Tag Archives: B2B

Patsy Sumner and Andrea Brendis

June 19, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Today’s consumers are bombarded with marketing messages every waking moment. These messages come from traditional mediums such as print, TV, radio, and billboard advertising as well as internet-driven digital and social media options that are increasing exponentially. Businesses that will survive and thrive in this rapidly changing environment are the businesses that take steps to make certain that their message isn’t just white noise.

Creating the perfect message is only part of the marketing challenge. In order to drive results, brands need to deliver that message to the right people. This raises questions. Who are those people? Where do you find them? How do you choose the best possibilities on a fixed budget? For any media question, MediaSpark is the answer.

MediaSpark can discover your best audience. Then, they can tell you where to place your message so that the audience can discover you. Most importantly, MediaSpark can measure your results on an ongoing basis to ensure that your message remains current and effective for your unique audience.

Patsy Sumner founded MediaSpark after almost 20 years of corporate marketing and branding experience. She has designed and launched many multifaceted national media campaigns. Not only does she have an excellent grasp of traditional approaches, she is well versed and connected in the new and developing arenas of digital and social media. Patsy specializes in media strategy to maximize your media budget. And, she makes sure that you understand your results helping you to keep your messaging on track.

Andrea Brendis previously represented a national media agency where she gained experience with local, regional, and national media markets. She understands the best possible way to get the most targeted messaging out of any size media budget. She coordinates the performance of integrated media campaigns with her sharp negotiation skills and her relentless attention to client service.

Not only do these ladies have impressive individual backgrounds—they are a real live sister act. MediaSpark clients can be assured of a unique blend of competitive spirit and camaraderie that comes from working with two powerful women who have been “working” together for over 35 years. Their clients find this partnership refreshing in today’s environment of virtual relationships. 

And, if all of that is not enough, these two were born and raised in Omaha and are genuinely committed to the community. Patsy serves on the Children’s Hospital & Medical Center Friends Board and Andrea is a Scrubs Ambassador. They are also involved in a number of other charitable endeavors, including The Aksarben Coronation Ball and Scholarship Fund, Angels Among Us, and The Girl Scouts of America.

There is no doubt—you want these sisters on your team. They are a win/win proposition in every sense of the word. They would love to buy you a cup of coffee, listen to your needs, and explore the possibilities.

P.O. Box 540965
Omaha, NE 68154
402.980.1688
themediaspark.com

Kris Metzler

June 16, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

As Maple 85 Premium Landscape Mulch Center nears its 20th anniversary, much of its business comes from repeat customers and personal referrals, says president Kris Metzler, who owns the landscape distribution company with husband Todd.

“It’s our customer service. We are very attention-to-detail and we try to make the process as efficient as possible,” she says. The experienced, all-woman office staff is responsible for making a good first impression and providing the kind of care that builds productive and long-lasting relationships with customers, she adds. In turn, they are supported by a warm, family atmosphere with owners who don’t hesitate to pitch in when needed and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty—literally.

Maple 85 provides top-quality mulch and river rock, aggregates, top soil, fill dirt, and Nebraska compost to residential and commercial clients. Customers can also purchase accessories such as landscape fabric and edging. During the winter months, the company provides salt and sand to contractors.

“We offer the most variety of mulch—eight different types and colors,” Metzler says.  “Most of our competitors offer three, maybe four.”

Another way the owners of Maple 85 distinguish their business from the competition is by offering the use of dump trailers for a minimal fee with any size purchase.

“We have different size trailers that we can match up with any size SUV or truck,” she says. “For those customers that don’t have a vehicle to pull a trailer, we can deliver the product to them.  Customer service is our number one priority!”

8415 Maple St.
Omaha, NE 68134
402.397.8278
maple85.com

HDR

June 15, 2017 by
This sponsored content appears in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0817_125/1?e=1413765/50121072

Doug Bisson

Community Planning Manager, HDR

Doug Bisson gets recognized a lot. He’s led a lot of public meetings. But when he joined HDR 17 years ago, he didn’t know he’d have a front row seat to some of the most transformative changes in the region. 

