Tag Archives: Jeff Koterba

Strumming Up Some Business

January 19, 2018 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Editor’s note: This profile on a local Omaha entrepreneur is not an endorsement by B2B Magazine or Omaha Magazine. Disgruntled customers, employees, and/or suppliers should address any complaints directly to Gear Supply Co.


Omaha World-Herald cartoonist Jeff Koterba is the guitarist, principal songwriter, and lead vocalist—in other words, the catalyst—behind the popular local band the Prairie Cats.

He also isn’t the only musician in the family. Son Joshua Koterba started playing guitar as soon as he could pick one up, and he began playing the trumpet in third grade. He kept playing until he became a teenager.

“Son, you can’t write a love song on a trumpet,” Jeff told him.

So Joshua hung up his trumpet, picked up the guitar again, and wrote love songs. The guitar became a spiritual connection for him, a deep draw to a place of elation and completion.

“It’s magic, you know,” Koterba, now 31, explains.

Koterba took the plunge into the music retail business two years ago with his start-up, Gear Supply Co. As a musician and a freelance audio engineer, Koterba developed a set of unique skills. He knew how to make his low wages work in creative ways. He has a scrappy, lean mentality that translates perfectly into the world of entrepreneurship. It takes blood, sweat, tears, and soul.

Koterba, though, did not run full tilt into the fire. It started with Koterba’s own adventure seeking strings for his 15-year-old Fender guitar. The stores he visited didn’t have what he needed, so he bought it all online.

The purchase left him feeling disconnected. A musician’s guitar is like an artist’s brush. The tools matter and artists have emotional attachments to their instruments.

Not having customized supplies turned into a problem Koterba itched to solve. He spent months researching his client base. He knew other artists in the industry felt the same way and needed a buyer bond. Could he start a business from his garage in Florida with little income? The risk, in his eyes, seemed worth it. Koterba didn’t have a business degree, just a dream.

“It doesn’t matter how hard it gets if you know you are helping people,” Koterba says.

He used a couple thousand dollars from his tax return to buy products. Specifically, three different types of guitar strings. He knocked over the dominoes on his marketing plan: an e-mail with an opportunity to win free items if someone brought in more sign-ups. Koterba’s gamble paid off and he collected 5,000 e-mail addresses, along with 100 paying customers.

Eight months or so later, his company drew interest from an angel investor from Nebraska. The hard- working mentality of Midwesterners and the central location seemed ideal for his idea. He moved back to Omaha and was accepted to NMotion, a 90-day accelerator in Lincoln. The final project was to pitch his ideas in front of thousands of people to draw in capital investors. Eight more came on board. The money gained from the investors went towards testing and determining growth strategies, investing in customer acquisition, and employee wages.

Koterba retains more than 51 percent of the company, and Gear Supply Co. is breaking even after two years. Entrepreneurship takes a remarkable amount of hard work. Koterba clears his mind with decompressing silence on his trips to Florida to see his two children. It helps him brainstorm innovative ideas or think about new supplies.

Customer demand means Koterba has added gauges and straps to his inventory. He added guitar pedals using crowdsourcing as an additional method of gaining capital. Koterba has a hand in designing products and it allows him to make connections with like-minded artists.

Blues player and shredder Sebastian Lane buys many of these products on Gear Supply Co.’s list, including custom picks.

“They are the leading forefront when it comes to quality guitar goods,” Lane says.

Koterba still plays his instrument daily, strumming in his chair and trying out product lines while responding to e-mails. At the end of the day (even if that means 1 a.m.), nothing replaces diligence because, “no one is going to work as hard as you.”

Visit gearsupply.co for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Dr. Antoinette Turnquist

May 27, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in May/June 2015 edition of 60-Plus.

She’s been described as “Dynamite.” “Amazing.” “Unique.” “A Living Legend.”

These are just some of the words Dr. Antoinette Turnquist’s former students use to describe her and the difference she has made in their lives.

What makes one teacher stand out among so many others, and make such an impact on his or her students…an impact felt even years later? It might be her basic teaching philosophy: “Every student matters; every student can learn,” as she puts it. Or, her “great joy in watching them learn…watching them discover things.” Whatever the reason, these glowing remarks are about someone, surprisingly, who never even wanted to be a teacher.

Dr. Turnquist, a teacher in the Omaha Public School System for 39 years (1964-2003), says she had planned to go directly to graduate school for a Master of Fine Arts degree. “I wanted to become a producing artist,” she explains, “but I took just enough education courses to be certified as a kind of insurance policy.”

That, of course, was before she ever stepped into a classroom. “I did my first semester of student teaching,“ she recalls, “and fell in love with it…with the kids, with the process, with the whole concept of public education.” She adds, “I myself was a product of public education, but I had never fully comprehended the significance of it until I stood there in front of all those waiting faces.”

