Tag Archives: Business

Beth Raper

March 30, 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

From 20 people to 50,000 people. Fun Services provides entertainment for groups of all sizes.

The 50,000 people? That would be the Offutt Open House and Air Show, where Fun Services supplies entertainment.

The company has been around 50 years, says Beth Raper, who runs Fun Services with her husband, Joey. They employ 40 people.

She says not only is Fun Services the oldest firm of its kind in Omaha, it’s the best equipped in all of Nebraska and western Iowa to help customers plan special events offering inflatable rides, concessions, and casino parties, as well as party rentals, tables, chairs, and canopies.

“We have been in the business so long that we have the inventory to accommodate the customer,” Raper says. “We help businesses, churches, and schools plan special events.”

“Some people call to rent a few things. Some call and say, ‘Would you guys help with everything? I’m planning a party for 500 people,’” she says. “People appreciate that we‘re a one-stop shop.”

She and her husband bought the family-owned business five years ago. He was familiar with Fun Services and what it could provide—with good reason, she says. They both were working at Fun Services while in high school, when they met. “That’s everyone’s favorite story about us,” she says.

After college graduation, she worked as a wedding planner for five years.  Of course, she planned her own wedding to Joey. It was a small, quiet wedding with friends and family. No inflatable rides. No concessions. Just fun.

Fun Services is a fun place for the college-age students currently employed. “We provide great part-time jobs for kids. They are part-time in college and work part-time for us. We take care of our employees and have parties throughout the year.”

Approximately 90 percent of her clientele are women. “A lot of women work in an environment where they are responsible for planning a party—perhaps a PTA mother or someone planning a church festival,” she says.

“I want to be known for the fact that I love what I do. Everybody has a great time at events we plan. I try to put my touch on everything I do,” says Raper.  “But when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

Raper goes from executive boss to mom in seconds when she walks out the Fun Services door.  She has one child and is expecting another baby in time for Christmas.

Separating the two worlds is important, she says. “I think women that are mothers but also have full-time jobs know it’s hard to balance. I try to leave work at work. And make sure when I am at home, I focus my time on family and kids.”

7535 D St.
Omaha, NE 68124
402.393.7397
funservicesneia.com

The Silicon Trail

March 28, 2017 by

When United Airlines’ first daily nonstop service flight from Eppley Airfield to San Francisco International Airport eased away from the gate in September 2016, Randy Thelen made certain he had a seat.

The senior vice president for economic development at the Omaha Chamber of Commerce saw the importance of that 7 a.m. flight—believed to be the first regular nonstop service between the two cities in a quarter century. Shortly after 9 a.m., he was on the West Coast, in the fertile Silicon Valley, ready for business.

Despite Omaha’s firm footing in the Silicon Prairie—with tech giants like PayPal, Google, LinkedIn, and Yahoo all maintaining a significant presence in the metro—Omaha long struggled with a serious shortcoming when it came time to recruit more. The same shortcoming didn’t help local technology startups secure financial backing from the apparent over-abundance of thick wallet in the Bay area.

Getting from Silicon Valley to Omaha’s corner of the Silicon Prairie was more than a hassle. It usually required at least one connecting flight, stretching a three-hour nonstop flight into nearly a full day of airplanes and airports … and that’s the delay-free version.

“As much as we don’t want location to be a barrier, there’s a very real situation where Silicon Valley investors won’t fly somewhere if they have to switch planes,” says Dusty Davidson, the CEO and co-founder of Flywheel, an Omaha-based startup that builds and hosts WordPress websites. Davidson is also known for his role in creating Silicon Prairie News and one of the largest entrepreneurial tech conferences in the region, Big Omaha.

“It’s not the connection, it’s the time,” he adds.

The required connecting flights cast a pall over Omaha’s distinct advantage as a low-cost jewel compared to the Silicon Valley. Omaha’s lower cost of living and more affordable housing helps save companies on their largest expense: wages. Add in the various business incentives available from the state, along with a strong talent pool and sound infrastructure, and Omaha makes an attractive option for startup and established tech companies, with that notable exception.

“We came up short on the connectivity or on the flights in and out of Silicon Valley,” Thelen says.

Then United Airlines made San Francisco’s International Airport the nation’s 25th airport with regular nonstop flight services to and from Omaha. This spring, a 26th regular nonstop Omaha route will open between here and Houston via Southwest Airlines.

