Connecting Entrepreneurial Communities

Conference Co-hosts

Rural Prosperity Nebraska Columbus Chamber

CEC 2022 | Columbus, Nebraska

April 27th & 28th

Registration, $80/per person.

Register
Day 1 Schedule Day 2 Schedule

The CEC Conference is an opportunity to educate community members on the various tools and resources available to assist them in helping entrepreneurs grow and prosper in their communities. Local, regional, and national presenters share how they found success in building their entrepreneurial ecosystems.

No boring meeting rooms here! CEC sessions are held in area businesses. As a participant, you get the full experience of downtown Columbus as you move from session to session. This creative approach has proven enjoyable and offers plenty of opportunity for networking and seeing firsthand an entrepreneurial community at work.

hotel information | Blocks held until April 13

Sleep Inn

Block Name:

CEC

303 23rd. St US30E-23rd St and, 3rd Ave, Columbus, NE 68601

402.562.5200

website

Double: $84.76, Queen: $88.76, King: $92.76

Ramada

Block Name:

Entrepreneur Conference

265 33rd Ave, Columbus, NE 68601

402.835.4350

website

All Rooms: $104.95

Silver Conference Sponsors

Bronze Conference Sponsors

Conference Contributors

Central Community College Logo

Central Community College


Day 1 Conference Schedule
Wednesday, April 27 2022

11:00 am

Registration & Lunch

Lunch – served until 11:45am
Location: The Friedhof Building, 1270 27th Ave, Columbus, NE 68601

11:45 am

Welcome

Headshot of Jim Bulkley.
Jim Bulkley, Mayor of Columbus
Bio Mayor James Bulkley received his Business Degree from Northern Illinois University and has lived in Columbus for 46 years. He served on the Columbus City Council from 2000 until he was elected Mayor in 2016. Mr. Bulkley is an active EME at St. Isidore Parish, and is currently employed as Sales Manager for R&R Christo Construction

Keynote

A Columbus Serial Entrepreneur’s Story

Headshot of Scott Mueller.
Scott Mueller, Entrepreneur & Coworking Space Founder, President of Samson
Bio Scott Mueller is President of Samson, a diversified agricultural production and services business. Their focus in on developing and implementing sustainably produced programs that deliver additional value to their clients. Scott also enjoys being active in new business development that supports the community's growth.

Serial Entrepreneur and veteran local property developer Scott Mueller will share why he invests time and money in new startup-up ventures and community support systems like the leadership of the Columbus Chamber Entrepreneurship Committee and other big event.

12:50 pm

Group Photo (Frankfort Square Stage)

1:30 pm

Breakout Session 1

Location: Local area businesses

Enhancing the Vitality of Downtown Through Placemaking (Walking Tour)

Headshot of Kim Wilson.
Kim Wilson, Professor of Landscape Architecture and Extension Specialist, UNL College of Engineering
Bio Professor Wilson has been a member of the UNL Architecture faculty since 2009; Wilson also has appointments in Nebraska Extension, and the College of Engineering. Prior to joining academia, Wilson worked for more than 25 years for nationally and internationally recognized firms including Sasaki Associates Inc., and JJR-Smith Group.
Headshot of Joshua Johnson.
Joshua Johnson, Vice-President Consumer Banking, Columbus Bank & Envision Columbus

Placemaking can restore or enhance community assets that support a high quality of life. As rural community’s economies, environments, and demographics continue to change and evolve, developing locally-driven solutions to these challenges is critical to the long-term vitality. By bringing in new ideas, businesses, amenities, and social spaces, rural towns can help foster place attachment and encourage young people to stay in or return to their communities. Learn criteria that you use in your community to strengthen place and quality of life. Put your new knowledge to use as you walk through Columbus’s downtown during this session.

Exploring the Demographic Trends Impacting Nebraska’s Rural Communities

Headshot of Josie Gatti Schafer.
Josie Gatti Schafer, Director, UNO Center for Public Affairs Research
Bio Josie Schafer, joined the University of Nebraska at Omaha as the Director of the Center for Public Affairs Research in 2018. Schafer joined the Center for Public Affairs Research because of its strong history and positioning as the go-to source for expert data and analysis to inform state and local policy and public and non-profit management in Nebraska. Recent projects lead by Schafer include the Entrepreneurship in Nebraska report, data and analysis for the UNO Workforce Development Taskforce, the Nebraska Community Foundation Youth Survey, policy analyses for the Planning Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature and serves as principal investigator of the Nebraska Rural Transit Project for UNO.

Demographic data and insights can help your community to understand a range of trends that impact community life and local economies. See how Nebraska’s demographic makeup is changing, including the workforce and aging and compare and contrast rural communities across the state on key demographics.

