Soltech Solutions named Entrepreneurial Success of Year by SBA

Cris Collingwood//May 2, 2022

Soltech Solutions named Entrepreneurial Success of Year by SBA

Cris Collingwood//May 2, 2022

From left, Chris Clark, Paul Hodges and Mike Planer are the co-founders of Bethlehem-based Soltech Solutions, which makes specialized lights for houseplants. They make the lights by hand. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Soltech Solutions, Bethlehem, is the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Eastern Pennsylvania District’s Entrepreneurial Success of the Year. 

Soltech Solutions, a lighting design firm specializing in the research, development, and production of plant lights, will receive the award May 4 at  Pi: Partnership for Innovation, 520 Evans St., Suite 3, Bethlehem, home to the business. 

Designed out of Bethlehem, Soltech’s advanced photosynthesis spectrum, sleek minimalist fixtures, and ambient indirect lighting offer a simple solution for plant owners to grow any plant with seamlessly integrated lighting anywhere in their home. 

The business was started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2017 with the goal of designing grow lights that could be tastefully incorporated into people’s homes. The three cofounders, Paul Hodges, Michael Planer, and Chris Clark started the venture in a friend’s unfinished basement.  

Today, the three owners continue to maintain 100% ownership of the business. Soltech currently has 21 employees. 

Soltech faced difficulty in the fall of 2021, when the pandemic and global supply shortages caused lead times to change from several weeks to several months. With the help of SBA investments allowed Soltech to secure enough product supply to continue sales, increase revenue growth, and maintain its staff. 

“It’s a privilege to recognize the achievements of entrepreneurs such as Paul Hodges, Michael Planer, and Chris Clark,” said Steve Dixel, SBA Eastern Pennsylvania director. “We are proud to play a role in helping Soltech Solutions access SBA’s capital programs which allows them to positively impact the Lehigh Valley economy, continue to grow their manufacturing business and create jobs in communities such as the city of Bethlehem.” 

Pi: Partnership for Innovation is managed by the Bethlehem Economic Development Corp. (BEDCO) and funded by the City of Bethlehem.  

The company has expanded from 232 square feet to 3,500 square feet. The innovative nature of Soltech qualified it for the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone Program, managed by the City and BEDCO, which was able to fund Soltech’s initial purchase of inventory and provide them with other resources.  

“The Soltech team has worked with every resource and organization available to them. They are smart and savvy, yet humble business owners,” said nominator J. William Reynolds, mayor, City of Bethlehem. “We are honored that the team, who did not grow up in Bethlehem nor go to college here, decided to launch their company in the City of Bethlehem based on a CNN Money article entitled ‘Top 100 Places to Live and Launch’.” 

“As Soltech continues to grow, we hope it enhances the lives of individuals and families across the globe with the intent of making lives a little greener,” said Hodges. 

“It’s an honor to be named SBA’s Eastern Pennsylvania Entrepreneurial Success of the Year,” said Planer. “We thank the SBA for recognizing our business and thank Mayor Reynolds for the nomination.” 

SBA’s Eastern Pennsylvania Entrepreneurial Success of the Year award winner is selected annually from among nominees located across the 40 counties of eastern Pennsylvania. National Small Business Week recognizes the small business community’s contribution to the American economy.