“Now, we’ve taken away that competitive disadvantage, and we’ve been able to promote it as an advantage,” Thelen says. “It really has changed the conversation as we try to continue to build that pipeline between here and Silicon Valley.”

“The ability to have direct service does have an impact on the businesses that choose to do business here,” says Nancy Miller, vice president of operations at Travel and Transport, a national travel booking company based in Omaha. “I think it helps Omaha businesses.”

That an airline would add a regular nonstop flight to San Francisco lends credence to claims of Omaha’s growth as a potential hub in the Silicon Prairie.

“The Omaha economy really seems to have been doing well over the last couple of years,” says Dave Roth, deputy executive director of the Omaha Airport Authority. “It’s just a really positive combination of Omaha and the airlines for those additional flights.”

Omaha has popped up on several national lists as a new hot spot for tech startups. SmartAsset named Omaha the best city in the nation to work in tech in 2015, and Nebraska has been No. 3 on Forbes’ list of Best States for Business for two years running.

Thelen used his first flight to the Silicon Valley to meet with a dozen tech companies, some who already have outposts in town, and few others he’d like see set up shop.

“For the cost of one hotel stay and a pretty simple flight in and out, you can get two full business days of work without the hassle of changing planes and the risk of getting delayed,” Thelen says. “The convenience of business travel just went up exponentially, and you can expect that connectivity to continue to grow.”

Executives headquartered in San Francisco can more easily visit and engage with their Midwestern operations. Or, employees based in Omaha can more efficiently meet with leadership in Silicon Valley. Officials at PayPal and LinkedIn—which employ about 2,800 and 300 people, respectively, in the Omaha area—say there is frequent travel between the Silicon Valley and their operations in Omaha, but exact figures were unavailable.

“To have firms like that, that now have much, much easier access back and forth, frankly it makes our location all that more integral to the operation because it’s a simpler connect now,” Thelen says.

He added: “That simple flight makes a big, big difference.”

And even homegrown startups can take advantage. They can get twice as much done on recruiting trips from the valley, whether they are looking for talent or financing.

Davidson, the CEO at Flywheel, says the increased connectivity will indeed make a big difference for local companies raising money. There still remains a lot of work to put Omaha “on the map” with more sources of local capital and slowing the export of the state’s top technology talent, to name a few.

“I don’t know that you’re able to look at [direct flights to San Francisco] and say, ‘Hey, look, we solved the problem,’” he says. “I think there’s 50 things that are contributing, and what you really want to do is, just one at a time, start whittling away.”

Visit omahachamber.org for more information.

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

Revamped Radio

March 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When the band Train came to Omaha’s Baxter Arena for a concert in December 2016, there were plenty of flashing lights and excited fans. “But when the lights go out and the audience starts screaming, there’s no rush like it in the world,” says Andy Ruback, general manager of NRG Media. Ruback knows a great deal about screaming fans—when a big concert comes to town the likelihood is that Ruback had his hand in the planning. His role as general manager has evolved over the years from managing radio stations to include managing events brought to town by NRG Media Live.

The business is a natural fit for NRG, which owns stations ranging from Power 106.9 to 1290 KOIL. The company was looking to the future for broadcasting and leaning toward live shows as a way to increase profitability. NRG used their strengths in connecting people to music to expand into the business of concert production. With the radio stations’ on-air talent knowing their listeners’ preferences, the media company naturally knew what acts had potential to bring in revenue, and which ones might not.

Ruback came to Omaha from Lincoln, where he served as general manager for their NRG stations. Upon his arrival at the NRG offices in Omaha in 2012, Ruback went full speed ahead. He says the intention was never to focus on live shows over radio shows; rather, he called his plans a method for “diversifying for growth.”

Concert production is a challenge that Ruback gladly accepted, but in it, found unique bumps in the road. Some of those bumps included special requirements, such as permits, that needed the legal team’s help. Shock rocker Alice Cooper, for example, required the team to acquire special insurance because of the pyrotechnics involved with his show. Ruback and his team figured out how to get the right insurance, and now know who to ask the next time someone wants to light up fireworks onstage.

Ruback says some of the more surprising challenges he and his team have faced come from smaller, more routine details.

“I would say it’s more about the crowd experience logistics,” Ruback says. “How do we try to work with the arenas to make sure there’s enough concessions on the floor? What should be the entry ticket price? What should be the price for the front row?”

Logistics is the simplest description for the business of producing concerts. Is the specific artist available at the time? Is there enough interest in this artist to fill the seats? Is a venue available on the day needed?

