Tag Archives: Borsheims

Saving Animals, Chasing Penguins

May 3, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

As the dedicated diamond buyer for Borsheims, it’s not surprising that Heather Ingraham travels all over the world. She even went to the Falkland Islands recently—but not to inspect precious gems—to look at penguins.

Ingraham, 38, credits her job for inspiring her dedication to animal conservation. It all started with a Zoofari fundraiser for the Henry Doorly Zoo at her work in 2011.

Zoo ambassadors were walking around Borsheim’s luxury salon with animals (penguins, snakes, and bullfrogs). “I was having an amazing time speaking with the keepers, learning about the animals, and one of the keepers at one point told me that I could be doing this, too,” she says.

Since that encounter, Ingraham began volunteering at the zoo almost every Saturday. She gives presentations to the public, assists keepers, and feeds birds, snakes, and rodents.

Her devotion to animal welfare doesn’t stop there. Ingraham also volunteers with Nebraska Wildlife Rehab, an organization that receives injured and abandoned wildlife from the public.

She even keeps some of those animals in her home, including bats. 

“I’m really involved with the bats in the winter,” says Ingraham, who kept 40 bats over the past winter. “They’re supposed to be hibernating. There’re not enough bugs out for them to eat, so we can’t release them.”

If a bat gets in your home during any time of the year, she urges you not to harm it. Call the Nebraska Humane Society instead for a free removal. She says the nocturnal creatures are highly effective pollinators that keep the mosquito population in check to prevent the spread of West Nile virus.

Volunteers like Ingraham keep the bats at home in small containers, feeding them so they gain sufficient weight to hibernate. When the weather warms in spring, they release 200-400 bats at a public event held outside Joslyn Art Museum.

On top of that, she is a Nebraska Humane Society foster parent. Her colleagues call her the “critter foster parent” for taking in all the animals that are not dogs and cats—i.e, rats, gerbils, etc.

Penguins, however, are Ingraham’s obsession.

“I love all birds. I’ve seen close to 600 species of birds,” she says. “It’s just that…penguins hold a special place in my heart. They’re just so comical. They are very devoted parents, and they’re just so different from each other.”

Ingraham has seen penguins in South Africa, Chile, and the Galápagos Islands. Her goal is to see every species of penguin in the wild. She’s currently seen seven. (The nonprofit organization BirdLife International says there are 18 penguin species.)

The Falkland Islands are a popular summer nesting ground for penguins, so Ingraham traveled there in February to take a land-based trip, which allows visitors to see the birds up close. That’s about all the trip entailed. Just watching penguins. No guided tours or other activities.

It was a dream come true for Ingraham. “I saw thousands and thousands of penguins,” she says. “I was surprised at how close I was able to get up to them.”

Lest you think it sounds like a cold trip, the Falklands get very little snow. “They’re actually just kind of in grassy areas,” she says of the flightless birds. “You would see a penguin next to a sheep.” Sheep farming is a popular industry on the British territory in the south Atlantic Ocean.

Some of the diamond buyer’s philanthropic work has also benefited her employer. In fact, as a result of her participating in a baby rhino rescue in South Africa in 2016, Ingraham helped design Borsheims’ Kalahari Dream Diamond Rhino Pendant (an 18-carat gold necklace with a rough diamond selling for $550) with a portion of proceeds going to help Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary in South Africa where she had volunteered.

Ingraham has many other plans for the future. She’ll be working with bats in Malawi this summer, and besides seeing the rest of the penguin species, she hopes to hug a whale in Mexico, go on a mountain gorilla trek in Rwanda, and work with wallabies in Australia.

“With my involvement at the zoo and volunteering, sometimes it can be a little overwhelming,” she says. “But I want to do everything I possibly can. I want to live a life of education, adventure, and generosity.”