A Collaboration for Local Entrepreneurs

Headshot of Doris Lux.
Doris Lux, Market23
Headshot of Janell Anderson-Ehrke.
Janell Anderson-Ehrke, Grow Nebraska
Bio CEO Janell Anderson Ehrke founded the organization in 1998 and remains part of the driving force. The program has over 417 business members statewide. She loves social media and online marketing and is an entrepreneur enthusiast! She is a strong supporter for buying local and believes the internet has created an equal playing field for Nebraska’s small businesses. Ehrke is involved in agriculture businesses with her husband and family. She lives on a farm in Orleans, Nebraska with her husband Leon and has two adult children.

Farmers Markets are the only source of revenue for 90% of small farmers, just like holiday craft shows are for 87% of crafters in Nebraska. Learn how to plant the seed for local producers and crafters going from seasonal to year-round vendors. This session will focus on growing the local market statewide and using Google Maps and social media to attract year-round sales.

Expanding Food Access & Building Community Partnerships at Your Farmers' Market

Headshot of Margaret Milligan.
Margaret Milligan, Program Coordinator, Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska
Bio Margaret is Program Coordinator at Buy Fresh Buy Local Nebraska, a local food promotion and education program within the Agricultural Economics Department of UNL. Her work includes creating resources to help consumers find local food and providing support and assistance to Nebraska farmers’ markets and direct-to-consumer producers.

This session will focus on how farmers' markets can use SNAP, Double Up Food Bucks, Senior Farmers Market Coupons and other nutrition assistance and incentive programs to bring customers to the farmers' market, make fresh food more accessible to all and form partnerships with community organizations and businesses who have an interest in community health. We'll talk about different models across the state and explore the challenges and rewards of partnerships and nutrition assistance at farmers' markets.

Unleashing the Power of Local Assets

Headshot of KC Belitz.
K.C. Belitz, Chief Operating Officer, Nebraska Community Foundation
Bio K.C. Belitz is Chief Operating Officer of the Nebraska Community Foundation. He is part of the team that works with some 270 towns in Greater Nebraska. K.C. is based in Columbus and travels across the state. Previously, K.C. served as President of the Columbus Area Chamber.

Greater Nebraska has the “window of opportunity” open wide! Communities across Nebraska are experiencing a renaissance and imagining a brighter future. You will hear inspiring success stories from the Nebraska Community Foundation network of 270 communities, specifically the E3 – Energizing Entrepreneurial Ecosystems – project.

Transfer of Leadership in Rural Communities

Headshot of Lindsay Hastings.
Lindsay Hastings, Professor, UNL Department of Agricultural Leadership, Education & Communications
Bio Dr. Lindsay Hastings is the Clifton Professor in Mentoring Research and Research Director for NHRI Leadership Mentoring at UNL. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in leadership theory and leadership development, and her research focuses on leadership mentoring, community leadership development, and youth leadership.

The United States is poised to experience its largest transfers of leadership (56% of management occupations) in its history. Preparing rural community leadership for these transitions will be critical. This presentation will review new research results in rural community leadership transfer, offering several important considerations for Nebraska’s leadership pipeline.

3:00 pm

Breakout Session 2

Location: Local area businesses

Making Your Business (or Community) a Must-Visit Destination

Headshot of Kristin Malek.
Kristin Malek, Hospitality and Tourism Faculty, Rural Tourism and Event Extension Specialist, UNL
Bio Dr. Kristin Malek, has nearly two decades of hospitality, tourism, and event management experience. She has personally won over fifteen state, regional, national, and international awards for event design and tourism innovation in addition to leading student teams to securing national and international awards.

In this jam-packed interactive session, learn how to make your business (or community) a must-visit destination! We will go through the design thinking process where we will learn how to identify your ideal customer segment(s), create a unique customer experience journey, and learn how to market it effectively! Discussion will also include utilizing first impression/secret shopper programs, recruiting and training for the right employees, and maximizing word of mouth to get your visitors out and doing the marketing for you!

Getting Smart About Shrink Smart

Headshot of David Peters.
David Peters, Professor of Sociology and Extension Rural Sociologist, Iowa State University
Bio David J. Peters is a Professor of Rural Sociology at Iowa State University. His work broadly encompasses social and economic change in rural communities. Current projects include the Iowa Small Towns Project, rural smart shrinkage, community resiliency to the rural opioid crisis, and impacts of COVID-19 in small towns.

Learn how your community can continue to thrive despite depopulation. Peters has applied the shrink-smart concept to small towns to better understand the characteristics of shrinking yet thriving towns. Enhancing social capital, increasing civic engagement, and creating a culture of openness and support are all areas communities can focus on to continue thriving. Other suggestions include stabilizing agricultural employment and growing jobs in goods producing industries.