“We could have the great idea, and the right price, but there could be a UNO hockey game and a Lancers game on the night we want, and we’re out of luck,” Ruback says.

It is a revenue stream in which many community businesses desire to participate, and there are many ways for them to participate, including attaching their name to experiences such as meet-and-greets with the band before or after the show, and attaching their name to souvenirs. Attendees at the Train concert, for example, vied for flashing bracelets and cups branded with a sponsor’s logo. Signage prominently displayed throughout Baxter Arena featured sponsor logos.

The scenario is beneficial to everyone involved: the band gets to play to a well-attended venue, the fans get to enjoy the band, and the sponsors get to present their message in an effective way.

“On that day, no other media group is producing a concert,” Ruback says. “So you’re looking at content that advertisers want to be a part of, but no other client can do.”

The diversification proved wildly successful. Ruback says that since 2014, more than 100,000 people have attended an NRG Media Live event. Associate athletic director for University of Nebraska at Omaha Mike Kemp enjoys his business dealings with NRG Media Live and says that when Ruback puts on a concert at Baxter Arena “… it’s not just a concert—it’s an event. He has great vision and ideas and that’s the true charm of what he does.”

“I think NRG Media does a great job of engaging the community to get behind the events,” adds Kemp. NRG Media has the ability to promote coming shows using the radio stations on their roster and their strong social media presence. This equals solid attendance numbers at concerts and happy sponsors.

“Andy’s full of energy and great ideas,” Kemp says of Ruback. “He’s an honest guy with great enthusiasm for what he does.” Rubak’s vision has evolved NRG Media into much more than an organization simply running local radio stations. In fact, the next time there is a popular concert in town, there is an excellent chance that Ruback can be found there, smiling and enjoying the rush.

Visit nrgmedia.com for more information.

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

Pacific Life

February 24, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The site of Omaha’s old Knights of Aksarben complex—acres of once-busy thoroughbred horse racing and concert space turned albatross—has blossomed anew as the live-work-play destination spot known as Aksarben Village.

The booming mixed-use development is home to popular eateries, a movie theater, health club, and two colleges. This is part of why Pacific Life Insurance Company moved its regional business operations office from downtown to a new five-story building there in late 2015. The company’s Omaha office has grown from 250 to 450 workers since the blue-gray motif structure’s 2014 groundbreaking.

The gleaming, glass-fronted Holland Basham Architects design offers many creature comforts and inhabits prime real estate at 6750 Mercy Road.

The new digs provide a branded presence after a low-key profile at downtown’s Landmark Center.

Angela Greisen, Pacific Life assistant vice president for human resources, says, “We couldn’t have our name on the previous building in any big, visible way. We’d been in Omaha 12-plus years and people still didn’t know we were here.” That’s changed, she says, as events “bring thousands of people to the village and our new building with our big branding and signage is right there in the middle of everything.”

“That’s been huge for us. It’s also given us higher applicant flow because people now know we’re here and here to stay and we’re growing.”

Where many employees had to use off-site parking downtown, they now have an 850-stall covered garage. A heated, enclosed skybridge connects the building to the garage.

Greisen was part of a project team drawn from each Pacific Life business unit that polled employees about their likes and dislikes.

“The three most important things employees said they wanted were parking, amenities, and a nearby location with easy access,” she says.

Aksarben was the clear site choice. Pacific Life partnered with Magnum Development on the $33 million new build. The company occupies the second through fifth floors. Eateries and shops fill the ground floor.

“Staff response has been great,” Greisen says. “They love the parking, the amenities, the bright, airy feel of the building with the wide-open layout, natural lighting, and clean, modern finishes. Though we added only about 10,000 square feet, it’s organized much more efficiently.”

Each floor plan incorporates cutting-edge work spaces to enhance communication, team-building, workflow, and group projects via huddle spaces, conference rooms, and commons areas. She says, “Staff can seamlessly interface in real time with colleagues at other locations through videoconferencing, teleconferencing, and webinar technology.”

There’s a Wall Street trading-room floor look to the third floor internal wholesaling area. Flat-screen panels stream motivational performance messages and live market conditions to the sales desk floor.

In multiple areas, adjustable, stand-up work stations are available. Employees can indulge their freshly brewed beverage cravings at several Keurig stations.

The in-house Park View Cafe is a grab-your-own, pay-with-your-phone Company Kitchen model. The spacious room converts into a meeting-reception space with audio-video connectivity. A covered balcony offers a panoramic overlook of Stinson Park.