“In the last two decades, Omaha saw a significant amount of redevelopment, and the economic impact has been huge,” says Bisson, HDR’s community planning manager. “With developments like Midtown Crossing and Aksarben Village, and North Downtown, anchored by TD Ameritrade Park, we’ve seen well over a billion dollars in development.  The impacts from these projects reach far. Omaha’s upgrades have created hundreds of new jobs of all kinds. Gone are the days when we were competing with LA and New York to attract the best and the brightest. We’ve become an international community, a great value in and of itself.” 

Each of these projects began with a master plan – a collaboration of smart business leaders, residents and developers who come together to capture a vision of what might be. “I’m proud that I played a part in crafting the framework that allowed such a renaissance. That being said, none of the changes would have been possible without engineers and architects. They are the heroes of strong communities.”

Consider the Omaha of 1917. When HDR’s founder, H.H. Henningson, established his engineering firm in downtown Omaha, he brought the first power lines to many Nebraska towns. His achievements enabled more than late-night reading. Access to power brought a socio-economic sea change for Nebraska residents. 

In celebration of our 100th anniversary, we thought it fitting to ask a few of our own architects and engineers to share how they hope their work will strengthen the community we call home. 

MichaellaWittmann, Director of Sustainability


Fav Project: Making design sustainable

“I started out as an electrical engineer, and I found my passion in making sustainability part of the infrastructure design process.  True sustainable design makes a community strong by protecting the environment while paying for itself. 

Changes like that are taking place in Nebraska.  At Bellevue University, I’m giving input to faculty creating an outdoor lab that lets students design sustainable systems, like collecting storm water to fill ponds in which algae can be harvested to create biofuels.  It’s a beautiful circle.  I’m proud to be a part of that story.

I hope that one day, sustainable infrastructure design will become routine on a global scale.  That’s why I serve on the board for the Institute for Sustainable Infrastructure in DC.  If I can help write the guidelines, I’m doing my part to bring this vision to life.”

Teresa Konda, Water/Wastewater Engineer

Fav Project:Making water safe

“One of my first projects was MUD’s Platte West drinking water facility.  I was lucky – brand new facilities come along maybe once every 30 years.  Platte West created a new drinking water supply for our expanding community. 

Now I’m working on the opposite end of the spectrum, working on upgrades at the historic MUD Florence water treatment plant.

Our utilities have done a wonderful job of securing water supply and making continuous improvements to our infrastructure.  Availability of water is a key factor in attracting new business, and that’s important for our long-term economic strength. 

I became a water engineer because I liked chemistry, biology and engineering.  I liked that I could use my interests as a problem-solving tool. And, providing safe water, critical to public health, feels good, too.”

Mike Hamilton, Design Principal

Fav Project: Inspiring tomorrow’s designers

“Investing in—and inspiring—children can only make our communities stronger. I couldn’t be more excited about working with students through the Boy Scouts of America, local schools and at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I am an adjunct professor and lecturer.

I am especially proud of the Kaneko Architecture Design Camps, which I helped create five years ago for kids ages 11 to 18. The camps explore how we can shape our built environment to improve the urban condition—and how all of us can influence the cultural fabric of our communities. Through exercises like walking tours, 3D modeling and prototyping, kids see that they have the power to make the built environment better—and that they can truly make an impact. I really enjoy exposing younger generations to that power.”

AIGA

June 14, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you’re passionate about an activity, you want to seek out others who share your interest. The more niche an activity, the harder it may be for those with a common interest to come together.

Nebraska’s design community, though, has just the organization to meet that challenge.

The American Institute of Graphic Arts calls itself “the profession’s oldest and largest professional membership organization for design,” and it features an active chapter in Nebraska.

Amy Markham, 33, is a user-interface designer for Kiewit and the current president of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) Nebraska. She studied graphic design at the University of Nebraska-Kearney and became involved with the organization because her professors stressed
its importance.

Amy Markham

“They were the ones that really pushed the idea of being a member of AIGA because being a part of that community is essential to your career as a designer,” she says.

AIGA Nebraska, Markham says, is all about bringing people in Nebraska’s design community together, putting potential collaborators in touch with one another and providing each other with job opportunities. The organization caters to graphic designers, web designers, user-interface designers, and the like, but AIGA has started connecting with other design professionals such as coders, videographers, architects, and animators.