Her long and illustrious teaching career began with three years of teaching in both the old Monroe Junior High and McMillan Junior High schools and ended at Omaha South High School, where she taught for 36 years. And though her teaching days are over, (she admits she misses her students), she is still indirectly impacting them…52,000 of them, to be exact.

In 2003, her dedication to public education led her, quite naturally, to the Omaha Public Schools district office, where she served as Coordinator of Business Services. In 2008, she was named Director of Business Services, and today, she is the Executive Director of District Operational Services, responsible for the many support services for all district students.

Todd Andrews, who works with her as communications director at the district office, says, “At 50-plus years with OPS, Dr. Turnquist is one of the living legends of the district. She has humbly and energetically dedicated her entire professional life to educational excellence. The district is extremely fortunate to have her.”

Looking back on her teaching days, Dr. Turnquist fondly recalls that “one of the first things I discovered at South High was their wonderful diversity, which included Hispanic and Latino as well as Caucasian students, and the whole philosophy at South, which was to implement programs for every student.”

She started out as an art teacher, serving as department chair for the Visual Arts department. One of her former students, Jeff Koterba, a 1979 South High graduate, also recalls those days: “I took Toni’s art classes, and if not for her, I wouldn’t be the artist I am, but more importantly, the man I am,” says Koterba, the longtime editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald. “Because of her belief in me, her patience and her wisdom, I found a better path, the path I was meant to follow.”

Eventually, she chaired the newly-created Fine Arts department, which included Visual Arts, Theater, Drama, Vocal Music, Instrumental Music, and Humanities, giving students many new opportunities, including working at Opera Omaha on local productions.

“It was an exciting time to be a teacher,” she recalls, “as we looked for new avenues of education for our students.” That goal, in fact, led to her and another teacher creating a new course for young women, so they could see what opportunities were available to them, and also to learn about their own history. They called it “Women’s Studies,” and “it proved to be a very popular class.”

Another former student, in fact, can personally attest to that. Lenli Corbett, a 2001 South High graduate, says, “Dr. Turnquist’s Womens’ Studies class was incredibly important to me, to my development as a woman and as a future professional. She brings out the best in you…not every teacher is able to do that.”

When asked if she considers herself successful (her list of achievements include Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers (1994), among many others), Dr. Turnquist quoted Lee Iacocca, who said, ‘Your legacy should be that you made it better than it was when you got it.’ Thus, I would say yes, I think I have been successful both as a teacher and as a central office administrator. What anyone else might think about my success along that line is anyone else’s call, not mine, and I am quite comfortable with that.”

Turnquist says she has no plans to retire anytime soon, either from OPS or her 50-plus years of working as a visual artist. “Some may think it’s strange,” she says, “but I still like getting up every day, getting dressed, and trying to make a difference.”

Dr.-Antoinette-Turnquist2

Jeff Koterba

January 16, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Political statements in Omaha, it would seem, don’t originate solely from behind a podium or during photo ops.

For Omaha World-Herald editorial cartoonist Jeff Koterba, his catalog of more than 7,200 cartoons means he has an important voice on the political stage.

“I want to be part of the discussion, the great conversation,” Koterba says. “I’m like anyone else reading the paper or paying attention to the news. I just happen to be able to draw about it.”

 

Koterba, whose 25-year cartoon collection Koterba: Drawing You In hit stores last fall, has drawn editorial cartoons for the World-Herald since 1989. Although initially a sports cartoonist for the Kansas City Star, Koterba confesses he has a “bigger world in his head” than just athletics. Politics, for him, was the next logical step.

“I’m always trying to find not just the middle-ground,” he explains, “but a third or fourth way of looking at an issue. I get really sick of looking at right versus left, red versus blue. I try to go beyond the visible, predictable route.”

Which, predictably, provokes some backlash: “I piss off both sides of the aisle frequently.”

Koterba admits that he receives a fair amount of both fan mail and hate mail, but both have occasionally been cause to reassess his position on specific topics—topics that Koterba brainstorms from sometimes the oddest of angles.

“I try to find inspiration in places beyond the obvious,” Koterba says. “It might be reading the side of a cereal box, listening in on a conversation in a coffee shop, or going to a concert. I never know where an idea might come from.”

That diversity of ideas might come easier for Koterba, given the versatile life he leads. His rockabilly/swing/blues band, the Prairie Cats, although currently on hiatus, have released three albums. He’s the author of two previous cartoon collections and has penned a memoir. He even survived a lightning strike in high school.

Koterba’s subjects of drawing can range anywhere from ebola to Huskers football to the Omaha weather, but he tries not to be predictable. For him, substance rather than technique is the “meat and potatoes” of any given cartoon.

“There are plenty of people out there that can draw way better than I can, but if you don’t have a concept or substance, the drawing falls flat. It’s empty,” Koterba says. “I’d much rather have a great idea. Drawing is sort of like the frosting on the cake.”

Koterba’s verve, then, is perhaps his strongest asset.

“I try to find some different takes on things,” he says. “I try to keep it fresh.”