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SMALL BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Luminary Electrical Contractor: Serving as a beacon of inspiration

By Frank Cetera


Shawni Davis, owner and CEO of Luminary Electrical Contractor, LLC. (PHOTO CREDIT: LUMINARY ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR WEBSITE)

SYRACUSE — There will always be firsts as long as there is change, and Shawni Davis of Luminary Electrical Contractor, LLC is proving that by being the first Black woman, LGBT-owned, MWBE-certified, master-licensed electrical contractor in Syracuse.

Luminary performs both commercial and industrial electrical work and brings 15 years of electrical experience to the field.

Luminary’s mission — posted on its website: — explains how the concept of inspiration behind the word Luminary relates to “creating a company that highlights the abilities and skill sets of people from diverse communities in this industry. We are here to be a beacon of inspiration to others, that we can succeed and excel in spaces that we are not typically represented.”

Davis goes on to describe how “Being in a white, male dominated industry motivated me to create the ultimate representation people like me need to see, and that representation is in the form of ownership.”

Shawni reached out to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) regional office at Onondaga Community College in October 2020 for basic startup information. She was assigned to me, and I talked her through a review of startup mechanics and logistics, business planning, and developing a cash-flow budget using a provided template.

As the startup progressed, Shawni returned to speak with me about MWBE certification in January 2021. I discussed the process and provided direction, which Shawni then ran with to gain her certification. In August 2021, I continued working with Davis on developing an updated business plan, analyzing financial statements, and a basic audit review of the website as she worked to apply for line-of-credit financing.

Shawni says, “Starting a business is expensive; SBDC offering services free of charge was extremely helpful. I especially appreciate the help I received with financial projections, which assisted tremendously in Luminary obtaining a small business loan.”

With initial success comes an increased opportunity to shine Luminary’s light of inspiration. Davis recently participated on a panel discussion with other Black leaders in the Syracuse community, as part of the “From First to Next” event presented by the United Way of Central New York. Shawni joined the other panelists in reflecting on their personal journey to reach a milestone, and what it will take to help the next generation of Black leaders to continue to blaze new trails in Central New York and beyond.

Luminary Electrical Contractor is a member of the National Electric Contractors Association, the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. In December 2021, the business celebrated being awarded City of Syracuse MWBE certification and being the first woman-owned contractor to sign a contract with Home Headquarters, Inc.

SBDC advisor’s business tip: Startups don’t happen overnight, nor do they necessarily reach positive cash flow immediately upon beginning operations. Planning is a continuum, and it should start early in a startup’s vision. Reach out to an SBDC business advisor early to work out and understand the strategic plan and feasibility of your idea.

Frank Cetera is an advanced certified business advisor at the SBDC located at Onondaga Community College. Contact him at