Though not green certified, the structure integrates many conservation features, including energy efficient windows, LED lighting, HVAC that is programmed to shut off when areas are unoccupied, low water usage restroom fixtures, and motion-sensor lighting.

Greisen says employees appreciate Aksarben Village’s warm welcome and plethora of things to do. Proximity is a big plus, too, as Pacific Life is an employer partner of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, whose south campus is in the village. As an employer partner, company representatives promote their job opportunites and participate in career fairs; staffers also speak to classes and conduct mock interviews when asked. Greisen hopes this partnership will grow.

“We expect an increase because we have a partnership with UNO, and now we are literally on the edge of their campus,” she says. “It’s very convenient. Increased visibility.  It gives us even more opportunities to partner with the university.”

This visibility, along with the popular amenities, could mean an increase in sought-after employees at Pacific Life in the near future.  And that can help secure Pacific Life’s future.

Visit  aksarbenvillage.com for more information.

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

Professional Pets

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Some of the names spoken about at the marketing firm Envoy might seem unorthodox: Adam, Steve, Stella … and Butter? These names don’t belong to people, but to a pair of Devon rex cats, a French bulldog/pug, and a mini goldendoodle. Dentists have kept tropical aquariums in their waiting rooms for generations, but expanding a workplace’s pet-tential is far more common than that.

Penny Hatchell and Kathy Broniecki have owned Envoy for 13 years, producing materials for clients as varied as Hiland Dairy, Boys Town, and Max I. Walker Cleaners. The decision to allow pets in the office came from the desire to create a flexible and welcoming work environment: “We love to come to work, and we want our employees to come to work,” Broniecki explains. The decision seems to be working for them: “There’s a much greater overall wellness to the office—our quality and productivity has improved, and it keeps things light.”

Kathy Broniecki’s French bulldog/pug, Stella, comes to the office daily.

The animals are great for keeping employees happy, or helping employees who have a bad day cheer up.

“This has been studied and we can see that animals have value in emotional therapy, or to be assistant animals in places like nursing homes,” says Teresa T. Freeman, a therapist in Omaha. “They have noticed a positive effect in studies pets have on people in isolated situations to help boost their mood, wellness, and even improve physiology—things like heart rate, blood pressure, and other stress responses.”

The cats were rescued and considered part of Envoy, while the dogs and a hedgehog are others’ personal pets.

Broniecki says the company is reasonable about how having pets around can affect productivity, too: “It’s natural to get distracted at work, and focusing too hard can just make things worse. Getting by distracted by the pets is a much more positive outlet than other options,” Broniecki says.

Perhaps the greatest boon to Envoy has been the camaraderie the animals’ presence has built. “One stormy day,” Broniecki says, “Adam the cat went missing. It became an all-hands-on- deck situation in that moment trying to find him.” Everyone keeps treats on their desks for them, and when the dogs arrive in the morning, they make sure to greet every employee first thing, desk by desk. Hatchell, who takes the cats home with her when the day is over, adds: “even over the holidays, I’ll get texts asking how they’re doing, and even requesting pics.”

That camaraderie is a common bond between employees and furry friends, and can be a way to connect with shyer clients or new staff members.

“It breaks down barriers,” Freeman says. “People may not be comfortable with where they’re at emotionally, or isolated.”

Envoy’s office cat Adam, is a rescue cat.

Envoy is not alone in enjoying the pet perks. At J.A. McCoy CPA (located off 90th and Maple streets) Julie McCoy, in partnership with her rescue dog JoJo, tackles that lightning rod of stressful situations—taxes. McCoy has kept a dog at work since day one of starting her firm. “We work a lot of long hours, and dealing with taxes and estates is often not a fun experience. But with JoJo here, people look forward to coming in,” she says. Like at Envoy, McCoy has seen the same positive influence in her office: “Clients love it–we get a lot of business by word of mouth because of JoJo.” And of course, employees are encouraged to have play time. “We’re doing stuff that requires a lot of concentration, so it’s good to have a break.”

Pam Wiese, V.P. of public relations for the Nebraska Humane Society, also believes that having pets in the office can do wonders to reduce stress. “Focusing on something that isn’t another person, like the nurturing qualities of animals, can help calm people down.” Pets, she says, provide an element of levity that certainly has value in defusing tense work scenarios. She brings her own dog to work every day, but cats, fish, and even critters can all contribute. “We once had a bearded dragon here in the office. He’d sit out on his rock and sunbathe while people came to visit him over their lunches,” Wiese says. Though the NHS has not made any concerted push to get animals into offices, they have had their share of interested parties looking to adopt. “We’re happy to work with people to find an animal for them,” she says, “as long as it’s an appropriate situation.”