Pop-Up Opportunities: Supporting Entrepreneurs with Temporary Locations

Headshot of Susan Norris.
Susan Norris, Director, Pierce County Economic Development
Bio Susan Norris is the current Executive Director for Pierce County Economic Development, which serves the economic and community development needs of Pierce County, NE. Susan is also the Executive Director of PCED, Inc. a local non-profit focused on housing, economic development, placemaking, and leadership in Pierce County. She also serves as the Executive Director of Plainview Nebraska Economic Development. Susan’s experience in economic development, community building, and grant writing comes from managing several non-profit organizations focused on education and youth in her hometown of Omaha, NE before moving to Northeast Nebraska. Susan serves on numerous boards and committees in Pierce County diligently working with individual business owners, city and community leaders, non-profit organizations, and others striving to make the communities in Pierce County stronger for future generations.
Headshot of Sandra Barerra Fuentes.
Sandra Barerra Fuentes, Extension Educator and Latino Small Business Program leader, Rural Prosperity Nebraska
Bio Latina, Entrepreneur, Motivator, Educator, and Speaker She has been working for more than sixteen years with UNL Extension Office as an Extension Educator with the Latino Small Business state-wide program in developing and/or growing rural Nebraska businesses with education, technical support, networking, and connections. Assisted more than 320 startups and helped entrepreneurs with more than 600 consultations per year, connect more than 1000k entrepreneurs and owners business on online community, leading the 4st Project at Grand Island. Her bi-cultural background and focus on community collaboration has led her to several volunteer opportunities and community leadership roles Her passion goes beyond to help the Latino community based on one word keep the whole community TOGETHER. Founder of Grand Island Latino Network (2005), co-founder of McDes -Multicultural Center for Development of Education and Sports (2003) which promotes higher education and wellness for children and Nebraska Latino Business Coalition (2019).

Pop-up and temporary businesses are creating opportunities for rural communities and business owners alike. Communities gain new vendors who add to the variety of foods and retail services available to residents. Businesses gain as they can test their business concept with low start-up costs by opening a temporary shop that expands their markets. Gain ideas on how communities can make this a win-win opportunity for everyone.

Engaging People Using Social Media

Headshot of Gena McPherson.
Gena McPherson, Senior Executive Coordinator of Exceptional Rural Grant Opportunity Services, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Agricultural Economics
Bio Foster mom, adoptive mom, former Chamber Director and now rural community grant guardian. Just the nutshell of that which describes me ... I guess you could say I am the guardian of all that is family / child protecting / community oriented, which is funny because "Guardians of the Galaxy" is one of my husband (of 13 years) and I's favorite movies!
Headshot of Diana Muñoz.
Diana Muñoz, Social Media Lab Technician, College of Communications, Fine Arts and Media, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Bio Diana Muñoz is a senior at the University of Nebraska at Omaha studying journalism and media communication with a concentrate in public relations and advertising. She currently works as the social media lab technician for the College of Communications, Fine Arts and Media at UNO.

The UNO Social Media Lab and Nebraska Extension worked with seven communities to help increase civic engagement in the digital age. This session will share practical steps that you can utilize in your community from establishing goals to measuring your reach. Best practices in connecting to your community will be shared. Understand potential resources that your community can use to increase civic engagement.

We’re Investing in Downtown: Take a Walk and See What’s Happening! (Walking Tour)

Headshot of Scott Mueller.
Scott Mueller, President of Samson, Columbus
Bio Scott Mueller is President of Samson, a diversified agricultural production and services business. Their focus in on developing and implementing sustainably produced programs that deliver additional value to their clients. Scott also enjoys being active in new business development that supports the community's growth.
Headshot of Pam Discoe.
Pam Discoe, Owner, Valencia Boutique
Bio The Valencia Boutique is located in historic downtown, Columbus, Nebraska is owned by Pam Discoe and Paula O’Connell. One of the things that makes us unique is that we share space with a Salon. We love helping the customers of Valencia Salon &apm; Spa find the perfect outfit after they are done with their salon services. Because of the diversity of the clients, we offer clothing and accessories for girls and women of all ages…12-98! We began as a very small shop in August of 2016 & renovated a much larger space in the lower level of the building September of 2017. In August of 2020 we made a big move, along with Valencia Salon &apm; Spa and relocated 1 block east to 2417 13th St. Stop by and check out our new space! We feel fortunate to be a part of downtown, Columbus are excited about the improvements that are being made to make Columbus, Nebraska a fun destination and a great place to shop!