“It gives them a platform to come together so they can have a voice as a whole entity,” says Cathy Solarana, 51, AIGA Nebraska’s diversity and inclusion director.

Mary Allen, 34, AIGA Nebraska’s director of communications, discovered a passion for design when she made graphics for the Facebook account of the parent-teacher organization at her daughters’ elementary school. Now she’s a full-time graphic design student at Metropolitan
Community College.

“In addition to hosting valuable events and providing design resources, AIGA offers discounts on products, software, and event admission,” Allen says. “Really, though, it’s the intangible things—friendships forged, passions discovered, and changes made—which make AIGA membership so rewarding.”

This year, many of AIGA Nebraska’s events are focused on helping its community to become more diverse and inclusive. Holding events, Markham says, is one of the local chapter’s hallmarks.

“Since we are an organization that is mostly events-focused, the events that we put on kind of create that sense of community,” she says.

“We’re not communicating particularly well if we communicate to only one particular culture or community,” Solarana says.

Cathy Solarana

On May 17, AIGA Nebraska, the Omaha Public Library, and 1877 Society hosted the Human Library at the W. Dale Clark Library. Visitors had the opportunity to come to the library and “checkout” people by speaking with them for 20 minutes, people with whom the visitors may not typically have the chance to interact, including Muslims, sex-trafficking survivors, and transgender people.

“It’s really hard to dislike someone when you are standing in front of them,” Solarana says. She also says that AIGA Nebraska hopes to hold another one in November and to hold two every year
going forward.

Allen recognizes that committing to the organization can be demanding.

“I understand that our membership and potential members are busy people, because I’m a busy person myself,” Allen says. “But something else I have in common with our membership is that we’re passionate people—passionate about design and about serving this community.”

Visit nebraska.aiga.org for more information.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Sonja Kapoun-Roof

June 9, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Before she became the owner of a Pinot’s Palette franchise, Sonja Kapoun-Roof participated in the sip-wine-while-you-paint-a-picture activity as an enthusiastic patron. The experience delivered an extra benefit.

“I bought an evening to paint with one of my good friends for her birthday and had a great time,” she explains. “I also found it to be very helpful with my stress.”

When the accountant lost her job at ConAgra, she remembered the fun she had at Pinot’s Palette. The Bellevue resident believed this creative activity—perfect for girls night out or date night—would fill a niche in Sarpy County.

The studio (due to open in January) will offer wine, beer, and soda as customers unleash their inner Picasso on a large canvas. Currently, a mobile unit can bring the painting supplies anywhere.

Each session offers a specific picture to recreate. A professional artist walks everyone through each step of the process.

pinotspalette.com/lavista

Designing and Building a Life in Omaha

June 6, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Wanted: beautiful minds.

Omaha architectural and engineering firms continue to hang the “help wanted” sign, roll out the welcome mat, and host job fairs, looking to snag that rarest of breeds: an employee who uses both sides of the brain equally, combining the practicality of a physicist and mathematician with the soul of an artist. In other words, young architects and architectural engineers are hot commodities in a leading job market.

Low interest rates and demand for new development (which shows no signs of ebbing) keep employers busy looking for qualified applicants. Where do they find the necessary numbers? Right in their own backyard.

“Certainly the job market in Omaha within architecture and engineering is very, very, very strong,” emphasizes Christopher Johnson, a vice president and managing principal at Leo A Daly, part of the big three of Omaha architecture firms, along with DLR and HDR. “Even when you look locally at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, PKI (Peter Kiewit Institute), or Nebraska-Lincoln, the interns and the graduates are secure in their employment by the holiday season, before they go home for their holiday break. That’s a lot earlier than what we would normally see.”

Top-notch schooling—the College of Architecture and the College of Engineering on the University of Nebraska-Lincoln campus, and the Kiewit Institute and the Durham School of Architectural Engineering and Construction on the university’s Omaha campus— provides Omaha firms with a locally grown crop of well-grounded, technically advanced job candidates who work well with others and possess problem-solving skills.

“In Omaha, we typically hire between 10 and 12 architects and engineers every year,” says Johnson. In addition, Leo A Daly’s internship program places about four students on the architecture/interior side and the same number on the engineering side. 

