Graduate business alum Aiyesha Christian on building Nomad Trailmix, a successful local business

Aiyesha Christian Professional Headshot

Program: Masters of International Management, Sustainable Supply Chain

Year of graduation: 2011

Program schedule: Full Time

How did Nomad get its start?

I had been making custom mixes for hiking and camping trips. My brother passed unexpectedly from an epileptic seizure a few years ago. He inspired me to take my dream seriously. Though he suffered from multiple disorders, it never stopped him from putting himself out into the world artistically. 

I earned a bachelor’s in applied linguistics from Portland State in 2007 and a Master of International Management in Sustainable Supply Chain from Portland State’s School of Business in 2011. During grad school, we read a book called Blue Ocean Strategy. This book was a big inspiration and reference for launching Nomad.

It takes a lot out of you to start and run a business. Until recently, I was working full time (40-60 hours a week) and running Nomad all the time in between. Lots of long nights and very early mornings! To my surprise people continued to show interest, and the company has continued to grow.

Is this your first foray into entrepreneurship? 

Not at all! As a teenager I made and sold macramé hemp halter tops, bracelets and other items. I first made them for my friends and me to wear. People would notice and commission me to make them custom items. Pretty cool for a teenager.

What is the key to Nomad’s success?

Networking — there is a wonderful community of makers in Portland. I’m not very outgoing. Through friends and connections, I learned of the Food Innovation Center. They are deeply involved in the food community. From there, learning of markets and events further connected me with other makers. The community is extremely supportive.

Portland is my home — I was born here. I love this city and want to participate in its growth. Nomad sources key ingredients from local makers: Jacobsen salt, Albina City nuts, Pan’s mushroom jerky, Spiceworks and more. In addition, we will donate without hesitation to organizations that participate in the security and safety of our community, natural environment and planet.

What challenges have you faced? 

It takes a lot of time to get established. I have spent many hours trying to figure out where to get information regarding regulations and licenses. Most of the information online about starting a business is just crap! 

That said, I would tell anyone interested in starting their own business, do it! Especially if your idea seems so unique that no one has ever heard of it before. Feel free to reach out — via Facebook, Instagram, email, in-person — to other small business owners for advice, assistance, support. 

What does The School of Business’ mission to redefine business mean to you?

It means a lot to me. Nomad is not just a snack company. We are also a means for people to support our planet and community. This year we are happy to announce that we joined the 1% For the Planet Movement. We will soon be providing monthly support for our friends at Feed the Mass. I believe that we can support a triple bottom line as we continue to grow. It has been very important to include these elements at the birth of the company. Business really has the ability to transform our world for the better for all folks.

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