To keep downtown redevelopment vital and interesting, consider vertical mixed-use development. If your community has vacant commercial space, you’ll want to take a downtown stroll with Scott to see how other entrepreneurs have brought our buildings to life. The tour will start at Frankfort Square.

Using Business and Education Partnerships as Workforce Development

Headshot of Kara Asmus.
Kara Asmus, Affiliated Fund Development Coordinator, Nebraska Community Foundation
Bio Kara Asmus is the Affiliated Fund Development Coordinator for East-Central Nebraska, working with volunteers to build community awareness and impact through grantmaking, fundraising, and citizen engagement. Before joining NCF, Kara administered the “Drive for Five” program, a talent attraction and career readiness program at the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce.
Headshot of Doris Lux.
Doris Lux, Entrepreneurship Director, CCC-Columbus Campus

Work with schools to plant the seed of great careers available in your hometown and help students explore local jobs through business and education partnerships. The examples of the PATH job shadow program which provides awareness of hometown opportunities, and Drive for Five monthly meetings put these partnerships on display by including the Chamber, educators, and businesses. Learn about STEM-focused programs to help students achieve, learn, and create more with innovative next-gen technology.

4:30 pm

Breakout Session 3

Location: Local area businesses

Making Your Business a Destination

Headshot of Kristin Stock.
Kristin Stock, Owner, Artzy Haven
Bio Kristin's professional career began in Economic and Community Development and transitioned into the auction and real estate world working alongside her family. A major health challenge nudged Kristin along to try her hand at business ownership in 2018. A scrapbooker her whole life having the opportunity to own her own paper craft store is a dream come true for this small town Nebraska lady.

How do you compete with box stores? By elevating a local small business concept to a destination. Come learn what you can do as an entrepreneurial business in today’s big box world. Discuss how to make a brick and mortar stand out in an online world.

Growing Entrepreneurship in Rural Nebraska: Results from a Statewide Report

Headshot of Dr. Josie Gatti Schafer.
Dr. Josie Gatti Schafer, Director, UNO Center for Public Affairs Research
Bio Josie Schafer, joined the University of Nebraska at Omaha as the Director of the Center for Public Affairs Research in 2018. Schafer joined the Center for Public Affairs Research because of its strong history and positioning as the go-to source for expert data and analysis to inform state and local policy and public and non-profit management in Nebraska. Recent projects lead by Schafer include the Entrepreneurship in Nebraska report, data and analysis for the UNO Workforce Development Taskforce, the Nebraska Community Foundation Youth Survey, policy analyses for the Planning Committee of the Nebraska State Legislature and serves as principal investigator of the Nebraska Rural Transit Project for UNO

Entrepreneurship in Nebraska, a report published in 2021 used a 3-part methodology to understand the challenges and opportunities for growing entrepreneurship in Nebraska. With the lead author of the report, learn what interviewees and survey respondents said about how to grow entrepreneurship in Nebraska with a focus on rural community respondents.

Engaging Community Members for Decision Making

Headshot of Susan Norris.
Susan Norris, Director, Plainview Economic Development
Bio Susan Norris is the current Executive Director for Pierce County Economic Development, which serves the economic and community development needs of Pierce County, NE. Susan is also the Executive Director of PCED, Inc. a local non-profit focused on housing, economic development, placemaking, and leadership in Pierce County. She also serves as the Executive Director of Plainview Nebraska Economic Development. Susan’s experience in economic development, community building, and grant writing comes from managing several non-profit organizations focused on education and youth in her hometown of Omaha, NE before moving to Northeast Nebraska. Susan serves on numerous boards and committees in Pierce County diligently working with individual business owners, city and community leaders, non-profit organizations, and others striving to make the communities in Pierce County stronger for future generations.
Headshot of Marilyn Schlake.
Marilyn Schlake, Extension Educator, Rural Prosperity Nebraska and Department of Agricultural Economics
Bio Marilyn is an Extension Educator and Graduate Lecturer with Rural Prosperity Nebraska and the Department of Agricultural Economics at UNL. She focuses her work and volunteer efforts around business, community and economic development. Schlake has worked with numerous communities to engage citizens and facilitate community economic growth.

As youth and adults, we want all voices heard and considered. How do we do this across a community? In this session, explore how communities can engage people through data gathering and focused conversations. Learn how you can drive community decision-making, create change, and build leadership capacity in your community.

Capitalizing on NPPD Resources

Headshot of Nicole Sedlacek.
Nicole Sedlacek, Economic Development Manager, Nebraska Public Power District
Bio Nicole Sedlacek is the Economic Development Manager for Nebraska Public Power District where she helps lead a team that is focused on helping prepare communities for economic development opportunities. Nicole joined at NPPD in 2016, prior to that she served as the Executive Director at Holt County Economic Development.

