Aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners in Nebraska now have access to a premier network of interconnected support resources that spans the 76,878 square mile state.
It is with great pride and excitement that we welcome our newest SourceLink℠ affiliate, SourceLink Nebraska!
Start where you are
From inception to implementation, ecosystem building can be a complex process, and it does not happen overnight. In fact, many communities start with just one area of focus and develop their program over time to realize economic impact. Such was the case for SourceLink Nebraska.
In 2018, the state of Nebraska released Blueprint Nebraska, a strategic plan aimed at identifying the state’s core economic development challenges to create pioneering solutions. One key aspiration was driving job creation and attracting young adults to the area by providing more support for entrepreneurs, innovators and small businesses.
SourceLink began work with the University of Nebraska Extension, the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) and Rural Prosperity Nebraska (RPN) to identify university support resources and make them more visible to students via The Resource Navigator®, an online database that directs entrepreneurs to the specific type of help they need based on their stage of business. This was the first step in building Nebraska’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, but more funding was needed in order to expand the initiative statewide.
Over time, seven founding partners worked to raise funding to extend the program beyond the University of Nebraska walls and open access to all Nebraskans thinking of starting or growing a business that all across the state would benefit from.
Worth the wait
SourceLink Nebraska is now a statewide platform that anyone can use to search for nonprofit, education, and government resources related to entrepreneurship, economic and community development. The platform is a one-stop shop for Nebraska entrepreneurs and business owners looking for support and guidance on starting and growing their businesses.
“We want to make sure the message gets across that this is for everybody. We have a wealth of resources in Nebraska,” says SourceLink Nebraska Network Builder, Scott Asmus, who oversees the program at NBDC. “This platform works when our partners are engaged with the tool and use it to reveal and enhance the amazing services that they provide.”
Solving statewide community opportunities
A wealth of resources is right. At this time, SourceLink Nebraska houses almost 870 resource profiles, a testament to the extensive outreach that went into identifying and bringing together a robust existing network of support. Through this relationship building process, resource partners across the state have become better connected and equipped to direct entrepreneurs to other providers in the network who may be the best fit based on entrepreneurs’ needs – a critical step in developing a flourishing ecosystem.
Entrepreneurs have access to these resource partners through SourceLink Nebraska’s interactive website that features a smart search database matching needs to opportunities, comprehensive business guides, and an events calendar that will help entrepreneurs identify the opportunity for business development based on need, location, industry, and business stage.
This centralized approach is useful because, “the challenges for entrepreneurs are different in the rural parts of the state versus the urban areas”, says SourceLink Nebraska Network Navigator Jamie Bright.
“In Omaha and Lincoln, the number of resources is almost overwhelming, so it can be hard for entrepreneurs to know who they need to talk to first,” says Bright. “And in the rural areas, people just don’t know what is always available, or don’t feel comfortable navigating multiple websites and having to call multiple places for information. That’s where SourceLink Nebraska will really help, by providing a single point of contact to be that beginning step and receive the personalized guidance that they need.”
Data-driven decision making
SourceLink Nebraska’s short-term goal is to increase the visibility of their resource partners, but their long-term focus is on enhancing entrepreneurial growth through data collection and analyses.
“Through our partnership with SourceLink, we’ll be able to measure outcomes and identify gaps,” says Asmus. “We want to answer questions like, how many new businesses were created? Or which resources are being used the most and had the highest impact? We’ll be able to use survey data and information gleaned from one-on-one personal conversations with entrepreneurs to determine if they’re getting the help they need and its resulting impact on their business.”
Job creation through entrepreneurship
According to the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, all net new job creation is happening from startups less than five years old. This has been born out too with SourceLink research in other markets to understand job creation dynamics in play for places like Kansas City and Fort Worth.
SourceLink Nebraska hopes to share both local and national learnings with local stakeholders, about the benefits of reinvesting back into Nebraska’s local communities. According to Bright, “There are still a number of people who lean more towards traditional economic development that is all about bringing in big companies to create jobs, and that doesn’t really provide sustainable, smart growth for our smaller communities. We want to make people aware of how important entrepreneurship is and supporting the businesses and people who are already here.”
Not going it alone
SourceLink Nebraska joins a national network of SourceLink statewide collaborations for entrepreneurship-led economic transformation that includes IASourceLink, Start In Wisconsin, MOSourceLink, Grow North, and Colmena66, all of whom have also decided to reinvest and focus on building impactful statewide networks of support to bolster entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Scaling entrepreneurship is important to growing local economies, and SourceLink Nebraska believes that by creating a strong support culture and partnership opportunities, entrepreneurs and innovators will view the state as a place where they can not only live, but thrive.
“We have an opportunity with the SourceLink Nebraska platform to engage people from out of state who are thinking about moving to the midwest and considering Nebraska as a place to start a business. Nebraska is a great place to live, have a family and grow a business,” says Asmus. “We just didn’t have that increased visibility and accessibility before. Now we’re able to fill that gap, and we’re incredibly excited to see what the future will bring by amplifying this message that we are a great place to grow.”
Check out the SourceLink Nebraska website and connect with the team via email at [email protected] or on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
This initiative would not be possible without the support of these founding organizations and key individuals: Omaha Public Power District (OPPD), Peter Kiewit Foundation, University of Nebraska, University Technology Development Corporation (UTDC), Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR), Nebraska Extension, Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC), Catherine Lang, J.D. (State Director, NBDC), Don Macke (Vice President, e2 Entrepreneurial Ecosystems), Connie Hancock (University of Nebraska Extension, Emeritus Extension Educator), Harold Sargus (NBDC, Consultant, Government Contracting), Shawn Kaskie (University of Nebraska Extension, Extension Educator, Rural Prosperity Nebraska), Scott Asmus (SourceLink Nebraska Network Builder, NBDC) and Jamie Bright (SourceLink Nebraska Network Navigator, NBDC).
Connecting entrepreneurial ecosystem builders nationwide
SourceLink is here to help you connect to resources and to build an effective and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem. Contact us at [email protected] to learn more, and sign up for our newsletter to receive entrepreneurship ecosystem building know-how, actionable advice and R&D for your entrepreneurial community.