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A Winning Combination
By Rachana Rathi

Deborah Robinson wasn’t the little girl with the corner lemonade stand. She was the college girl at the community and university craft stands selling merchandise ranging from silver jewelry to an assortment of bee products-that’s right, bee-related products-fashioned from her original designs. Like any good entrepreneur, Robinson possesses that winning combination of creativity and a nose for opportunity.

Notwithstanding her Bachelor’s in Entomology and Master’s in Agribusiness Economics, Robinson has made her living designing and selling holograms. While a part-time business professor at San Francisco State University in the early 1990s, Robinson says she “knew people who were gifted in holography concepts. Over time, [she] developed contacts and found that holography technology was relatively unavailable to the retail arena. It was an untapped market at that time.” And thus, the longtime dream of owning her own business manifested in Lightrix, a maker of interactive optical products.

Lightrix uses holographic and optical technology to make its products. Essentially, holograms are three-dimensional images formed from patterns that are photographically developed after a series of manipulations with lasers, a process known as holography. (For more information about holography, see box.) Since its inception, holography has become an increasingly pervasive commodity, demonstrating its utility in a host of products. As Robinson points out, “Holograms have reached a saturation point today. Your credit card, driver’s license, passport, and even toothpaste all use holograms.”

But when Lightrix got its first contract in 1993 to create licensed hologram products for the movie Star Trek, holograms were unusual in the American retail market. Polaroid, Lightrix’ image developer at the time, was making holograms for use in security and the industrial markets. And holography technology was developed and well received in Europe, but it had yet to hit the United States.

Lightrix and Polaroid changed that soon enough. Like a proud parent, Robinson states, “Lightrix was the first to get licensed hologram products into specialty stores.” While image developing was left to Polaroid, the creative process was in Robinson’s hand.

Robinson, President and Founder of Lightrix, has created each product her company sells; from extensive wall decor, two to three dimensional images, bookmarks, sunglasses, to kaleidoscopes. Robinson has also designed detailed hologram ranges for museums with marine, dinosaur and insect themes.

Although a natural businesswoman, Robinson prefers the creative side to the technical concerns of her business...(cont.)

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