Have you considered the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) as an economic development asset? By focusing on positioning communities, assisting with business retention and expansion, and attracting new business, NPPD offers tools and expertise for communities to capitalize upon. In this session, learn how to connect with NPPD to prepare and strengthen your community for future economic opportunities and hear examples of how partnerships with NPPD have led to economic success.

Why Pursue the Idea of Downtown Living?

Headshot of Jean Van Iperen.
Jean Van Iperen, Planning and Economic Development Coordinator, City of Columbus, NE
Bio Business owner, city council member, chamber president and volunteer describe Jean prior to 2011 when she changed careers and entered the public sector where she has worked as a grant coordinator, a City Administrator, and is currently the Planning and Economic Development Coordinator here in Columbus.

A strong downtown makes your city somewhere people want to live and provides culture and lifestyle choices that retain people. Discover ideas to redevelop spaces for downtown housing providing a foundation for a healthy and vibrant community and downtown economic revitalization. Learn how the City of Columbus is developing downtown as a 24/7 place to be. General community housing options may be discussed.

Welcoming New Neighbors

Headshot of Karina Perez.
Karina Perez, Executive Director, Centro Hispano
Bio Karina Perez was born in Los Angeles, California and she and her family migrated to Nebraska in 1999 seeking work opportunities in the Midwest. Her parents are immigrants from El Salvador, who found Columbus to be their forever home. She attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha, studying Communications and Spanish. Upon returning home to Columbus, Karina married her high school sweet-heart, Aaron, and they have 3 children. Currently, Karina is the Executive Director for Centro Hispano in Columbus, Nebraska. The organization’s mission is to foster intentional change for immigrant families, learners, and entrepreneurs through direct services, programming, and advocacy. Karina focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion in rural Nebraska through storytelling and shared experiences. Karina currently serves as a board member to CASA Connections in Columbus, Center for Rural Affairs, Nebraska Community Foundation, Non-Profit Association of the Midlands, and is an Ex-Officio member to the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce. She was in the 2019 Class of Leadership Columbus and is in her fifth year as a Teammate mentor. Outside of these roles, Karina enjoys traveling, art, books, and eating good food.

Welcoming New Americans and immigrants into Nebraska communities is imperative to help meet growing workforce needs and to counter population loss. This session will introduce you to the efforts of Centro Hispano to welcome and serve the immigrant population in Columbus and explore how your community can do the same

6:00 pm

Networking Reception and Heavy Hors D'oeuvres

Location: Henry on 11th, 2521 11th St, Columbus, NE 68601
Dinner Optional and on your own – visit the excellent restaurants in the area, see Columbus Visitor Guide

Day 2 Conference Schedule
Thursday, April 28 2022

7:30 am

Breakfast on your own

8:15 am

8:30 am

Keynote

Something Good in the Good Life: Game Changing Projects for Columbus and Nebraska

Headshot of Dawson Brunswick.
Dawson Brunswick, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce

9:15 am

Breakout Session IV

Location: Local area businesses

Bringing Spice to Rural Communities: Understanding the Importance of Cultural Background in Business

Headshot of Sandra Barrera Fuentes.
Sandra Barrera Fuentes, Nebraska Extension
Bio Latina, Entrepreneur, Motivator, Educator, and Speaker She has been working for more than sixteen years with UNL Extension Office as an Extension Educator with the Latino Small Business state-wide program in developing and/or growing rural Nebraska businesses with education, technical support, networking, and connections. Assisted more than 320 startups and helped entrepreneurs with more than 600 consultations per year, connect more than 1000k entrepreneurs and owners business on online community, leading the 4st Project at Grand Island. Her bi-cultural background and focus on community collaboration has led her to several volunteer opportunities and community leadership roles Her passion goes beyond to help the Latino community based on one word keep the whole community TOGETHER. Founder of Grand Island Latino Network (2005), co-founder of McDes -Multicultural Center for Development of Education and Sports (2003) which promotes higher education and wellness for children and Nebraska Latino Business Coalition (2019).

Global changes and natural disasters have led to the migration of people to different communities all over the world. Communities that were once fairly homogeneous are experiencing large influxes of newcomers from different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. As our population becomes more culturally diverse, some cultural groups are experiencing more problems. If we learn to understand and value other cultures and to look at each other as neighbors with similar interests rather than adversaries, we will be more vested in the idea of taking better care of each other and recognize new opportunities existing and new businesses. A new influx of population creates needs for housing, retail space, and services. It creates opportunities to increase customer base and revenue for local municipalities. The building of relationships with people from different cultures, often many different cultures, is key in building diverse communities and powerful engines for communal economic growth.