How do the salaries compare?

“Entry-level job salaries are competitive in the Omaha market because we have a very competitive spirit among all the private firms here,” Johnson says. “But when you look at the national picture, you might say they look a little lower.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median wage for architects nationally is $76,100. Omaha’s lower numbers reflect a geographical lower cost of living.

While many graduates take their sheepskin and leave for larger salaries in larger cities like Chicago, Boston, or Dallas, an impressive percentage chooses to stay close to family and friends. Two young professionals who made a conscious decision a decade ago to stay rooted in Nebraska have seen their stars ascend on a local and national level.

Stephanie Guy, project and resource manager at Alvine Engineering in Omaha, and Andrew  Yosten, managing engineering principal and director of mechanical engineering of HDR’s architecture practice in Omaha, both found their calling early. In many ways, they mirror each other’s lives.

“My uncle owned a construction company and I enjoyed building things, but I was always pulled toward engineering,” Yosten, 34, says of his teenage years growing up in West Point, Nebraska. “I happened to stumble across a pamphlet on architectural engineering. None of the other engineering fields really appealed to me until I read that pamphlet.”

Guy comes from a place even smaller than West Point. In fact, Mullen, Nebraska, population 492, is the only town in Hooker County, nestled in the state’s beautiful Sandhills. Like Yosten, she became more interested in how a building functions than in its design.

“When I was a junior or senior in high school, I thought about architecture, but I leaned more towards the math and science rather than the creativity,” says Guy, also 34 and president-elect of the Architectural Engineering Institute. “So I thought engineering would be a natural fit.”

Guy and Yosten earned advanced degrees, two years apart, from Durham on the UNO campus, one of the few schools in the country offering a five-year program combining a bachelor’s and master’s degree in architectural engineering. Each specialized in mechanical engineering, obtaining a breadth of knowledge of a building’s structural aspects, plus its lighting, electrical, heating, cooling, and ventilation areas.

Guy opted to work for a company that focuses strictly on engineering, although she still works closely with architects. Her portfolio with Alvine includes renewable energy projects at Creighton University, renovations at Duchesne Academy in Omaha, a new school of nursing at the University of Michigan, a 50-story residential high-rise and a 50-story Class A office building, both in Chicago.

“There’s something about this Midwestern location and Midwestern work ethic that allows us to be successful,” Guy says. “We’re just a flight away from both coasts. HDR, DLR, and Leo A Daly all started here and are still here, three of the largest architectural and engineering firms in the world, with offices around the globe.”

Yosten, who interned at HDR while in school, felt at home with the company’s global reach from the get-go, especially in the field of health care.

“My mom is a physician assistant in West Point, and my wife is a nurse, so I have a true appreciation for what they do,” Yosten says. “So when I learned how much HDR’s portfolio is geared towards health care, that was a big drive for me to
stay here.”

Some of the notable health care projects Yosten’s teams have guided include the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, set to open soon, and a $1.27 billion replacement for Parkland Hospital in Dallas, best known as the hospital where President John F. Kennedy died. They’re also designing a new tower for Omaha’s
Children’s Hospital.

What keeps HDR’s 952 employees in Omaha and Lincoln, Leo A Daly’s 130 local employees, over 50 architectural firms, and more than two dozen engineering firms anchored here? The ability to balance a high-powered job and a personal life in an area that avoids getting caught up in the rat race plays a huge role.

It allows Guy and her husband to raise four daughters, who range from an infant to age 9, while pursuing a career that has garnered her numerous professional awards.

It allows Yosten time to play with his 18-month-old twin boys, who he says are “really ornery and a handful” but the light of his life, along with his wife, Jill.

Development may be booming in Omaha, but sometimes the intangibles prove a greater lure for employees.

Stephanie Guy, project and resource manager at Alvine Engineering

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Patricia Regan

June 2, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

After 30 successful years, Patricia Catering and Cocktails gets a lot of repeat business—some of it even multigenerational.

“Customers and guests at events remember us and seek us out even years later,” owner Patricia Regan says. “We currently have one bride coming to us to cater her wedding reception because we catered her parents’ reception years ago, and they loved the service. We have been doing business with some of our corporate clients for well over 20 years.”