There are certainly many factors to weigh before introducing a pet into your own office. “Animals need to be comfortable,” Weise says. If the conditions aren’t safe or comforting for the pet, that opens up the opportunity for additional problems, like becoming loud or aggressive. If you’re going to have a pet, they will need to have their own private space and occasionally training to cope with many active people surrounding them. There’s also the human factor to consider: not everyone is an animal lover. “You’ll need to be considerate of the phobias, allergies, and even prejudices of the people passing through your workplace.”

McCoy, Broniecki, and Hatchell were all able to speak to experiences with clients that turned sour because of their furry compatriots, but also noted that they were few and far between. “Only one client of ours didn’t want to come to the office because we had cats,” Hatchell explains. Similarly, McCoy shared that she did have clients with phobias: “We always try to be upfront and communicate ahead we’re a pet-friendly office. When a client comes in that has trouble with that, we make sure JoJo stays in her ‘office’ [and she does have an office, nameplate and all].”

Regardless, they were each in confident agreement: their pawed pals have been a big plus for their businesses.

Nora belongs to Amy Goldyn.

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

From The Editor

February 23, 2017 by

B2B Magazine started 2017 by highlighting the many successful women in business around Omaha, and this issue, we bring you the best of the city for business needs.

This contest is a bit different from the Best of Omaha, where the ballot is published online so anyone in the community can choose their favorites. In the Best of B2B contest, the winners are nominated on ballots printed in the 20,000 copies of the winter issue. Each issue of the magazine contained a ballot—a chance for readers to vote on favorite businesses that cater to the local business community (for example: business lunch, carpet cleaning, and much more).

How many of us can truly say we love our work? I do, actually. I look forward to coming to the office. A big part of this is that I work with an incredible team of creatives and salespeople, and one lizard. Yes, lizard—Spike the bearded dragon. Spike came to visit a couple of years ago when the publisher and his family left for Europe, and he has been with us since. He’s docile, usually sitting under his heat lamp hanging around. Sometimes when I am really feeling overwhelmed, I walk downstairs to his aquarium and watch him for a moment, sunning himself, enjoying life.

In the spring issue, we bring you the story of Envoy, which keep cats, dogs, and even a hedgehog in the office. Employees keep treats for the fur-ployees at their desks, and if one of the pets turns up missing, the whole office helps in finding their special friend.

What about you? Do you have a pet in your office? Does your office allow you to bring your pets to work? Or do you vote nay to keeping or having pets in the office? Does the fur or the smell bother you? Follow us on social media and join the conversation (@omahamagazine on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram).

We also have other incredible articles in this issue. Like many forms of traditional media, radio is looking for alternate ways to increase revenue. NRG Media has found new business opportunities through concerts.

Ride-sharing has become a popular trend in the past several years. While people are more prone to call for an Uber in a coastal city where the cost of owning a car is prohibitive, Omaha does offer alternatives to jumping into your own vehicle when you want to go somewhere. One of those alternatives is Zipcar. This car-sharing service allows users to access one of several fleet vehicles in the area by reserving a time and date for a car. The vehicle is then available for the reserver to use by the hour or the day.

And if you need to go outside of the city, traveling to Silicon Valley just became a bit easier by flying on United Airlines’ nonstop flights between Omaha and San Francisco.

This issue of B2B, like all issues, proves to be an adventure. I hope you enjoy it.

Daisy Hutzell-Rodman is associate editor of B2B, a publication of Omaha Magazine LTD. She can be reached at daisy@omahamagazine.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This letter was printed in the Spring 2017 edition of B2B.

 

Transitorily Yours

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a new Encounter column focusing on millennial life by Brent Crampton. To share your significant life experiences, email millennials@omahapublications.com

Today is Jan. 7, 2017, and yesterday I walked out of House of Loom one last time. It was a place that I co-owned, DJed at, and curated events for. The scene I left was only a shell. There were no swirling lights or sounds, no Victorian lounge vibes, and certainly no lively, booze-fueled conversations. Just an echo of the life that filled that place for 5 1/2 years remained (along with the bustle of a construction crew ripping a hole in the wood floor).