Building Local Retail Capacity Using Innovative Data

Headshot of Dawson Brunswick.
Dawson Brunswick, Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, President
Headshot of Shawn Kaskie.
Shawn Kaskie, Extension Educator, Rural Prosperity Nebraska
Bio Shawn Kaskie, co-Investigator has the rank of Associate Professor as Rural Prosperity Nebraska Extension Educator for the University of Nebraska based out Broken Bow serving the surrounding 8-county rural area. He works with communities and private entities to develop market research reports, business feasibility studies, and community economic, tourism and housing profiles/studies.

The Columbus Area Chamber recently engaged Retail Strategies; a national consultant who conducted an analysis of locally sourced spending data cross-referenced with national trends. Learn how Columbus is using this information to target potential service and retail opportunities. Additional resources for smaller communities to understand their local retail and service opportunity potential will also be shared.

Legal Considerations for Rural Entrepreneurs

Headshot of Catie Bergen.
Catie Bergen, Senior Certified Law Student, Nebraska College of Law Weibling Entrepreneurship Clinic
Bio Catie Bergen is from York, Nebraska and is a third-year law student at the University of Nebraska College of Law. Catie is a student attorney in the Weibling Entrepreneurship Clinic, helping start-up business clients with early-stage legal matters. She is excited to return to her hometown following graduation to practice law.
Headshot of Brian Polley.
Brian Polley, Senior Certified Law Student, Nebraska College of Law Weibling Entrepreneurship Clinic
Bio Brian Polley is a third-year law student at the University of Nebraska College of Law enrolled in the Business Transactions Program of Concentrated Study. While in law school, Brian has worked on a variety of legal issues while working in Nelnet’s Tax Department and at Blankenau Wilmoth and Jarecke LLP.

In addition to generating a strong business idea, understanding the market, and developing a financial plan, entrepreneurs also need to consider the legal implications of starting a business. In this session, learn how communities can connect entrepreneurs across the state of Nebraska to FREE legal resources and understand the importance of some legal topics many businesses owners may overlook.

Building a Successful Start-Up Town

Headshot of Nathan Preheim.
Nathan Preheim, Co-Founder, Proven Ventures
Bio Nathan is passionate about helping Nebraskans start up! After building and scaling MindMixer, a civic-tech startup, he joined the Greater Omaha Chamber and launched The Startup Collaborative, an on-demand startup accelerator. His latest initiative is Proven Ventures, a new investment fund that partners with early-stage Nebraska startups.

Revenue is the single best commodity of your community. Proven Ventures helps communities with “a pronounced energy, enthusiasm and optimism” for future revenue generation. As the business co-founder, Nathan will provide entrepreneurial communities with unique forms of financing and capital in Nebraska.

Marketing Hometown America

Headshot of Cheryl Burkhart Kriesel.
Cheryl Burkhart Kriesel, Extension Specialist, Rural Prosperity Nebraska
Headshot of Marilyn Schlake.
Marilyn Schlake, Extension Educator, Rural Prosperity Nebraska
Bio Marilyn is an Extension Educator and Graduate Lecturer with Rural Prosperity Nebraska and the Department of Agricultural Economics at UNL. She focuses her work and volunteer efforts around business, community and economic development. Schlake has worked with numerous communities to engage citizens and facilitate community economic growth.

Community marketing is more than promotion. Its about tailoring your “product” to meet potential newcomers and current community member wants and needs. Learn how your community can use its assets of place and people to position, promote and ultimately perform as a community to attract and retain members. Hear what other rural communities in Iowa, Minnesota and South Dakota are doing to market their locations as great places to live, work and play.

Communities 4 Kids

Headshot of Jackie Farrell.
Jackie Farrell, Assistant Vice President of Early Childhood Programs, Communities for Kids
Bio Jackie Farrell lives northeast of Columbus with her husband and son and works with the NCFF Communities for Kids initiative which focuses on child care capacity and quality. Jackie focuses her community work in northeastern/north-central Nebraska. Jackie is a graduate of UNL and a former Extension Assistant and Educator.
Headshot of Kim Parsons.
Kim Parsons, Schuyler Early Childhood Community Coordinator
Bio Kim Parsons taught adult English language learners with Cargill/Central Community College before becoming the early childhood community coordinator for Schuyler. She enjoys working with adult learners and helping children and families succeed. Kim is pursuing an associate degree in early childhood education. She and her husband have six sons and eight grandchildren. They've lived in Schuyler their entire lives and love the gifts and challenges that come with its multicultural make-up.
Headshot of Melissa Polinoski.
Melissa Polinoski, Atkinson Early Childhood Community Coordinator
Bio Melissa is the Early Childhood Community Coordinator in Atkinson, NE.  She creates sustainable quality childcare infrastructure that embodies the development of a childcare workforce, adequate quality childcare choices for families and economic opportunities for community growth.