Visit nebraskawildliferehab.org, nehumanesociety.org, and omahazoo.com for more information about the local organizations where Ingraham volunteers.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

The Oracle of Omaha’s Edible Investments

April 29, 2018 by
Photography by Provided

Every spring, Berkshire Hathaway shareholders from around the globe convene in Omaha to hear the financial wisdom of legendary investors Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger. Shareholders also partake of some good grub. The annual Berkshire shareholders meeting’s organizers present attendees with an array of savory bites and tasty treats in the days surrounding the event.

This year, Berkshire subsidiary Borsheims will host a private cocktail reception for shareholders Friday, May 4 (6-9 p.m.), at Regency Court Shopping Center. The big tent will include live music and a complimentary bar and buffet featuring gourmet appetizers and a carving station provided by Abraham Catering. Indoors, guests shopping for designer jewelry and fine gifts will have access to a second buffet and bar. Investors may return for a complimentary brunch Sunday (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) at Regency Court. Again, there’ll be live music, and guests can play table tennis with a former Olympian or partake in a game of bridge (one of Buffett’s favorite pastimes). Though not promised, Buffett may swing by for a bite and mingle with guests.

Subsidiary Nebraska Furniture Mart will hold a shareholders picnic Saturday (5:30-8 p.m.) at its Omaha and Texas locations. Cost is $5 and will cover food-truck fare and entertainment. Visitors looking to enjoy a good cut of Midwestern beef have another option. Gorat’s Steak House, one of Buffett’s preferred business lunch spots, will host a shareholders’ steak special from noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. Reservations are required and space is limited, so red-meat lovers should act quickly.

A major tenet of Buffett’s investing strategy is “buy what you know,” and one thing the Oracle of Omaha knows well is America’s much-loved food brands. Here’s a partial list of Berkshire’s food/beverage subsidiaries and holdings.

 Dairy Queen

The soft-serve ice cream and fast-food chain is one of Buffett’s favorite investments, as he regularly frequents his neighborhood store for a treat—typically a sundae loaded with cherry topping and nuts. Berkshire purchased DQ in 1997. Today, the chain boasts more than 6,000 restaurants worldwide and is valued at a cool $585 million. During Berkshire weekend, $1 Dilly, Fudge, and Vanilla Orange Bars and $2 Mini Blizzard Treats will be sold at the meeting, with proceeds benefitting children’s hospitals. Investors can also get “buy one, get one” deals on Blizzards at Omaha DQ stores with their credentials.

 See’s Candies

“See’s Candies became our model for investment in other quality companies,” Buffett wrote in the preface to a book about the company. Berkshire acquired the California-based, family-owned candymaker way back in 1972. Most famous for its chocolates, the retailer brought $410 million in revenue in 2016. The company’s retail website features a “Warren’s Favorites (& More)” page, which includes peanut brittle, chocolate walnut fudge, and bridge mix. During Berkshire weekend, the See’s Candies shop inside Nebraska Furniture Mart will be selling special edition shareholder candy boxes to investors.


Berkshire Hathaway owns just 9 percent of the soft-drink company, but Buffett quipped, “I’m one-quarter Coca-Cola” in a 2015 Fortune magazine interview. He’s a super-fan of the classic carbonated beverage (particularly Cherry Coke) and said he drinks at least five colas every day, oftentimes for breakfast with Utz Potato Stix (another favorite). “I eat like a 6-year-old,” joked Buffett, who defies his 87 years. Berkshire first bought Coke stock in 1988. Today, its shares are worth $16.6 billion, and Coca-Cola has been deemed the world’s third most valuable brand (after Apple and Google). Of course, only Coke soft drinks will be served at Berkshire events throughout the weekend (though CenturyLink Center concessions, ironically, serve Pepsi products).


Berkshire partnered with 3G Capital, a Brazilian private equity firm, to buy Heinz in 2013. In 2015, it supported Heinz’s merger with Kraft Foods, making it the world’s fifth-largest food and beverage company. Its products range from cheese and dairy foods to convenience items and condiments. (Fun fact: 1 million boxes of Kraft Mac & Cheese are sold every day!) Today, as a 27 percent shareholder, Berkshire’s holdings are worth over $28 billion. In April 2016, the food conglomerate produced a Berkshire shareholders’ meeting commemorative Heinz Ketchup bottle featuring caricatures of Buffett and Munger on the label. It’s a collectible, no doubt.