Loom was many things to many people, but to me it was a lovely little social experiment that blended cultures, creatives, and communities. Categorically, it was a nightclub and event venue, but to the folks frequenting its experiences, it was a place where patrons and friends could mobilize around causes, express emotions, mourn passings, and celebrate life’s contrasts.

The influx of people was so fluid that you could not distinguish it as a straight or gay bar, but simply as a people’s bar. On its best nights, it brought together folks who normally wouldn’t intersect in our city, and lifted us out of the doldrums of our daily lives.

It is rare for a business to shut down without the force of an unpaid bill. As a friend and fellow small business owner says, it is a gift to be able to close on your own terms. And that is exactly what we did. For myself and the other owners, House of Loom was never meant to be permanent. It was a successful social experiment. And it was time to move on.

I have spent the past 13 years of my life fervently dedicated to contributing to Omaha’s nightlife. With this new year, I embark on a new chapter—one where the loud and flashy peaks of club life are swapped for the quiet joy of watching my 1-year-old baby stand on her own for the first time. Now, spontaneous social gatherings are traded for intimate dinner parties (often planned months in advance). Instead of falling asleep as the sun rises, I wake up  with the sun.

It is a different life—one with its own advantages. My prior life could never hold a candle to this new world. In fact, as I write this, my baby daughter is napping away on my chest after a messy meal of liquified plums, apples, and carrots. She is tuckered out, and so am I.

This brings me to why I am writing this column. During this next chapter of my life, I will be taking some time to hibernate in the creative womb. The invitation to turn to the reflective act of writing seemed like a synchronistic opportunity. Instead of only sharing my notions of creativity and thought from behind a DJ booth, I will gladly be able to do so in this space.

Much like my life right now, I am going to ad-lib my writing. Most likely I will touch on topics ranging from the social impact of nightlife (of course), the curiosities of parenting (because I’m new at this), food (because I get giddy when I eat good food), and inclusiveness and equality (because of our new president), all through the millennial lens of a 30-something, post-nightclub-owning new papa.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Brent Crampton previously co-owned House of Loom and is co-owner of Berry & Rye, a bar in the Old Market. A multi-award-winning DJ in a former life, he now prefers evenings spent at home with his family.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Show Of Hands

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you love trips to the museum and trips to the manicurist, Imagine Uhlenbrock is your one-stop shop for a day of art, style, and self-care all rolled into one stunning experience.

Uhlenbrock is the “nail genie” and artist behind Just Imagine Nails. Keratin is her canvas and her work is constantly showing on the hands of happy clients throughout Omaha.

“I started doing my own nails when I was about 4, because I was an only child and it was something I could do for myself,” Uhlenbrock says.

Her interest in nail art grew through middle school and high school, culminating in her first steady nail job at a downtown Omaha salon. It was meant to be her college job, but Uhlenbrock loved the craft so much she launched her own business doing natural, ethical nails at age 19.

For those skeptical that a manicurist can be a “real” artist, one look at Uhlenbrock’s vibrant Instagram portfolio provides ample evidence of her artistry and talent. Intricate, hand-painted designs, patterns, and messages mingle with hand-placed bling. Colors and textures pop, and unique, creative themes inspire the urge to scroll right on down the rabbit hole because no two sets are alike and your eyeballs will want to collect them all.

 

 “It’s just like commissioning any other piece of art,” Uhlenbrock says. “I always have ideas, so I have clients who just come in and let me do whatever I want every two weeks, or sometimes they come in with a theme or idea in mind. Most of the time it’s a collaborative process and we customize it based on the vision and what they’re feeling like that week.”

This process has resulted in galaxy nails, Vegas- and beach-themed vacation nails, desert sunset nails, snowflake and Christmas nails, Fourth of July “red, white, and bling” nails, Ouija board nails, Netflix and chill nails, ice cream and French fry nails, nails that are geometric, plaid, rainbow, floral, color-blocked, gradient, holographic or chrome, and nails that mimic abstract paintings, among others.

“I take inspiration from everywhere. The print of your dress, the pattern of that chair, the texture of this pillow, someone’s artwork,” Uhlenbrock says.

Then there are the pop culture nails. She’s done sets that honor artists including Eartha Kitt, Prince, Beyoncé, and Frida Kahlo, that appreciate cultural icons ranging from Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson to Grumpy Cat, that recognize the Broadway Hamilton phenomenon, that reference literature from Harry Potter to local author Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and that celebrate TV shows from The Golden Girls to The Powerpuff Girls. Her popular annual Halloween special has taken inspiration from The Addams Family, Stranger Things, The X-Files, and Hocus Pocus sets, as well as one of her personal all-time favorites: Michael Jackson “Thriller” nails.