The Communities for Kids (C4K) initiative partners with communities across Nebraska to plan for and address shortages of high-quality early care and education programs—shortages that impact children’s optimal development and pose a challenge for communities hoping to attract and retain the viable workforce they need to thrive. Visit with C4K staff and Early Childhood Community Coordinators as they share their efforts to develop collaborative, community-centric, right-sized early care and education solutions.

10:45 am

Breakout Session V

Location: Local area businesses

Customer Service Excellence: How Businesses and Communities Can Win

Headshot of Ajai Ammachathram.
Ajai Ammachathram, Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism Management Program Director, College of Education and Human Sciences, UNL
Bio Dr. Ammachathram is a hospitality leader and educator who has been associated with hospitality management for over 20 years. He is a Certified Hospitality Educator (CHE) from the American Hotel and Lodging Association Educational Institute, and currently serves as Vice President on the board of the Central Federation of the International Council of Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (ICHRIE). A few areas of expertise include customer service management, retail and franchising, minority and new entrepreneurship development.

Loyal repeat customers are key to the success of any operation. They represent recurring revenue and are a great source of feedback. They can also be your greatest enthusiasts, recommending your services to friends and colleagues, even giving favorable online reviews. Learn some customer service tips that can help you keep those customers coming back, time and time again.

Business Transition Models: Decision Tool

Headshot of Jason Tuller.
Jason Tuller, Extension Educator, Rural Prosperity Nebraska
Bio Jason has been working in the economic development field in rural Nebraska for more than a decade. He has worked as a small business consultant and as a rural economic developer. His goal now is to help grow stronger communities in Southeast Nebraska and throughout the state.

The Grocery Store Transition Decision Tree will be shared with communities considering options for retaining their local grocery store or other essential business services. During our research we found that community leaders seeking options to retain essential businesses often have limited understanding of the business transition process and timelines involved. Often considered as a choice of last resort, multi-ownership or cooperative business formations are not fully embraced by advising professionals and business owners. We will discuss pros and cons of certain transition strategies as well as highlight some of the decisions needed to be made during the transition process.

Why Leadership Matters to Rural Community Vitality & Volunteering

Headshot of David Peters.
David Peters, Professor of Sociology and Extension Rural Sociologist, Iowa State University
Bio David J. Peters is a Professor of Rural Sociology at Iowa State University. His work broadly encompasses social and economic change in rural communities. Current projects include the Iowa Small Towns Project, rural smart shrinkage, community resiliency to the rural opioid crisis, and impacts of COVID-19 in small towns.

What are the characteristics of good leadership in small towns? Does leadership enhance quality of life? Is leadership the difference between successful and struggling communities? These are common questions asked by residents and leaders in our small towns. Peters wills share how leadership styles impact volunteering

Family Entrepreneurship Succession Stories

Headshot of Brian Masek.
Brian Masek, Owner, Heartland Athletic Club
Bio Heartland Gymnastics has been serving the youth in our community for 30 years! We offer a variety of gymnastic classes ranging from preschool classes to competitive team classes. Heartland Gymnastics motto is “Building better bodies for all sports!”
Photo of Hellbusch family around a conference table.
Ben Hellbusch, Duo-Lift Manufacturing Co Inc
Bio Duo Lift Manufacturing was founded in 1943 on the Art Hellbusch farm, located in Columbus. From its humble beginnings as a hobby located in the back of Art's milk barn, Duo Lift has grown into an international business providing fertilizer, agricultural and commercial equipment across the Midwest and Canada. As a family-owned and operated business, Duo Lift celebrated its 78th year in 2021, and has managed to keep family at its core since its establishment. Jim Hellbusch took the reins from his father to grow the company into a business, and Ben and David Hellbusch continue to expand and develop the business for the future. Duo Lift currently employs 85 full time staff and designs and manufactures all of its equipment on the same land in Columbus where it all began. With an emphasis on high quality, safety and user-friendliness, Duo Lift is always innovating and creating new products as the needs in agriculture change. Duo Lift is known as leader and innovator in the agricultural industry and is proud to be a Nebraska manufacturer and a part of the growing Columbus Community.

Baby Boomers were the most entrepreneurial generation in American history. 52% of those baby boomers will be exiting their businesses within the next 10 years. Sustaining those family businesses from one generation to the next multiple generations is critical for the economic stability of a community. Learn how long-standing Columbus families are navigating business ownership change.

