HiViz LED Lighting: Making a Podcast for First Responders
This podcast has been a long time coming.
Like, a really, reallllly long time.
The first public record of Sam mentioning making a podcast for firefighters and first responders was in December 2021 during a video tour of the office, before I'd joined the company. The idea of this project is one of the reasons I was so excited about the job opportunity as I went through the interview process.
Sam sat with me in a conference room on my first day, roughly a year ago, flipping through old pictures and telling me the story of how he built HiViz LED Lighting. Sam's life has been, for lack of better words, such a unique series of events and ideas and businesses leading up to this point.
Even a year later, the awestruck feeling I had after hearing the story for the first time stayed with me. When you hear a life story like that, you just know it's going to lead to something big. As HiViz COO Kaoma Massa said of Sam in the first episode, it's like he's lived double the life of most by the time he hit age 18.
The Making of an Emergency Vehicle Lighting Entrepreneur
For instance, one of Sam's first real business ventures was converting diesel vehicles to run on vegetable oil at age 16 (thanks to teacher turned mentor Beth Porterhouse). He carved out a name for himself in such a niche industry that the team of former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger spent TWO. YEARS. calling and asking Sam to do work on Arnold's fleet. Sam temporarily came out of biodiesel retirement for the job -- but only if they'd accept "a warranty as long as the driveway" because he was ready to move on from that part of his life.
I started digging into his story more with the goal of putting it in a TikTok series. I learned that even before the biofuel days, his TRUE first business was inspired by a love of/obsession with school bus doors, Thomas Bus specifically. His bedroom door was an actual school bus door, preceding Sam's purchase of his very own real-life Thomas Bus, which was then converted for his middle school DJ business and licensed as an RV to make it legal to operate.
Sam's life is peppered with entrepreneurship in ways that would never occur to me, a regular person, as potential business opportunities. The further we dug into his past life, the more I started to feel like Sam is the actual most interesting man in the world (the Dos Equis guy has nothing on Sam) and that we needed to properly share this with the world.
Kaoma is a stark contrast to Sam. He's a complete goofball, she's a "serious salamander" (her words, not mine). He likes to jump into things headfirst, she likes structure and thinking through logistics. I asked Sam to describe the differences between the two of them and he quickly interjected:
"Kaoma is like drinking a warm cup of tea and cozying up to a fire with a good book. I'm like popping the top off a (yellow) Red Bull, chugging it, and doing a backflip."
Sounds about right. Yet, somehow it all works.
The In's and Out's of Making a First Responder's Podcast
Being new to the podcasting world, we figured it out as we went. We learned that Sam talks... a lot. So much so that we ended up filming the full HiViz LED Lighting story in bits and pieces over the course of several months.
Spencer (videographer) and I also learned to account for all the goofing around before getting started, ice cream breaks, the need for "yellow bulls" (a yellow Red Bull), and Slick the Dog's snores and "gaseous omissions."
After batching up episodes for 6 months, we're pretty proud of how it's all come together and can't wait to share the rest of the founder/first responder stories this season.
But back to the first episode.
We leave off at a pivotal moment in the HiViz LED Lighting story: The birth of the Spaceship (aka our infamous green demo truck), and Sam's entry into the first responder and emergency vehicle lighting world. We'll pick it up back next week to share the rest.
Learn More About HiViz LED Lighting & FireTech Emergency Vehicle Lighting
To learn more about our emergency vehicle LED lighting, check out some of our videos and resources where we talk through emergency vehicle lighting products and how they impact our amazing first responders.
From DJ Liftoff to HiViz Founder & CEO: Sam’s story | Part 1
Filmed: May 22, 2022
Released: Jan 23, 2023
[0:0:0] We meet Sam and Kaoma Massa
[0:0:47] Sam Massa's Journey as a Student in School
[0:4:54] Sam Leveraged School Resources to Practice Business
[0:11:18] Teenage Entrepreneur Sam Massa Pursues Business to Create Biofuel and Save Money
[0:16:58] Sam Builds Biodiesel Production Facility
[0:19:45] Don't Be Afraid to Break Out of the Mold and Follow Your Dreams
[0:23:43] GED Graduate Sam Massa Discusses Taking the Road Less Traveled and Looking Back on his Career Path
[0:25:31] How Massa Green Enterprises (MGE) Created a Business to Convert Large Fleet Diesel Vehicles to Burn Recycled Waste Cooking Oil
[0:30:4] Challenges faced by a Young Entrepreneur Sam Massa in the Diesel Conversion Business
[0:33:38] Sam takes a beat at Coble Water Ski School in Lillington, NC
[0:36:48] Meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger
When Sam got to California, the first thing he saw was the original H1 and other original vehicles from the 80s, and he knew he was in the right place.
While he was there, he got to drive Arnold’s hummer to Predator in Vista, Ca – the shop where they were going to do the work. After completing the conversions, Sam requested to meet the Governor. They set up a media date for Arnold to come to the shop to go through the trucks and get some photos.
Sam asked him, “Hey, um, do you have the same experiences that everybody else has?
Arnold responded, “Yep, I love the Hummer, just like everyone else does. Foggy windshields and all.”
"It was really cool to see how connected he was to the 4-wheel drive community,” Sam said.
The Governor’s team opted for new cooking oil than recycled, so for them, the benefit was much more environmental than economical. Each hummer ended up having a smaller carbon footprint than the Prius in the end.
[0:39:33] Be Audacious and Bring Value to the Table
Kaoma commented on Sam’s ability to connect with anyone, no matter who they are, from the CEO of Thomas Bus to Arnold Schwarzenegger to the janitors of his former middle school.
“You are so audacious about just thinking you can be in a room with anybody… very brave to assume they want to be in the room with you as well.”