“You can see from my themes that I like weird,” Uhlenbrock says. “I’ll put anything on a nail as long as it’s not problematic.”

Uhlenbrock’s political work is also incredibly compelling. She’s done anti-pipeline nails, Black Lives Matter nails, and nails that read “Go Vote,” among others.

“One of the roles of an artist is to get people to think or to spread certain messages. Nail art is no different than any other art form in that way,” Uhlenbrock says. “That’s how art and social justice can intersect by creating visuals, sounds, or whatever the medium to raise awareness, to educate, or to relieve pain and pressure for the oppressed. So, a lot of what I do is people’s regular self-care.”

In December 2016, Uhlenbrock opened her Hand of Gold Beauty Room space in the Fair Deal Village Marketplace, near 24th and Lake streets. She currently shares the space with two subcontractors, Qween Samone and Ria Gold, who help support the service menu of natural nails, makeup, and braiding. Uhlenbrock enjoys working in the thriving area among neighboring small business owners and she’s committed to using her space to support her peers.

“We support small businesses here,” Uhlenbrock says. “Economic disenfranchisement has been a huge tool of oppression against people of color. So, it’s really important to me as I grow and have my own economic development to reach out and empower others through that as well.”

Uhlenbrock stocks body care products from Lincoln-based Miss Kitty and Her Cats, pieces from Omaha’s Amaral Jewelry, and gets all of her regular polishes from Ginger + Liz, a black woman-owned, vegan-friendly, toxin-free nail lacquer company. She also sells jewelry from her other business, The Bigger the Hoops.

Besides providing an important platform for a network of artists and makers, the petite Hand of Gold Beauty Room just feels like a place you want to be. A plush, amber-colored couch beckons from the pedicure platform that Uhlenbrock and her mother hand-built. The walls are decked with striking work by Lincoln artist Brittany Burton, featuring black-and-white depictions of “thick” women with sparse flashes of green and yellow. Soul music fills the air and large windows let ample natural light stream in.

“Everyone should probably go to a therapist, but not everyone does—some people get their nails done instead,” Uhlenbrock says. “They can come here, have a good conversation, and leave feeling like a million bucks with something good to look at for a couple weeks. It’s a lot easier to feel like you have your shit together when your nails are on point.”

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

The Art of Selling

January 4, 2017 by

Sales is a great career option for the professional businesswoman. Through sales, women can escape gender inequalities in pay, since sales commissions are based on what is sold. The sales venue offers unlimited potential for upside growth. In sales, performance is the equalizing metric that objectively defines success for the professional man or woman equally. Nevertheless, it is true that the marketplace may not treat the professional saleswoman with absolute equality.

One important decision must be made for the saleswoman to defy the odds. That is: make a deliberate effort to master the art of selling.

Regardless of gender, almost all sales engagements start like this: The prospect (i.e., the buyer) takes the position of authority, and the salesperson takes the position of submission. I call this “selling from your knees or begging for business.” This posture is never favorable for the sales professional since this often results in salespeople providing free services and information to prospects that may not result in actual purchases.

High performing sales professionals demonstrate their expertise by tactfully establishing equal business stature between themselves and the prospect. For the female sales professional, establishing equal business stature can be more challenging, mainly because of traditional societal pressure for women (and saleswomen) to adopt a submissive role.

All professionals, men and women alike, have their own sets of challenges to overcome. Those who can overcome their challenges enter into the elite group of high performers. Sales professionals spanning all across the gender spectrum must understand the challenges in their market. Understanding any particular challenge is one step toward success, because the challenges can be overcome.

Sales is the highest compensated profession on the planet. It also can be the most challenging profession. It is the women and men of the sales profession who are the frontline soldiers in business. They take all the shots and rejection, and then they repeat the slog again the next day. If you enter the battlefield unprepared and/or undertrained, you will get blown up a lot…which can figuratively (and psychologically) tear you to pieces.

Saleswomen, you must make the decision to invest in yourself and get the same kind of rigorous training in sales as one gets from school or college when pursuing a degree. In other words, get your bachelor’s degree in sales. The self-investment will most likely have the highest ROI compared to any other investment you could make.

