Lynn Cooper is president and CEO of BFW Inc., a Louisville-based manufacturer and global exporter of surgical headlight and headlight imaging systems.
After graduation from the University of Kentucky School of Fine Arts, Lynn began a career as a makeup artist and set decorator at Kentucky Educational Television where she eventually became a features producer.
In 1990, Lynn's father asked her to join BFW, the family business, as both of her brothers already had become involved. After a three-month trial sitting at a desk taking orders, she signed on. Her first task was to develop an international market for her father's surgical headlight company.
Lynn's father started BFW in 1971 while an engineer at IBM in Lexington. When he retired in 1985, it became a full-time pursuit. By 1994, with one son overseeing manufacturing, another marketing to dentists and Lynn overseeing the medical market and international sales, BFW had a small, but loyal market niche. While known for quality, BFW was much smaller and not a major player in the operating room like its corporate rivals.
As sometimes happens in a family business, management styles clashed, creating friction among siblings, and leading Lynn's father to divide BFW into three companies. Each sibling ran and owned their respective part of the business.
As president of BFW, Lynn sold products manufactured by her brother's company to the surgical market. In 1998 she hired her husband who had extensive experience in marketing, sales and public relations, and by 2005, the distribution network had grown throughout the United States and internationally. Exports accounted for 25 percent of sales, and BFW became a presence in the operating room.
Growing frustration with the lack of new product development and control over quality led Lynn to up-start her own product line – facing the dilemma of separating from her family's manufacturing operation to become its competitor.
In 2009, Lynn contracted with local engineers and developed the first technological surgical headlight innovation in more than 20 years. By utilizing a unique solid-state plasma lamp, BFW today provides surgeons with a high-intensity fiber-optic light that is easier on their eyes, uses a lamp lasting 10 times longer while utilizing 40 percent less energy – significantly decreasing operational costs associated with surgical headlights. In 2010, BFW Inc. received a Vogt Award for this innovation.
Today, BFW successfully competes with multi-national corporations and is one of the top three headlight brands in the world market. It remains the smallest with six employees and is the only woman-owned surgical headlight company. Lynn travels extensively, and in 2012, exports made up nearly 45 percent of BFW's sales.
Lynn is an executive board member of the World Trade Center of Kentucky, sits on the Kentucky District Export Council; she is a board member of GLI and is on the University of Louisville School of Nursing's advisory board. She also chairs and is a founding member of Louisville's Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NEW).