By Ashley Heeney
Exciting things are happening for Lucy Fanger and her information technology business, Solar Systems Networking Inc. (SSNI).
This year the company, which provides government, education, healthcare, and nonprofit organizations with technology, wireless, and managed solutions, received the Small Business Commerce Association’s Best of Business Award in the category of data and voice services.
The achievement falls in line with another milestone for the 16-year old company. Fanger recently moved from her Lyndhurst home into green corporate office spaces along the renovated Euclid Avenue corridor in downtown Cleveland. Now, SSNI is looking to expand into Youngstown and has opened in Austin, Texas.
“We were just very excited that we were able to expand,” Fanger says “We chose Youngstown and Austin because they both seem to be growing markets and open to new business. We felt getting in there and being part of it from the beginning would help us take off.”
With nine employees, SSNI has about 16 clients and is growing in staff size and client size.
“We grow mostly by word of mouth of references from current clients,” Fanger says.
Additionally, there are two sales people.
“We have great staff who have much experience and continue to keep up on technology through training, online, books, and journals,” Fanger says. “With our staff having experience in technology for so long, we are able to help with older and newer technology.
“A great thing we do is find the best fit for the client so that they can do their job successfully. Not just sell them technology for technology’s sake.”
For example, SSNI frequently provides network support services. “That could be PC rollout, which is basically giving everybody new PCs and decommissioning the old,” Fanger says.
The company also sets up a lot of wireless networks for outside wireless so people can sit outside with their computer and access the Internet. As well, SSNI also put internal wireless in various hotels and did wireless for Cuyahoga County Public Library.
Owning and marketing an IT company as a female has not come without its pitfalls, Fanger says.
“The challenge is dealing with people in business who make me feel as if I don’t deserve to own a company, especially a technology company, because I’m a woman,” she says. “And also having to work hard to prove that I truly run the company.”
Born and raised in Bedford, Fanger was originally a nurse and nurse manager. Her current staff knows her as a person who carries her warmth as a wife and mother into work each day and into meetings with clients.
“She is really different than most women CEOs that I’ve met,” Solar Systems Senior Sales Executive Maria Daniels says. “Our variety of clients — big jobs with the city and county and smaller jobs with small business —runs the gamut, and she is a person who can fit into all of those arenas. She can talk to small business owners and make them feel comfortable, or sit down with a Fortune 500 company and go toe to toe with them.”
Fanger, her husband, and another couple founded Solar Systems in 1994 as a network design company that focused on the network needs of small businesses and educational organizations. Within three years the company had designed and implemented a wireless network for the Cuyahoga Heights City Schools system — the first such network for a public school in Ohio.
In 1999 the company incorporated as Solar Systems Networking. Two years later Fanger, now the board chair, and her husband split from the other couple.
In 2002 Solar Systems Networking launched a product line called Net-Wise in response to the needs of clients wanting to economically distribute Internet service throughout large buildings, such as hotels, schools, and apartments.
Fanger took over as CEO in 2004 and actively leveraged SSNI as a small, female-owned business while increasing its ability to secure local, state and federal government contracts. She currently shares leadership with Charlotte Feldman.
The company has worked with the City of Berea to provide external wireless access to the Berea community park as well as the City of Beachwood’s Aquatic Park.
In 2008 SSNI introduced Smart Building Plus — a system that allows wireless network access and the ability for clients to monitor and control their own security and HVAC applications.
“Basically,” Fanger says, “we are there to make sure your technology is working, so you can work.”
For more information: solsysnetwork.com
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