This article was printed in the May/June 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Young and Professional

March 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

After graduating from Omaha Northwest High School in 2009, Ashley Rae Turner says she was happy to leave town to pursue undergraduate studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I was definitely that person in high school who thought I was never going to be in Omaha again after I left,” she says.

By 2015, she was ready to return. Coming back, however, was contingent upon finding activities involving other young professionals and exploring civic opportunities for her peer group.

“If I could find a reason to stay, I would stay,” she says. “And I didn’t really want to have a mindset that, ‘this is temporary and then I’ll leave for somewhere else.’”

Realizing that several people in her peer group express similar concerns about a lack of opportunity, Turner became involved in community engagement through Urban League of Nebraska, where she joined the volunteer auxiliary group
ULN Young Professionals.

“From the very beginning I just saw an opportunity to improve Omaha for YPs [young professionals] but especially YPs of color,” Turner says.

Last year, Turner became a member of a community diversity and inclusion workgroup stemming from a joint effort of ULN and the Greater Omaha Chamber. The group aims to address key findings from a 2017 diversity and talent inclusion survey commissioned by the two organizations, including an area in which Turner has a special interest: technology and start-ups.

“It is one area I made sure was not overlooked in the survey recommendations, finding more ways to support black YP start-ups and helping them get funding,” Turner says.

Turner served as the programming co-chair for the Chamber’s 2018 YP Summit, held March 1 at CenturyLink Center.

YP Summit Chair Angel Starks says she called this year’s Summit planners “Dream Team 2018.”

“As chair, I couldn’t be more proud of my co-chairs, and especially of our programming. We enacted a speakers’ academy, we’ve done some things for our breakout speakers we’ve never done before, and I think we’ve set the tone for what’s to come,” she says. “That’s thanks to Ashley and her co-chair (Megan Flory Tommeraasen with Mutual of Omaha), specifically.”

In January, Turner also added volunteer engagement chair for the YP Council to her Chamber responsibilities.

She says she aspires to help foster a community in which YPs throughout Omaha feel welcomed, which hopefully will ultimately inspire them to become more engaged and involved. It’s all part of her mission to “be a voice for other YPs who aren’t necessarily at the table,” she says.

Last year, Turner began working for Borsheims as a content and marketing specialist, and one of the biggest contributions she’s made so far is executing a revamp of the company’s content marketing program, including establishing relationships with key influencers for future contributions and creating plans for new web features such as an education center and a lifestyle blog.

“It will be really robust content around Borsheims, around our vendors, and just around why we are the best at what we do and why you should choose Borsheims,” Turner says. “I really love social media. I love communicating and finding different ways to reach different individuals.”

In what little free time she has left, Turner also writes a food blog. And now she’s working with a partner to launch a lunchtime networking series for YPs, a channel that brings together her palette of talents and interests.

Whatever she does, Turner brings a sense of professionalism to her projects.

“It’s amazing that, although she’s involved in a lot of things, she brings quality to everything she touches,” Starks says.

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Omaha Business Hall of Fame

February 25, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Omaha Business Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1993 to honor the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce’s 100th anniversary. Since then, the chamber has recognized more than 100 men and women for their leadership in Omaha’s growth. Stories of the honorees inducted during the past 20 years are on display at The Durham Museum.

Five successful business leaders will join them at the museum after they are inducted on April 23 at the Holland Performing Arts Center: Susan Jacques, Mogens Bay, Marshall Faith, William “Willy” Theisen, and James Young.

Proceeds from the Omaha Business Hall of Fame gala support a permanent exhibit at The Durham Museum and provide funding for the Chamber’s Greater Omaha Young Professionals Summit.

Susan Jacques
President and CEO

A gem of an executive, Susan Jacques is one of five business leaders headed for the Omaha Business Hall of Fame. While studying at the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, Calif., Susan Jacques met a classmate who would change the direction of her career.