Developing a Tourism Destination with University Collaboration

Headshot of Lisa Tschauner.
Lisa Tschauner, UNK Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development and Cultivate Student Organization
Bio Lisa Tschauner leads the entrepreneurial activity of the center. She has been involved with building the ecosystem in central Nebraska for the past sixteen years. She is a leader in entrepreneurship education and advocacy as an educator, author, consultant and community member. She is also an author and the former owner/co-founder of Open for Business magazine, a local B2B publication that has served the area for four years. She holds a BA in Organizational Communication and a Master of Science Degree in Organizational Management with an emphasis on Entrepreneurship & Economic Development and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in Human Sciences with a Leadership specialization. Her background is diverse with work experience in many industries; energy, telecommunications, information technology, retail, marketing/advertising, media production, construction building and manufacturing
Headshot of Aliese Hoffman.
Aliese Hoffman, Assistant Director, UNK Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development
Bio Aliese Hoffman is the Assistant Director in the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development at UNK where she teaches youth programs to students in elementary and middle school, advises the entrepreneurship student group on the UNK campus, and coordinates events for Kearney and the surrounding areas. She is an alum of UNK with a bachelor's degree in Business with an emphasis in Management and a master’s degree in Higher Education Student Affairs.
Headshot of Austin Truex.
Austin Truex, President, UNK Cultivate Student Organization

This session will feature the Cultivate Student Organization (CSO) from UNK. The advisors with the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development (CERD) will give a review of the Cultivate education model and share how it was used by CSO to work with the Pioneer Village in Minden, NE as they rebuild their organization and face transition to succeed as a tourist attraction in Nebraska. Students and advisors will share the data discovered in their community and visitor input research and how this was used to build a strategy for the community and Pioneer Village.

How Can a Community Support Minority-Owned Businesses?

Headshot of Juan Sandovol.
Juan Sandovol, Associate Center Director, Nebraska Business Development Center
Bio Juan Sandoval specializes in serving small businesses in rural markets in Northeast Nebraska assisting clients within the entrepreneurial process stages with idea generation, decision making and business planning, project creation, and management and control. Sandoval has 12 years of experience in loan packaging for small and micro-businesses, and 15 years of experience developing training for small businesses in Nebraska.
Headshot of Veronica Reyes.
Veronica Reyes, Small Business Lending Specialist, Center for Rural Affairs
Bio Veronica is a Northeast Rural Nebraska specialist in small businesses, she helps new and existing entrepreneurs to start or grow their business. She provides financial services as well as technical assistance one on one in different areas. She also offers services for mortgage loans of new buyers or emergency repairs.

Over the last 10 years, minority business enterprises account for more than 50% of the two million new businesses started in the United States. Learn about their disparities, challenges, and their future while we provide tips to support our community, consumers, and businesses while contributing to economic inclusion.

12:00 pm

Lunch

Location: The Friedhof Building, 1270 27th Ave, Columbus, NE 68601

Closing Session

Keynote: Investing in Rural Prosperity - Moving From the Pandemic to Rural Growth

Headshot of Dell Gines.
Dell Gines, Lead Community Development Advisor, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City
Bio Dell Gines is a lead community development advisor at the Kansas City Fed's Omaha Branch. Gines specializes in small business, particularly entrepreneurship-led development. This approach says that entrepreneurship is an effective way to establish sustainable wealth from employment and ownership, which results in thriving markets and a healthy society. Gines’ most recent work is the Small Business Owners of Color Recovery guide. Co-authored with the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, it shares ways communities can support small businesses of color working to recover from the pandemic. Gines joined the Kansas City Fed in 2011. He began his career in banking then managed a small nonprofit business incubator. After that, he worked for Habitat for Humanity and then ran a small non-profit health care organization. Gines received his master’s in business administration from the University of Nebraska Omaha, his master’s in finance from Bellevue University and, in 2021, received his Ph.D. from University of Nebraska Omaha’s College of Public Administration. He is a commissioner on the Nebraska’s inaugural African American Commission and serves on the equitable economic development committee for the International Economic Development Council. Gines lives with his wife and two of his five children in Omaha. In his free time, he serves as the assistant basketball coach for Omaha Christian Academy.
Dr. Dell Gines is the Lead Community Development Advisor for the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City. He is a national thought leader in entrepreneurship-led economic development and ecosystem building.

Dell Gines will discuss lessons learned from the new Federal Reserve System's Investing in Rural Prosperity book, and some key opportunities and challenges for rural economic and community development practitioners as the nation moves on from the pandemic.

1:00 pm

Conference Concludes