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Business students help guide lighting maker
Business students help guide lighting maker

            Local artist Gina Nash sold her intricately cut steel light fixtures for ten years at Saturday Market. Then, Nash says, "I started looking for other ways to take my vision to market. But without the business skills, I was handicapped."

            PSU's Business Outreach Program (BOP) gave Nash new tools to go along with the acetylene torch she uses to create her designs. The program, directed by Lara Damon, provides technical assistance and business consulting services to locally owned small business like Nash's. With donations from the city, other governmental agencies, and corporations, the BOP has helped over 500 businesses since 1994.

            In Nash's case, PSU business students did a SWOT analysis to identify her strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. "They gave me extremely useful suggestions," Nash says, "and I'm going to implement all of them, or as many as I can." The BOP also connected Nash with the pro bono legal services of law firm Davis Wright Tremaine, including contract writing and help with intellectual property issues. The legal help "was a great aspect of the program," Nash says, "it always seemed so out of reach before."

            Now, Nash is taking her business Experienced Materials beyond Saturday Market and into what she hopes will become her new retail niche: flower and garden trade shows. She has a distributor to help her. Nash's next goal is to market her products to large-volume wholesale buyers through industry shows. And she's getting more help from one of the PSU students in learning to use social media, like Facebook, to promote her business.

            "They put in so much work," Nash says of the students from the BOP. "I can't reward them economically, but I can show them I'm using their suggestions, and it created success."