Nebraska entrepreneurs reinvent themselves

Wendy Garrison, started Garrison Counseling located at SCC’s Entrepreneurship Center in Lincoln, Neb.

Story and photos by Brent Reese, NewsNetNebraska

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the annual average U.S. unemployment rate has risen from 4 percent in 2000 to 9.6 percent in 2010.  This has forced some people towards the entrepreneurial route by creating their own jobs.

“I got sick and tired of people telling me what to do,” said Wendy Garrison, who started Garrison Counseling, where she does drug, alcohol, and mental health counseling.

Garrison previously worked at the Bryan LGH Independence Center and decided that she wanted to be her own boss.  The economy also had an effect on Garrison creating her own business because she said it would have been difficult to get a counseling job somewhere else.

Entrepreneurship is the ability to take something and make it your own said Tim Mittan, director at Southeast Community College’s Entrepreneurship Center.  There is usually a lot of risk involved in being an entrepreneur and most people associate it with starting a business.  Mittan looks at entrepreneurship as being two things.

“We really look at entrepreneurship as a way to grow something that already exists or to create something that is really very brand new, nobody has ever done it before and making it substantial to the population and then probably making a profit from it,” Mittan said.

Chris Timm, associate director at career services at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, said that people looking at becoming an entrepreneur most likely already have a job, but they also have an idea.

“I’d like to do this on my own or the person who said I’ve worked for someplace else for five years and this isn’t exactly what I want to do and I’m exploring, starting my own business,” Timm said about people looking to create a new job.

Mittan said that this is the busiest that they have ever been at the Entrepreneurship Center, because of the economy being down.

“Whenever the economy goes south, people start thinking about taking care of themselves rather than waiting for somebody else to determine their own fate,” Mittan said.

Tim Mittan, director at SCC’s Entrepreneurship Center in Lincoln, Neb. Courtesy: SCC Entrepreneurship Center.

Mittan said that most of the students that come through SCC’s entrepreneurship program come from the service industry and their biggest issue is coming up with the money to start their business.

“Which means that you have to have a rich uncle or have to find a partner with money or you have to figure out a way to do it on your own without having to have a huge onset of capital,” Mittan said.

Mittan said that this means a lot of people will have to go out and work to build up some money in order to start off their business.

“If we’ve got somebody who wants to open their own restaurant and they’ve never worked a day in a restaurant, I would tell them, ‘you need to go work at a restaurant for a couple of years to figure this out,’ because you’re not going to get a capital loan, you’re not going to get a liquor license and it’s going to be very difficult for you to understand all the health and human services regulations if you’ve never worked in that industry,” Mittan said.

Nebraska’s entrepreneurship movement, Mittan explained, is engrained into the culture that Nebraskan’s have created.

“Being an Ag state, entrepreneurship is really in our blood even though most of us don’t know that,” Mittan said.

This young professionals program met at an event at Duncan Aviation to learn about entrepreneurial opportunities. Courtesy: Three Pillars Media.

Matt Sherman, co-founder of Three Pillars Media, which runs, states that Nebraska has two very different types of entrepreneurship.

One type is called lifestyle businesses, which are more based in the rural parts of Nebraska.  Sherman said it might be a salsa recipe that you want to put to market or a person might have a craft of welding.  That is one direction of entrepreneurship.
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The other part is more based in the Omaha and Lincoln area of the state.

“There’s a lot more on the high growth, tech oriented side of it,” said Sherman.  “In Lincoln and Omaha especially, we’ve been seeing a lot more software start-ups it seems, especially with this whole new arena with mobile apps.”

With President Barack Obama pushing for entrepreneurship, small business, and also funding for small businesses, Mittan believes that the future is bright for entrepreneurial practices because when an economic downturn happens most small businesses are more flexible while larger companies have to cut losses.

“Because of the wave of all of the layoffs and everything, I think you are going to see more small businesses popping up because they are a lot more stable than large companies,” Mittan said.

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