her car. As items sold, Jan took pictures and starting making handouts with the photos she could give to prospective clients.
Jan says, “If you saw my first catalogue, you would laugh. I had an HP printer I would hook up and, while I was sleeping, I’d copy a bunch of one photo. When I woke up, I’d change the photo out and make more copies.”
The process was simple, but It worked. Jan would divide all her photos out and arrange them in a simple binder with clear sheets on either side held together by a single plastic strip. She’d make a basic folder that she put her business card inside of and go make sales calls.
It took three years before Jan would have her first “professional” brochure made.
When asked where her inspiration comes from, Jan says, “There were a lot of old patterns and a lot of people making lanterns that were using the same patterns.” Jan continues, “I’d take the old patterns and build off of them, adding scrolls, cross bars and other distinctive features. That was the beginning of what would become my expanded selection.”
Jan says she’s always had an eye for interior design. She has bought, sold, and remodeled at least 20 homes in her lifetime and done very well at it. Jan says, “I get bored if I don’t have projects. Whether it’s looking for a new design to go on a house or collaborating with the team at Crane Island, I love special projects.”
Jan works with different coppersmiths and, depending on how detailed the lantern is, says the process can be very labor-intensive. All of the lanterns Jan creates are hand-made and can be customized to fit the taste and vision of each customer. As Jan puts it, “If you can draw it, we can make it.”