Tag Archives: Laka Lono

Bold and Bonded

January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Don’t call them a power couple, but Ethan and Susan Bondelid definitely fit the mold.

Through their development company, Maven Social, the Bondelids have built an impressive brand by starting up some truly creative businesses that run the gamut from hair salons to speak-easies. Their most recent startup is Monarch Prime & Bar, an upscale restaurant located inside
Hotel Deco.

“I’ve been opening businesses as long as I can remember,” Ethan says. “I’ve only been in the bar and restaurant business for seven years now.”

Despite being a newbie, Ethan and company (along with Susan, he’s had several partners) have made a big noise in Omaha’s fast-moving and thriving hospitality industry.

House of Loom was one early success, followed by The Berry & Rye. Maven Social then began the salon Victor Victoria, before opening speak-easy Wicked Rabbit, pizza parlor Via Farina, Laka Lono Rum Club, and now Monarch.

“Ethan has been an entrepreneur since the day I met him when we were only 20 years old,” Susan says. “His ambition and proactive nature have been inspirations for me since day one.”

A fierce attention to detail has been another key to success. Maven properties are uniquely designed and incredibly decorated down to finest minutiae, such as the rabbit coat hooks at Wicked Rabbit.

“We are about creating unique experiences,” Susan says. “Life is hard. We want places for people to go to take a breather and relax, maybe get inspired, and then take on their next day with new energy.”

Vital to creating those experiences is finding the right employees to help pull it off. “I think the No. 1 challenge facing new business today is talent. And taxes,” Susan says.

Why is Omaha such a good investment for new business?

“For us, Omaha has always been incredibly supportive of people trying to do something, both in the arts and in business,” Ethan says. “Omaha also makes it easier to get started. Resources needed can be more accessible, and the level to entry is lower than in some markets.”

It doesn’t hurt, Susan adds, that Omaha’s her hometown. “We love the people and the spirit,” she says. “We’re in the midst of a major growth and it’s super exciting. We’re right at the beginning of our potential, and everyone here has the opportunity to shape the city.”

Operating a thriving business and being a couple does have advantages, but it takes commitment. “You have to know when—and always remind each other—to turn it off and switch gears for family time,” Ethan says. The Bondelids have two children, Cai and Ava. “We need to also be conscious of how it can be difficult for other team members to navigate a husband-and-wife management.”

Susan says it helps that they share a basic foundation of support. “And we have each other’s backs,” she says.

What advice would the Bondelids give to first-time business owners?

“It depends on the business type of course, but ultimately it will always come down to the teams you surround yourself with,” Ethan says.

Susan urges new business owners to seek out other business owners and ask questions. “There’s a great support network in Omaha to utilize, and we’re all hoping for the best for each other,” she says. “The more unique, successful businesses, the more we look attractive to the nation as a whole and the more we’ll grow. Also, get your important people in place, such as lawyers, accountants, insurance agents. They’ll help your business in more ways than one.”

Ethan refuses to pick his favorite startup. “That would be like picking a favorite band,” he says. “They all have their share of victories and heartaches.”

“House of Loom is and will always be my favorite,” Susan says. “It was my first business baby and we all poured our hearts into it, from the Victorian furniture to the menu to the unique music/cultural programming. Ethan and I learned the service industry firsthand from paperwork to barbacking to bartending. We learned the difference of using fresh ingredients in cocktails and really strived to make all peoples heard and known. We had an amazing family there. Also, it was a…ton of fun.”

Visit mavensocialgroup.com for more information.

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