The team is knowledgeable, respectful, helpful, and takes tremendous pride in both product and presentation, Regan says.

“We provide food and cocktails for corporate needs and special events,” she explains. “We also provide professional and timely service for our customers, from delivery and set-up to full-scale events with linens, china, bar service, and everything else that is needed for the success of our customers’ events.”

In the catering business, Regan says that relationships are paramount. “We look at each customer as a partnership in success,” she says. “Success for them is success for us, too.”

patriciacatering.com

Audra Gude

May 26, 2017 by

This sponsored content appears in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B. To view, click here: https://issuu.com/omahapublications/docs/b2b_0217_125/56

Audra Gude lives and works by a very simple rule: “I will never expect my team to do something that I have not done or am not willing to do myself,” says the managing partner at Midwest Ultrasonic. “You will never learn new skills if you don’t get your hands dirty.”

It’s with that mantra that Gude leads her team. Midwest Ultrasonic provides ultrasonic cleaning of window blinds and shades, golf clubs and bags, and sporting gear and pads.

Ultrasonic cleaning is the process that uses sound waves with water and detergent. “Ultrasonic cleaning utilizes sound wave technology to eradicate soil, odor, and harmful bacteria for items even in the smallest crevices,” says Gude.

It’s that motivation to clean in a safe way with fair pricing that Gude says makes clients feel like part of the family.

Couple that with a laidback work environment filled with incredibly dedicated, hardworking team members and Gude says she knows she has the perfect combination for great customer service and fantastic products.

“We all want to be able to deep clean items in a safe way, using detergents that don’t harm our family members, children, and the environment,” she says.

She also works hard to be a positive role model for women inside and outside of the organization—including working mothers.

Recognizing that they often struggle with being away from their kids during the day, she says she wants to provide a service that allows them to keep their home and the items in the home clean while not taking away from their family time in the evenings and on the weekends.

“My ladies are part of my family,” she says. “We all work hard, laugh hard, and support each other in and out of the office. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to come to work every day and enjoy the people you work with.”

Gude is also managing partner for another business in addition to Midwest Ultrasonic. FRSTeam is a fabric restoration company that helps families restore their textiles after fire or water damage.

Working in a family business, Gude says whenever she has any doubts, she remembers back to some somewhat harsh advice from her father. It still resonates with her every day—and motivates her wanting to do the right thing.

“When I was looking at coming into the family business back in my 20s, my father looked me square in the eye and told me, ‘You provide zero value to my company. I do not need another body. Go find a real job,’” says Gude, who joined the family dry cleaning business nine years ago after completing two degrees at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln.

“That has resonated with me with all that I do within our family businesses,” she says. “I want to be known for doing the right thing and doing it with a smile. At the end of the day, I want my husband and my daughters to be proud of me.”

3305 S 66th Ave. Cir.
Omaha, NE 68106
402.669.0555
midwestultrasonic.com

Who’d Love to Have an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile?

May 24, 2017 by
Photography by contributed

The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is not your father’s muscle car of the 1960s.

Don’t tell that to Ashley Eisert, a 2016 University of Nebraska-Omaha graduate who relishes her job driving and promoting one of the world’s most famous vehicles.“It really does have a lot of pick-up,” Eisert says as she gets ready for another day on the job as a “Hotdogger.” (Yes, that is her official title.) “It might take a little bit to get from zero to 60, but it does have a lot of power to it. It can definitely haul bun,” she says.

If you get the feeling Eisert savors rolling in the 11-foot-tall, 27-foot-long hot dog, she does. Since last June, the former Papillion-LaVista South student has been wheeling through 27 states in one of six Wienermobiles as part of the company’s team.

In terms of famous four-wheelers, the Wienermobile ranks right up there with Doc Brown’s DeLorean, the many incarnations of the Batmobile, or—for you old-timers—that whiz-bang of a grand prix car, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. All of them gained fame on the silver screen. (What do you mean you didn’t see the Wienermobile in 1992’s Ladybugs starring the late Rodney Dangerfield?)

But has there ever been such a novelty advertising vehicle that can get people to stand up through their sunroof, camera phone in hand, to honk and wave?

