A look at the people behind the numbers in area business:


Title: Creative director, founder

Age: 46

Mia Schillace Nelson, creative director of Minneapolis-based Outhouse Exhibit Services, is looking forward to the opening of the latest and one of the largest projects in which her company has taken part — the museum in the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center, to open next year in Bloomington.

Nelson, serving as project manager for museum designer Joel Woodward of J. Woodward Design, has been working with the fraternal organization to help develop interactive and interpretive displays for the museum.

"We'd like to give everyone an opportunity to learn about the influence that Masons have had," Nelson said.

The 50,000-square-foot heritage center is to open in June and will include a 425-seat auditorium.

Nelson and her husband, Paul, founded Outhouse Exhibit Services in 2003. She came up with the idea while working at Chicago's Field Museum, where they also met. She was employed in the temporary exhibit department when he was hired to install a live butterfly exhibit.

In addition to museum and other permanent installations, their company also creates traveling attractions, such as Dr. Entomo's Traveling Insect Circus, a live insect zoo that Nelson said would appear this winter at Como Zoo.

Beginning in December, Outhouse Exhibit Services will focus on traveling exhibits while the Nelsons will join with Woodward to form Exhibit Outfitters, which will develop permanent exhibits.

Q: What goes into creating a good exhibition?

A: There has to be an educational message, but the trick is to make that engaging and fun. Once you determine who your target audience is, whether it's adults, families or children, then that dictates how you develop that exhibit and the experiences you build into it.

Q: Has there been a key to keeping your small business going since 2003?

A: We feel very fortunate in having a very solid reputation in the industry with a lot of repeat business from institutions around the country. The traveling exhibits were our bread and butter during the lean years when the economy was on a downturn. We were going from being in small to midsize museums to midsize and large museum because our price point was more in line with what their budgets were at the time.

Q: What's the greatest lesson you've learned over that time?

A: The biggest thing I've learned is the importance of bringing out the best of whoever is on your team. And allowing people to do the job they're meant to do. My job is to clear the way to make sure everyone has the tools they need to do their best work.

Todd Nelson