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Can Non-Profits Find New Revenue Models?


A passion for paper making drew Sara Gilfert to open Paper Circle in 2000 as a small studio in her home. The organization quickly grew, gained non-profit status, moved to a storefront on Nelsonville Ohio's town square, and hired Barb Campagnola as its executive director.

Paper Circle provides after school art classes, apprenticeship opportunities, and the program "Circle Round the Square" to bring art activities to at-risk children in the Nelsonville area. The team relies on grant funding and revenue generated from its products to keep the doors open. Finding new sources of revenue means not only survival, but also the opportunity to thrive as an organization.

In 2010, Paper Circle released their award-winning O-Gami paper at the Origami USA Convention and has since become a supplier of this specialized paper for origami professionals. To bring more value to the organization, Nathaniel Berger, Engineering and Design Expert for LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Towards Sustainability), led Paper Circle through a process to explore ways to expand its customer base to generate more revenue. The result? Paper Circle is now developing an additional paper product aimed at non-professionals who want to learn the art of origami.

"Working with Paper Circle has been a fantastic experience. Barb is so passionate about paper making and all things paper. Their team has truly great ideas, and the skills to make those ideas happen. Their expertise in the origami paper market is bar-none the best, and about to get better," said Berger.

Through their work with LIGHTS, Paper Circle will be expanding their market, increasing the value proposition of the business and, in turn, creating an avenue for sustainability and growth to support its mission of providing arts programming for youth in the Nelsonville area.

To find out more about LIGHTS and how they can assist you in building a product or creating a business, visit www.lightsregionalinnovation.com.

About LIGHTS: Ohio University's Innovation Center founded the LIGHTS (Leveraging Innovation Gateways and Hubs Toward Sustainability) program in 2016. LIGHTS' Innovation Network catalyzes the creation of companies to create high-wage jobs, and attract greater private investment in the coal-impacted regions of Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. The Appalachian Regional Commission generously funded the program because of its unique way of matching complex problems and opportunities facing corporations, communities, and individuals to a network of two strategically-placed Innovation Hubs and seven Gateways. New marketable products arise from these problems. The Gateways and Hubs are new business incubators and makerspaces serving a 28-county area.

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