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Success Stories

When asked why he left a 30+ year career in the steel industry to open Chino’s Mexican Restaurant in Gering, Nebraska, Ed Bartella had a quick answer: “I’d been doing the same thing for an awful long time.” Ed and his wife Christina are no strangers to being entrepreneurs – Christina owns and runs a Service Master franchise in northwest Nebraska. They also are no strangers to being in the kitchen – they have a large extended family and enjoy cooking for them regularly. Word of their culinary talents got around to a local steak house restaurant in their community of Gering, Nebraska, and they were asked to cater a Christmas party – and asked to specifically cater dishes outside of the restaurant’s normal meat and potatoes fare. Ed and his wife cooked up enchiladas, rice and beans and homemade tortillas for more than 200 people.  Their food was such a hit that they were asked to cater there again the following year.

For Ed, starting a restaurant seemed to be almost pre-... Read More

Mark Santo, owner of Mark VII Enterprises, has been in the construction industry for decades. Before becoming an entrepreneur, Santo lived overseas and travelled the world building American embassies for a defense contractor. Then his international lifestyle changed. “I met my wife, had a child and we ended the road show and moved back to Omaha. I had to start my career over again because the “international construction guy” thing was over.” Santo stayed in the construction industry, working as a project manager until the recession hit in late 2008 and he was laid off. He said his sites on getting a job on Offutt Air Force Base in Bellevue, NE doing construction surveillance. But a lunch in June 2010 with a then-employee of SBA’s resource partner the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) changed all that. Santo met with Andy Alexander, formerly with the NBDC Procurement Technical Assistance Center. “We went to lunch, I told him what I wanted to do and about the job on Offutt... Read More

Jason McLaughlin, owner of Iasan & Sebastian Studio Salon, has been an entrepreneur since he was 19 and started a clothing company in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah with his high school best friend, selling youth-oriented T-shirts and hats. But that’s no surprise, considering his father owned a small business in the golf club manufacturing and sales business.  “I grew up being mentored by him on how to run a business and how to treat employees,” Jason says. “I started my first business right out of high school, then I started a second business doing eBay sales, and then I’ve worked for myself since I can remember.

Fast forward to 2001, when Jason relocated from a 2-year stint in Phoenix, Arizona to Lincoln, Nebraska. “I fell in love with Lincoln. My former high shcool business partner moved out here in the late 90s and opened a business, so I would come out here and visit him as much as I could. I fell in love with the people here. The “Nebraska nice” thing is very... Read More

Mike Sutmaier is a firm believer in the power of coffee. As a self-described serial entrepreneur, he says, “one of my side businesses as a real estate company is you can break the ice by offering someone a free cup of coffee. You can branch off into multiple business sectors using coffee as an ice breaker. If you approach [a client] with something of value, it’s a good olive branch to open someone up for a sales pitch.” Going into the coffee business was an easy choice for this 20-year Air Force veteran to make when he was exploring business options while retiring from the Air Force on Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers the Boots to Business (B2B) entrepreneurial education and training program as part of the Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program for separating military members.  Mike took advantage of this program – twice! During his second time through the program, he worked with Greater Omaha SCORE Chapter 40 mentor... Read More