Now, let’s visit Marcy*. Marcy is a professional saleswoman who works in the commercial flooring business and is an expert in her field. She works very hard, puts in a lot of hours, and prepares a lot of proposals. But she earns a wage that is less than what she wants. Over and over, Marcy demonstrates her expertise by pulling together information, doing the research, bringing in the right products, and delivering a workable solution even on the most challenging of projects. Then, to her horror, she learns that her prospect has auctioned off her intellectual property to a lower priced supplier.

In such a predicament, the prospect was in control (the authority), and Marcy was the servant (the submissive). The sales engagement had begun with the prospect calling Marcy and asking, “Can you put together a proposal for this project?” For weeks, I had been instructing Marcy to demand equal business stature by responding with, “I have the highest prices in town.” But Marcy was not comfortable with such an assertive stance. For years, she had been playing the role of servant.

Finally, she got out of her comfort zone and started to push back. Something remarkable started to happen. Prospects didn’t hang up on her. They didn’t always pursue the lower priced suppliers. Instead, they wanted to know why her prices were higher, which then began a sales conversation where Marcy was in control.

The prospects that wanted low price moved on without consuming Marcy’s time in proposal preparation. Those were the same prospects that would have put her (submissive) to work, consumed her time, and still auctioned off her information to the low price provider. Her new posture funneled the price shoppers to her competitors and funneled the prospects that wanted her value into an equal business stature sales conversation (which, more often than not, resulted in business). The marketplace saw a sales professional in Marcy and made no judgment based on the fact that she is a woman. That is a real manifestation of gender neutrality in the sales profession.

It is you—not your product or your gender—that make your business great. It is here where investment should be made to grow your business. So, what is your answer? Are you a professional saleswoman?

*Marcy is a composite character inspired by real people.

Karl Schaphorst is a 27-year veteran of sales who now specializes in training other sales professionals. He is the president of Sandler Training.

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

Establishing an Innovative Niche

January 3, 2017 by

While contemplating the theme of B2B’s Women in Business issue, I immediately thought of my friend and client, Amy Zier. She has experience launching and managing businesses in the United States and Italy, and her new cloud-based venture will have truly global reach.

Originally from Omaha, Amy is a trained occupational therapist. Twenty years ago, she opened her first office in Chicago, Amy Zier & Associates. She moved to Italy 10 years ago and has clinics in Napoli, Rome, and Rovereto. The Chicago clinic is still operating, but Amy manages it mainly from Italy.

I asked her if she noticed any differences between running businesses in the United States and Italy. She tells me it’s very rare for a woman to own a private business in Italy, let alone a therapeutic clinic. The challenges involved with starting up were different, too: “The steps to having a business and running a business in Chicago were much easier. You just do it. Here in Italy, there is a lot of bureaucracy to deal with. Building a business in the U.S. is much easier!”

“Building my practice in Italy challenged me in every way imaginable,” she says. “Learning to speak Italian at the level I could connect with professionals and families was difficult. Understanding the culture was an obstacle in the beginning as I really needed to understand perceptions of disabilities, child development, and the role of parents and extended family within the child’s life. I was fortunate to bring to Italy ideas and ways of clinically working with children and parents that were less common; many Italians are looking outside of their ‘system’ to find ways to support differences in their child’s development.”

One of the keys to Amy’s success has been in carving out a unique niche: her clinics use a combination of two methods—DIR (the Developmental, Individual-differences, Relationship-based model) and SI (Sensory Integrations). She tells me, “Innovation is highly valued in my organizations. I encourage thinking boldly, designing programs that make a difference, even though they might be outside the traditional way of practicing.”

One newsworthy thing Amy is doing now is launching an online training/certification program for her unique combination of DIR and SI. Her targets are anyone in the UK and Italian time zones and any English speaking countries.

“The DIR/SI organization was built on the idea of bringing innovative courses to practitioners, educators, and parents from around the globe,” she says. “Our approach to teaching is unique: by incorporating practice-based opportunities, mentoring from a range of experts in diverse fields related to developmental disabilities, and building foundational capacities related to reflective practice, observation of developmental phenomena, and analyzing how to measure our impact as clinicians in meaningful ways.”

What is she looking forward to? “Bringing together participants from different countries and areas of clinical practice will be very interesting.”

The takeaway: By uniquely combining two practices in her “industry,” Amy has become a great example of creating a niche in business.

Scott Anderson is CEO of Doubledare, an executive coaching, consulting, and search firm.

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