When Kathi Vandel started Lightworks, Inc. in 2002, she wanted a business that created balance between light and dark, art and engineering and most importantly, work and family.

“The backbone of our company rests on the concept of balance,” she said. “That’s why the company was formed, and maintaining that balance keeps us happy people.”

Today, with three women at the helm, Lightworks is a subcontractor on many high-profile projects. Allyson Evans joined in 2003 as a lighting and electrical designer and Katie Green joined the firm in 2012 as a lighting designer. Together, the three have propelled Lightworks forward, working to brighten I-670 under Bartle Hall, light the Kansas City Royals Urban Youth Academy and the create innovative lighting for the new Cerner headquarters. They are working now with Edgemoor on the new Kansas City International Airport design.

But like many growing small businesses, Lightworks faced challenges along the way and turned to the UMKC Small Business & Technology Development Center for guidance. Vandel enrolled in the Growth Venture class to look at growth strategies for her remotely based headquarters in Weston, MO. One of the outcomes is a new collaboration studio location in downtown Kansas City that allowed her to hire additional designers and better coordinate projects in the city. Vandel has also learned how to work on cash flow challenges and attract diverse projects.

“Through attending the Growth Venture class, I was exposed to numerous experts that allowed insight and direction on business topics. Several of those topics I knew needed attention, but wasn’t quite sure where to start,” she said. “The class gives you validation of areas needing improvement, the tools to get started and the confidence to proceed. The company looks much different now than when the class began.”

Lightworks has won numerous awards for its work, including the 2018 Community Impact Award for the Kansas City Urban Youth Academy, the 2018 Capstone Award for the Cerner Three Trails Campus and several IIDA Awards for projects in Wichita, KS and the Hotel Sorella in Kansas City, MO. The company also won a SUP Excellence in Landscape Architecture Award for a sustainable SITES Initiative at the University of Texas – El Paso.

“We desire to develop relationships that go beyond a project partnership,” Vandel said. “If we win some awards along the way and provide for our families, then we’ve truly succeeded.”

Lightworks, Inc.

Kathi Vandel, Owner


361b Main St., Weston, MO