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By Catherine Lang
State Director Nebraska Business Development Center 

A rich ecosystem of resources exists for Nebraska entrepreneurs

 


It’s easy to think of entrepreneurship as glamorous. “You get to be your own boss! Choose your hours! Run things your way! Be passionate about your work!”

And then, as those big dreams start setting in, so do the realities and fears of risk. “What if I don’t bring in the revenue? Where will I find the startup funds? How do I even know where to begin? What about health insurance?”

Entrepreneurship is hard. It’s messy. It’s a grind, especially at the beginning. And it can often be quite lonely. But the reality is that we need more entrepreneurs in Nebraska. In a state fighting desperately against the wave of brain drain, entrepreneurship is a powerful solution to creating a healthy economy and prosperous communities rife with attractive opportunities and reasons for Nebraskans to stay or return home. And for those who are willing to do the research and hard work that entrepreneurship requires, the rewards are great.

As intimidating as the prospect of diving into a new venture can be, what many would-be entrepreneurs don’t realize is that Nebraska has a rich ecosystem of no-cost resources devoted to helping business owners succeed.

Take the Nebraska Business Development Center as an example, which provides no-cost, confidential business consulting services. With a flagship center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and several satellite offices across the state (plus, virtual access), NBDC consultants help business owners with a wide variety of services: developing business plans to help obtain start-up financing, transitioning their operation to the next generation, obtaining funding through government grants, pursuing opportunities for government contracting, and more.

SourceLink Nebraska, which operates out of NBDC, is a program that connects business owners to the many nonprofit resources available in the state. Right now, an entrepreneur logging in would see 516 different resources available to support them. SourceLink Nebraska navigators provide direct assistance with sorting through those many resources and can put together a personalized plan that connects business owners to the right resource for their exact needs and questions.

Looking for connection and community? It can seem difficult to find a sounding board for your big ideas, especially if you’re a team of one. SCORE offers mentorship from seasoned business owners who have been through it all before. GROWNebraska provides training and connection opportunities to a member base of more than 400 businesses. And your chamber of commerce, economic development office or bank can connect you to many more hyperlocal opportunities and resources. The list goes on.

As an example of the power of connection in the entrepreneurship world, take Katie LeDoux, the owner of Sunflower Grant Writers.

An impressive professional with more than 18 years in the non-profit sector and prestigious credentials including working at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Kennedy Center, LeDoux had a rough road when beginning her business after an Air Force relocation moved their family to Omaha. Cold calling wasn’t getting her the clients she needed, so she started attending networking events with Center Sphere and the Greater Omaha Chamber.

Those events and some internet searches led her to NBDC, where she connected with a consultant who helped her think about a more effective marketing strategy and billing models. That series of steps and connections has helped LeDoux grow her roster of clients and hire more staff. Her business is positively thriving today because she reached out and formed a supportive community for herself and her business.

If you’re wanting to start a business, there are thousands of individuals in the state whose job it is to help you along the way. And there are many more individuals who volunteer their time for the same reason: because they believe that entrepreneurship is the avenue through which Nebraska will win. Through which the economy will grow. Through which the state will retain young, educated Nebraskans who want to build a quality life for themselves and their families, whether that’s because they have started businesses of their own or live in a community with unique and interesting opportunities.

Entrepreneurship is hard, and it can seem lonely. But in Nebraska, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Reach out. There’s a community ready to help.

 

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