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Tracy and Kyle May: Entrepreneurs Glowing with Delight

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The Christmas season is special, and many families take this time of year to pull out the stops decorating and getting into the holiday spirit. Lights are always a must, especially ornamenting the inside and outside of homes, retail displays and commercial displays. For most people, preparing for the holidays is only seasonal, a short period approaching the cold weather, unless of course you’re the May family. For Kyle and Tracy May, owners of K&T Lights, LLC, preparing for the holidays is a yearlong venture. Since 1996, K&T Lights has been lighting up residential homes, shopping centers, weddings and specialty events throughout the Northern California region. Kyle and Tracy have a successful and glowing business, one they never anticipated, and one that has taught them so much about family, love and hard work.

A Bright Beginning
It started in 1996. Tracy was attending California State University of Sacramento, and Kyle was attending the University of the Pacific. As a young college couple, both were asked to string some lights for a friend’s wedding in exchange for a little cash. “Sure, we’ll try it out,” recalled Tracy, admitting they weren’t quite sure what they were doing, having little experience hanging lights. They weren’t thinking much further than making a little extra spending money; what they didn’t expect was the launch into a bright future.

Their efforts paid off, and by the end of the wedding the bride and groom were receiving compliments about their illuminated venue that caught the attention of their guests. “From that wedding we got some phone calls,” said Kyle, and people began to ask them to hang lights, not just for weddings but also for the Christmas season on homes and businesses. At the time, Kyle and Tracy regarded their efforts as a new side job to provide some cash for the holidays. But as word of mouth spread, the number of eager customers grew as well as the expansion of something bigger. The following year, Kyle and Tracy opened K&T Lights, taking the letters from their initials.

In the midst of this new business venture, Tracy and Kyle continued their college path, working toward teaching degrees. In 1999, Tracy received a degree from Sacramento State in child development with a master’s in education, while Kyle received his bachelor’s degree in sports science at UOP and master’s in educational technology. By December 31, 2000, they had married at Morris Chapel in Stockton, California, and, of course, their wedding was illuminated with beautiful and striking light displays. Tracy and Kyle took jobs in local Stockton schools while continuing their lighting venture.

A Beaming Future
In the first few years, balancing teaching careers and the lighting business seemed manageable, but as word of mouth continued and business became brighter, their clientele doubled. “First, it was five jobs, then the next year ten, then 20,” recalled Kyle. By the fifth year, the Mays realized that K&T Lights was becoming a thriving business, something they knew could grow, perhaps to a full-time concern. By their fifth year, the Mays began to invest more time and energy into the business. “We decided, let’s do everything, and we started advertising,” recalled Tracy. As their website says, “Raise your lights and see the possibilities,” the business immediately saw growth following the first advertisement.

“It got really crazy, something I didn’t expect,” Kyle admitted. Tracy and Kyle decided they needed to manage their business if they were to continue to work as educators and simultaneously build their business. They began hiring crews, especially leading up to the Christmas season. Tracy handled the administrative side, while Kyle provided estimates and managed the installations. Twenty-six years and 15 employees later, they have full-time crews and business year-round that keeps them busy. “I never expected it to be what it is now,” said Kyle. As a result of such popularity, K & T Lights annually performs 600 to 700 residential jobs; that doesn’t include the many local business clients. Light installations over the years have included Lincoln Center, Robbie’s Bike Shop, even shopping centers in El Dorado Hills. It’s not uncommon for the Mays to put in 50 to 70 hours of work each week.

And through all the growth of their business, the Mays have maintained their teaching professions. As crazy as it might seem to take on two full-time jobs with business and education, Kyle and Tracy wanted to remain in their teaching positions; it’s important to them and they feel a call to help others. Tracy works as a behavior specialist while Kyle is a special day class instructor in special education. With more than 20 years of experience each, they don’t plan to retire soon. “We didn’t get into teaching for the money; we wanted to impact the kids,” Tracy affirmed. Kyle often shares stories with his students about the success of the business, hoping to encourage young minds about how hard work has paid off.
Despite their busy life, the Mays know they have been very blessed. What started as a few extra bucks has been something they have never taken for granted. “It’s opened so many more doors. We’ve been able to do extra things for our kids, like private schools and allowing us to take vacations,” said Kyle. And they understand that their blessings have been due to hard work, which they reinforce and model for both their students and their daughters. Skyler, 20, is a full-time student and active golfer at UC Davis, and McKynlee, 14, is a freshman at St. Mary’s High School. Both girls help their parents during the peak times, even during the pandemic when the quarantine made it difficult to find workers. The whole family understands the time and dedication to the business, but it has also made them a stronger unit and supportive of each other. Despite their hectic calendar, Tracy acknowledges they make a point to find time for family opportunities. “We sit down and eat dinner at the dinner table as a family. Even if it’s just ten minutes together as a family, that’s our time.”

As the holiday season reaches its peak, the Mays don’t have any immediate plans to slow down. “I’m still at it for a while,” admitted Kyle. “I enjoy it; it’s not work to me.” While the lights are still shining bright and their future continues to twinkle, one of the greatest joys they find is the happiness that lights up their customers and the people who see their work. “I think more than anything, what we enjoy is that it brings joy; they see lights, it makes you happy,” Tracy noted. “I love doing this. I’ve met so many people I would have never met; it brings joy to people,” described Kyle.