By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Zach Klein and Nick Mosher are discovering the power of working together.
Klein, a Quincy University student majoring in marketing, has a knack for business. His lifelong friend Mosher, an architecture student at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, has a knack for making things with his hands.
When Mosher came up with a prototype for a laser-cut acrylic sign illuminated by LED lights, Klein took one look and told his friend: "I think we could actually do something with this."
So they pooled their skills and -- with help from a third friend, James Ayres -- started a company called JNZ Lighting, which began full-scale production of custom-ordered signs last fall.
JNZ is an acronym representing the first letter from the three friends' first names -- James, Nick, Zach. However, Ayres is no longer as active in the company as Mosher and Klein, who are now setting out on an entrepreneurial quest to try to make a success of their startup business.
Mosher and Klein will talk about the business and how it all got started during a radio show to be streamed live across the Internet at 6 p.m. Feb. 15 through the Your15Minutes Radio Network (www.your15minutesradio.com).
The radio network offers business-related programming in partnership with the Collegiate Entrepreneurs' Organization, a national group that promotes the entrepreneurial efforts of college students.
Klein is president of Quincy University's CEO chapter. He has twice attended national conferences hosted by CEO and learned about the Your15Minutes Radio Network through those connections.
The network gives CEO members an opportunity to "perfect their pitch" through a series of free training sessions to help young entrepreneurs hone their interview skills for presentations. Participants who complete the training can advance to the final step -- a live interview on the network's radio show.
Klein said he and Mosher will both participate in the program through telephone connections from their respective college campuses. They will spend about 45 minutes talking about JNZ Lighting and how the company came about.
Klein said the idea for the company surfaced in summer 2010 when Mosher showed him a sign he created out of an 81/2-by-12-inch acrylic sheet featuring a backlit design cut with a laser. The lighting source was a series of small light-emitting diode lights, called LEDs, that could stay illuminated steadily or blink to the beat of music, depending on whether the sign is hooked to an electrical or musical source.
"It turned out really well and looked nice," Klein said.
He told Mosher they could probably market and sell the signs, and offered to handle the business end of things if Mosher would handle the production.
"He's not a business person," Klein said. "I'm a business guy."
It took awhile for Klein to draw up a business plan and put the financial steps in place before the two were ready to start taking orders this past fall.
So far, things have been going pretty well, Klein said.
"We have 10 to 15 orders coming in already," he said.
The production work is done in Carbondale, and Klein handles most of the business aspects from his residence in Quincy.
The company promotes itself through its website (www.jnzlighting.webs.com) and through Twitter, Facebook and word-of-mouth.
Klein said the connections he has made through CEO have been beneficial because he met several experienced entrepreneurs who helped steer the new business in the right direction.
"They encouraged me and gave me insight into how to run a business and what are the next steps," he said.
Klein and Mosher are both natives of Streamwood, northwest of Chicago, and have been best friends since childhood. They attended school together from kindergarten through high school. That's when Mosher veered off to SIU to study architecture while Klein headed to QU to study business and play baseball.
Klein said he stopped playing ball for the Hawks after his junior year, so he now has more time to focus on the business when he's not involved in academic studies.