Elham Nilforoshan scarcely had the chance to practice in her original career as a nurse midwife. Shortly after getting her degree, she married, and soon after that the newlyweds packed up their belongings for the 7,000-mile trek from Iran to the United States. Their first destination was Columbia, Missouri, where her husband earned his Ph.D. in electrical engineering. Two years later, a post-graduation job brought the couple and their infant son to the Bay Area. They settled in Fremont.
As Nilforoshan set about to return to work, she knew she would have to go back to school herself to earn American nursing credentials. She started to study for certification, but it did not take long to see that the field had lost its appeal.
Instead, she soon realized she wanted to follow her passion for art and design. "As a child, I would find time to draw and paint pictures using whatever means I had," Nilforoshan recalls. "I have a good eye and pay attention to things that others cannot see," be it faces in the crowd or slivers of landscape glimpsed from the car window.
Still, it was necessary for this artist's eye to have a practical focus. Making a fresh start in a new field, she took up her education again, this time as a mass communication major with a minor in advertising. She graduated from California State University East Bay (then Hayward) with a 3.9 GPA - no mean feat for someone who had been speaking English in daily life for barely five years, and who had given birth to a daughter in the middle of her studies.
During her last quarter in school, Nilforoshan started a job as an account executive for the college newspaper. She loved advertising sales and took quickly to the work, bringing in new customers. One day she called on a local print shop. The prospects were so impressed that they turned the tables, offering her the opportunity to sell printing for them.
It was a good fit for her talents and personality. "I eagerly walked from one business to another promoting the shop and its services. I enjoyed meeting new people and being able to help them with their printing needs."
After a few years of "successful quota-breaking," it was time for the next step. Nilforoshan moved on to a significantly larger printing company to advance her career. "From client service to sales support and fulfillment, I covered it all." She liked the variety of duties but felt restless in the corporate environment. There was a lot of paperwork, and she was not able to get as close to the customers as she would have liked.
It was then, with eight years of industry experience under her belt, that she decided to double-back to her passion and start her own company, Arta Print & Promotion. In addition to standard printing, Arta produces large-format items like banners, posters, and signs, and offers a comprehensive selection of imprinted promotional items, with "14 industry-leading product lines and thousands of innovative products."
Ever mindful of the end product as a reflection of the client's business, Nilforoshan resolved to offer "creative solutions and ideas to get projects done on time and on budget."
"Our goal is to minimize the work for our clients," she explains. "We want to provide them with all the possible options they have in today's market while trying to work cost-effectively and eliminate all unnecessary steps."
A customer's budget can easily spiral out of control when creativity is allowed to trump practicality, she warns. Complex designs and the selection of features like custom colors or sizes can push up the price of a piece to be printed to the point of creating sticker shock. Arta's design team knows how to avoid those pitfalls.
"When customers come in with very elaborate designs, we know how much it takes to get the job done. Our strength is in showing the customer other options to get a similar look for less."
This kind of advice takes an insider's knowledge of the printing environment, which Nilforoshan has worked hard to acquire. Even before her experience here in printing sales, she had a special connection to the business. Her husband's family runs a very successful company that handles an enormous volume of printing in Iran. In fact, her husband worked in his father's print shop before deciding to become an electrical engineer. His knowledge of the business has provided an invaluable boost, especially in the area of keeping up to date on the latest cost-effective technologies in design software and printing equipment.
Knowing all aspects of the business is really the key to providing the best service, and Nilforoshan's philosophy reflects her high standards: "The deal is closed for me when I know that the client's order was delivered on time and perfect. There is no greater satisfaction than delivering a finished product that helps our clients reach their goals and objectives. I believe that maintaining long-term relationships with our clients is the basis of our success."
Throughout her life in the U.S., Nilforoshan has maintained the kind of upbeat attitude necessary to adapt to new surroundings and circumstances. She admits it was painful to leave her family - both parents and two sisters-in Iran. "I am still struggling with that."
Then there was the language to master. Even though she had studied English in school, getting used to the American accent proved quite a challenge, especially in Missouri. To become fluent, she watched a lot of television. "Close captioning was a big help," she remarks. She also spoke English with her husband. "By listening every day, I was gradually able to understand what people were saying."
Despite the cultural differences, Nilforoshan's first impressions of her new home were favorable. She could see the classic promise of America as the "land of opportunity" where people "go after their dreams" translating into reality.
"How you handle the transition depends on your personality," she muses. "If you don't want to open your mind or heart to new things, then it will be hard for you. If you like to learn, it will be very rewarding."
The couple's son and daughter are now in 11th and 6th grade, respectively, a time of life that is very family oriented. For Nilforoshan, it seems like whatever free time she has is spent at friends or family gatherings. Her daughter is on a Persian dance team that is frequently invited to perform in different venues. Unlike belly-dancing, Persian dance incorporates a lot of hand movements, she explains, adding with a laugh that it's not one of her own strong suits.
No matter what her children undertake in the future, they are sure to benefit from the same kind of wisdom passed on to their mother by her father. "I come from a hard-working, educated family. My father loved what he did more than the money he could make and always said that relationships are most precious. He encouraged me to have my own business and taught me how important it was to make customers happy and to enjoy helping them with what they need." That is what Arta strives for every day.
Visit Arta at 5673 W. Las Positas Blvd., Suite 213 or online at www.artaprinting.com .
Also in this issue ...