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Meet Bret Englander of Cerno in Orange County

Today we’d like to introduce you to Bret Englander.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
We (Bret Englander, Daniel Wacholder, Nick Sheridan) started the company in the Spring of 2009, but the roots of Cerno go much deeper. Daniel, Nick, and I grew up together in Laguna Beach, California, and have been close friends since we were in elementary school. This friendship is core to who we are and the company we are building. When we were kids, we were always going on adventures and making things, and after high school, we all stayed close, but went to different schools and studied different subjects. Nick, studied architecture, Daniel studied mechanical engineering, and I studied journalism and worked in finance and marketing after school. We felt like these different, but complementary skills could work well together, so Cerno was born. FYI, Cerno means to resolve in Latin.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Are any startups a smooth road? Looking back, we can romanticize about the early days, which consisted of 6 days a week and 11-12 hour days for the first five years with very few exceptions. However, the struggles were real, relationships suffered, balancing work, and personal time was a real challenge, but we were naively confident and powered through. We drank a lot of coffee and ate beans and rice until we couldn’t anymore. Fortunately, whenever we gambled on a pivot, new product, or a completely new sales channel, the market validated our decision, which fueled our passion. We also believed in one another, which was so important to keep the team chemistry healthy.

Please tell us about Cerno.
We manufacture high-quality modern light fixtures. Cerno is vertically integrated, which means our entire process is happening under one roof. We design, prototype, and manufacture in a cohesive environment which facilitates our original design intent to be preserved through the entire process. Our goal is for each product to be fully resolved. We are also passionate about the idea of continually improving everything we do, which goes hand in hand with our lean manufacturing practices. I am most proud of our team and all the great people that are a part of making our dream a reality. I am also very proud that we have continued designing and manufacturing our product in California. I think a lot sets us apart from other companies; our roots started as childhood best friends is unique, but also how vertical we are and how much we do in-house definitely sets us apart.

What were you like growing up? Personality wise, interest wise, etc.
Oh man, as a kid, I was curious and thirsty to learn, but also continually questioning authority and how I was being taught things in school. Toward the end of high school and through college, I starting enjoying the academic side of school. I was active and played every sport while also spending a lot of time in the ocean. I was also very fortunate to have two parents that understood the value of seeing the world, and we traveled a lot. I was surrounded by design but did not fall in love with modern design until later. I loved photography, film, and the art of storytelling.

My business partners were definitely more exposed to building things as boys, and they are much more industrious than I am. Daniel’s grandfather was a homesteader that could make anything and he was a huge influence on Daniel and all of us. Nick’s dad was a General Contractor who inspired and taught Nick a lot as well. We all love the ocean, nature and from when we were young loved that process of dreaming up an adventure or project and making it happen. One of our first projects together was about 25 years ago when we built a boat.


  • Our products range in price from $300 – $5500

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