Alan Friedman suggested she come work for his father’s store in Omaha to gain retail experience. His father, Ike Friedman, owned Borsheims at the time.

Sol “Coke” Friedman remembers that his late brother, Ike, had high regard for Jacques. “She probably knew more about gemstones than anybody in the store.”

Jacque’s passion for gems and jewelry began during her childhood in Rhodesia. She earned her graduate Gemology diploma in 1980 from the Gemological Institute of America. Jacques graduated with distinction from the Gemological Association of Great Britain and in 1982 was named “most outstanding student worldwide.”

Her knowledge, along with business savvy, propelled Jacques from a sales clerk and appraiser in 1982 to the store’s top position in 1994. Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway—Borsheims’ majority owner since 1989—named Jacques president and CEO.

Borsheims has become one of the nation’s largest independent jewelry stores, with 62,500 square feet of space and 100,000 pieces of inventory.

“I’ve watched her grow as an individual and as a business person with the company as it has grown,” says Coke, a retired businessman. “She is just a good person. That might be the highest compliment you can pay a person.”

Jacques is presently chairman of the Gemological Institute of America where she studied. She received the 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Jewelry Association and was inducted into the 1997 National Jeweler’s Retailer Hall of Fame. She serves on the Creighton University board of directors and is a trustee of the Business Ethics Alliance.

She and her husband, Gene Dunn, have three sons. The couple recently bought Gorat’s Steakhouse from the family that had owned the restaurant since 1944. Shareholders have gathered for dinner at Gorat’s during the Berkshire Hathaway meeting for years.

In a business that depends on trust and a handshake, Susan Jacques has found her niche at Borsheims.

“She is one of those people if you didn’t know her, you would want to,” says Coke. “Susan has the knack of treating everyone as if they are a friend, which in the retail business is very important.”

On April 23, Susan Jacques will join her former boss, the late Ike Friedman, and her current boss, Warren Buffett, in the Omaha Business Hall of Fame.

Mogens C. Bay
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
Valmont Industries Inc.

20121218GJP_Valmont_016_01 copy

A career with Valmont has taken Mogens Bay to Hong Kong, Madrid, and to Omaha’s corporate headquarters. He has led Valmont through a significant period of growth over the past 20 years to become the world’s leader in engineered products for infrastructure and efficient irrigation equipment for agriculture. He heads an organization with 100 worldwide manufacturing locations and more than 10,000 employees committed to making products that make the world a better place to live.

Marshall Faith
Vice Chairman of the Board
The Scoular Company

Scoular_12092948-Edit copy

In 1967, Marshall Faith purchased a majority interest in The Scoular Company. Now with nearly 700 employees and 70 locations, Scoular serves customers in food, feed, and renewable fuel markets. Annual sales are more than $6 billion. In his 45th year with Scoular, Faith continues his philosophy of providing employees good jobs, good pay, and good opportunities. With a son and grandson in the business, Faith is counting on Scoular continuing at least another 120 years.

William (Willy) M. Theisen
Business Ventures LLC

Willy Thiesen

Many entrepreneurs come up with restaurant concepts. Making the idea work on a national level is how Willy Theisen stands out. He founded Godfather’s Pizza in 1973 and, by the time he sold the company 10 years later, Godfather’s was the country’s fastest-growing restaurant chain. The entrepreneur stayed “ahead of the curve” as owner of the Green Burrito chain in 1992 and Famous Dave’s in 2000. Theisen is now owner/founder of Pitch Coal Fire Pizzeria in Dundee.

James R. Young
Union Pacific Corporation

James R. Young

Since joining Union Pacific in 1978, Young has steadily risen in the ranks to the top position. He chairs an internationally focused company that employs 45,000 people in 23 states and 8,000 communities. Young remembers when railroads had a shrinking workforce and concerns about the future. Today, Union Pacific is strong and integral to the U.S. economy. Young has led the evolvement of U.P.’s culture to a dedication to vision, commitment, teamwork, and respect.