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Entrepreneurs Thrive in This Nebraska City

Looking to start or grow a business? Find a supportive and welcoming community in Kearney.

By Teree Caruthers on January 4, 2022

Leslie Means
Leslie Means

Small businesses in Kearney are the backbone of the region’s economic growth and success. Fortunately for budding entrepreneurs, a combination of business resources, affordability and community spirit help fledgling companies grow and thrive here.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney (UNK), for example, is a key resource for the region. Not only does it supply a steady stream of talent, but it also engages with the community through initiatives such as the Center for Entrepreneurship and Rural Development, an outreach center located in the College of Business and Technology.

Through a series of educational programming, one-on-one coaching and consulting, the center fosters entrepreneurship and economic development throughout rural Nebraska.

“No two entrepreneurs are the same. We’re able to connect individually with the entrepreneur and help them along the way, whether they are students or community members.”

Lisa Tschauner | Center for Entrepreneurship & Rural Development

“We offer one-on-one coaching, workshops and seminars, but we are also able to adapt to what our community needs. We meet these future entrepreneurs where they are and provide them with the expertise and guidance that they need in a very customized way,” says Lisa Tschauner, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship & Rural Development.

“We can help them grow their social capital, build their networks and connect them with partners that are going to help them take their business effort or initiative to the next level.”

Looking to Do Business in Kearney?

The city’s Tech oNE Crossing Data Park is now open, with many advantages for companies looking for a good location. The business innovation park was developed to primarily attract data-based technology companies and is a partnership between the City of Kearney, the Economic Development Council of Buffalo County and the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. The 200-acre park has several shovel-ready sites and are equipped with sewer, water, fiber and power, including an $11 million solar farm.

The Perfect Size for Entrepreneurs

One such entrepreneur is Leslie Means, a former news anchor, children’s book author and weekly columnist, who, after winning an entrepreneur contest at UNK, turned an idea to build a community for moms into herviewfromhome.com, a thriving online lifestyle magazine with more than 9 million annual visitors and 400-plus contributors, as well as a companion product line.

“Our business grew because of the Kearney community. We competed for a business plan competition through the University of Nebraska at Kearney and won. I wouldn’t have known about that opportunity without the connections made through the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce,” Means says. “Our business thrived because local business members advertised on our website. I literally walked into businesses I knew, asked if they wanted to advertise, and because of our connections established previously, they agreed to advertise on our website. That launched my business and now, nearly 10 years later, millions of people read stories on our website each year.”

Means says Kearney is the perfect size for entrepreneurs — big enough to make connections and find resources to grow your business but still with a small-town vibe that translates into neighbors helping neighbors.

“Or in this case, businesses help other businesses,” she says. “It’s not about competition here. In Kearney, entrepreneurs know a growing business is good for the community.”

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BrandonBuilt

Custom-Built Philanthropy

Brandon Rohr, co-founder of BrandonBuilt, a custombuilt furniture design company, agrees. The idea for building rustic and industrial custom furniture surfaced from conversations about remodeling during weekly Bible study meetings.

“The people here are what make the biggest difference — from the people on our team we’ve been able to attract and who have given 100% effort and care about our business to our local suppliers and customers. They all want the best for us and go out of their way to help us when we need it,” Rohr says.

“It’s the people around here that we can count on to encourage
and support us and give us advice. That’s what separates Kearney
from any other place out there.”

Brandon Rohr | BrandonBuilt

Rohr and his team make sure to reciprocate the goodwill they receive. The first year in business, they donated all their proceeds.

“We decided that if we did sell something, we were going to give it back to the local community. We found different people in different organizations in town that needed a little help, and we donated everything back in terms of profits,” he says. “Today, we have a foundation, and while we don’t give away all the profits we make, we give a big chunk of it back to help the four title elementary schools here in town. We sell outside the community to help support the community.”

Rohr, a former basketball coach at UNK, also agrees with Means that the city’s size is a major asset for entrepreneurs. “I think it’s just easier when you’re in a smaller city that has lots of resources. It’s the perfect size that you can kind of stand out and work and grow on your ideas but still have resources around you to help,” he says.

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