This bunderful story could get eaten up fast.

The first Wienermobile dates back to 1936 when Carl Mayer had an advertising idea for his Uncle Oscar: a 13-foot-long hot dog car that would travel through the streets of Chicago, advertising the meat-and-cold-cuts company that Oscar founded in 1883.

General Body Co. of Chicago made the first Wienermobile. Today the cars are constructed by Prototype Source, a Santa Barbara, California-based designer of mobile marketing vehicles. In 2004, the company started working with automotive designer Harry Bradley—best known for his Mattel Hot Wheels car designs—to completely produce the custom-made vehicles. Everything down to the windshield wipers is made special.

So what lies under the 14,050-pound vehicle? (That’s 140,500 hot dogs, according to Oscar Mayer’s official fact sheet.) The custom-made, grilled fiberglass dog sits atop a lightly-toasted fiberglass bun on a converted GM Chevrolet four-speed/W4 series chassis with a V8, 6.0 liter, 300 horsepower Vortec 5700 engine.

Each of the six Wienermobiles features a snazzy interior complete with six ketchup-and-mustard-colored captain seats, a gull-wing door with retractable steps, a removable “bunroof,” carpet featuring a condiment-splattered pattern, and sunny, blue sky ceiling art. There is storage space for thousands of Wiener Whistles, a custom-built, solar-powered stereo with a microphone system on which hotdoggers can  speak to people during parades, and a horn that plays the Oscar Mayer jingle in 21 different music genres. Oh, and it runs on unleaded and gets “thousands of smiles per gallon.”

How long does it take to build one of these specialized vehicles that is 18 hot dogs wide? “Franks for asking!” Prototype Source Owner Dorian Duke did not say.

“From the time we install the fiberglass body on a chassis to installing all the custom electrical, audio, and video, is between 16 and 22 weeks,” Duke says. “We started off with the Wienermobile, and pretty soon people were asking us to make other special product mobiles. We’ve made the Hershey’s “Kissmobile,” the Kellogg’s “Tonymobile,” the Pepperidge Farm “Goldfish,” and quite a
few others.

There is even a free Wienermobile app you can download to track the orange-and-yellow monstrosities. According to the product description, you can “relish the opportunity to ketchup with the Wienermobile” and buckle up, “ride shot-bun, pilot the big dog,” and tour the country with hotdoggers.

Yes, automotive enthusiasts, this car is a real wiener.

Visit oscarmayer.com/wienermobile for more information.

Oscar Mayer owns six Wienermobiles

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Writer Sean Weide passed away unexpectedly on May 30, 2017. He wrote only a few articles for Omaha Magazine, but they were always well-researched and well-written. I personally wish the Weide family the ability to find peace.

— Daisy Hutzell-Rodman, B2B Managing Editor.

 

Big Omaha

Photography by Big Omaha

Rewind to May 8, 2009, and you will find a community of 400-plus graphic designers, entrepreneurs, creatives, developers, small business owners, and even a handful of investors seated in tidy rows at KANEKO in the Old Market. It was a first-of-its-kind conference for Omaha.

Many of these people knew of this event through casual conversations—mostly on Twitter—about a little-known conference coming to town called “Big Omaha.” It was the brainchild and second-born of friends Jeff Slobotski and Dusty Davidson (the previous year’s Silicon Prairie News being their firstborn). The two recognized a movement and a simmering energy surrounding the local tech community. It was a cadre of women and men who decided start-up and tech success could happen not on the West Coast but in their own backyards.

The inaugural Big Omaha sold out 10 days prior to the conference. The energy it created has sustained these past eight years. The result? Omaha is now a destination for start-ups seeking new ideas, new energy, and even new money in the form of investors.

“Big Omaha provides inspiration for people to start something,” explains Brian Lee of AIM, a not-for-profit organization that promotes technology to empower people, enhance organizations, and create brilliant communities. Lee serves as managing director of Big Omaha and Silicon Prairie News.

Two years ago, Big Omaha and Silicon Prairie News were acquired by AIM. Although the ownership structure has changed, the Big Omaha experience remains true to what Slobotski and Davidson created with the first conference in 2009.

