March 2019 Issue

From the Executive Director:
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Honestly, It’s for Everyone.

GRANTEE SPOTLIGHTS
YOUTH PATHWAYS TO SUCCESS

Boys & Girls Club

THRIVING PLACES

Literary Council

ECONOMIC GROWTH & OPPORTUNITY

Grow Nebraska


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GROW Nebraska Helps Small Business Owners Harness eCommerce

Raising the Bar | Economic Growth & Opportunity | March 2019

In June of 2018, the foundation awarded a two-year $45,000 program grant to support GROW Nebraska’s eCommerce and Marketing Innovation Center.

GROW Nebraska is a non-profit educational organization that provides marketing and training to individuals and small business owners across Nebraska. The foundation’s program grant assisted GROW Nebraska with the creation of an Innovation Center that will provide a much-needed expansion of programming and space. The Innovation Center will be a hub for GROW Nebraska staff and members to meet and will also feature workstations, a projection screen for live webinars, and a photo booth to take professional photos, essentially everything the modern entrepreneur needs.

The Innovation Center is scheduled to open in March of this year and already the organization’s calendar is filling quickly with appointments in the new space.

“In the past we met with our members in their workplaces or at coffee shops, we never had a training facility,” said Kristi Gargan, Business Development Director. “We focus on marketing and training online but there is still value to face to face meetings.”

GROW Nebraska has been helping Nebraska entrepreneurs for twenty years and during that time they have expanded their reach—they are more than a retail store. Their top priority is to provide entrepreneurs and small businesses with marketing training which serves their mission to be the premier educational non-profit that empowers entrepreneurs through business training, technical assistance, promotion, and market opportunities.

The organization is aware that entrepreneurs are innovative but are sometimes stymied by eCommerce either because they lack the knowledge or the funding to hire out the expertise. GROW Nebraska teaches the tools needed for online marketing and encourages their members to take advantage of having GROW Nebraska handle some of the eCommerce work for them so they can focus on other aspects of their business.

“GROW Nebraska is more than a retail store. You’re purchasing with a purpose and each purchase benefits members,” said Gargan. “Great products coupled with great marketing skills improves the financial status of individuals, which in turn, strengthens the financial status of communities and eventually the state of Nebraska.”

GROW Nebraska members represent many backgrounds—from high school to senior citizens—and can live anywhere in Nebraska to receive assistance. The members represent all stages of business development and often come to GROW Nebraska because they are interested in turning a hobby or passion project into a business.

One such example is Pacha Soap. The company was founded by Andrew and Abigail Vrbas while they were students at Hastings College. Initially they had one soap to sell and for each bar sold they donated a bar to a third world country.

As students, they didn’t have a lot of money so Andrew was given a GROW Nebraska member scholarship and within five years, Pacha Soap became the Whole Foods Innovative Product of the Year. Pacha Soap is now in Whole Foods stores across the country and employs 50 people in Hastings. The young company’s success is a big victory for a small business.

“Wins come in all sizes—when we can help a new business solidify their business plan, learn about necessary insurance and labeling requirements, teach them how to update their web page and establish a social media following or even help them land their first online sale,” said Cammie Kroll, IT & Development Coordinator. “It’s easy for us to be passionate about the work we do because what we do every day helps Nebraska Entrepreneurs.”