“Big Omaha has had a huge impact on our community,” Lee says. “It is part of a larger movement in the past eight years that started with Big Omaha.”

Now the conference welcomes a sold-out audience of 700 attendees with guest speakers in a range of tech- and entrepreneurial-based industries who have crisscrossed the globe. When the speakers take the stage, the majority are candid about their successes and their failures, which they are encouraged to share in engaging, meaningful, transparent, and memorable ways.

“We ask our speakers to address overcoming challenges, which helps our audience find inspiration,” Lee says. “In the Midwest, we appreciate authenticity. Hearing those struggles helps a lot.”

Part of the splash of Big Omaha’s first conference in 2009 was its clever cow branding, developed by Omaha-based Oxide Design Co. The cow visuals have remained, although design duties changed hands in 2015 from Oxide to Grain & Mortar.

Now that Big Omaha is owned and operated by AIM, its goal is to cover costs through sponsorships and ticket sales, Lee says.

The conference continues to be a hot event. Tickets that cost as much as $599 are scooped up annually by local, national, and even international attendees.

Big Omaha could move to a larger venue, selling more tickets and earning more revenue. But Lee says from his vantage point, the Big Omaha culture isn’t about a bottom line.

“Our goal is not to outgrow KANEKO. We want to preserve the charm and the experience (of Big Omaha) for as long as we can.”

Part of this charm is the togetherness. Everyone who attends Big Omaha hears the same speakers in the same order. Speakers are encouraged to remain the entire two days of the conference, immersing themselves in the experience and networking with Big Omaha ticket-holders. (The pre-party and post-party have become a popular part of the two-day conference.)

Graphic design, architecture, tech innovation, and entrepreneurship ideas abound here. UNL architecture students provided an art installation in 2016, and a guest speaker in 2015 and 2017 was fashion entrepreneur Mona Bijoor, a favorite among the fashion designers and fashionistas
in attendance.

The conference’s first row is filled with familiar faces each year. One of them is Megan Hunt of Omaha, who has attended every single Big Omaha since 2009.

“I remember the incredible momentum that had built up in the Midwest startup community for this event,” Hunt recalls. “The desire we all had for a space to come together, share the work we were doing, and learn from the superstars in our field was palpable. The way that Dusty and Jeff harnessed that energy and built Omaha’s reputation as a hub of entrepreneurship is nothing short of legendary.”

Hunt has owned a web-based bridal design company, a co-working space, and, most recently, a web-based clothing retailer known as Hello Holiday that also boasts a very visual storefront in the heart of Dundee.

“I love going to Big Omaha because, for me, running a business is not just dollars and cents and strategy around growth,” Hunt adds. “It takes a lot of creativity and ingenuity. Big Omaha is my favorite conference because they do understand this so well, emphasizing how interdisciplinary business and technology can be, and welcoming artists, musicians, designers, and writers—people who may normally be in the minority at
other conferences.”

Big Omaha 2017

Big Omaha returned to KANEKO for the ninth consecutive year May 18 and 19. Below is the lineup of speakers.

Joe Ariel, co-founder and CEO of Goldbely

Mona Bijoor, managing partner at King Circle Capital and founder of JOOR

Christina Brodbeck, founding partner at Rivet Ventures

Daniel Burka, design partner at GV, formerly Google Ventures

Shirley Chung, chef and owner at Steamers Co.

Baldwin Cunningham, vice president of strategy at Brit + Co., co-founder of Partnered

Diana Goodwin, founder and CEO of AquaMobile

Alex Klein, co-founder and CEO of Kano Computing

Brandon Levy, co-founder and CEO of Stitch Labs

Mitch Lowe, co-founder of Netflix, CEO of MoviePass

Margenette Moore-Roberts, global head of inclusive diversity at Yahoo

Nish Nadaraja, former Yelp brand director, partner at Rich Kid Cool

Brian Neider, a partner at Lead Edge Capital

Vanessa Torrivilla, co-founder and creative director of Goldbely

Shandra Woworuntu, founder of Mentari

Matt Zeiler, founder and CEO of Clarifai

Visit bigomaha.co for more information.

Big Omaha participants try virtual reality goggles at a previous year’s event.

This article was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.