SourceLink Nebraska’s First Year Brings Hundreds of Businesses, Resources Together
Photo Credit: NBDC
Written by Nick Schinker
Since rolling out its welcome mat one year ago, SourceLink Nebraska has been connecting entrepreneurs, business hopefuls, and business owners with specific resources to help establish and expand their companies, and extending its impact by putting skilled “network navigators” into the community to increase accessibility.
Scott Asmus, SourceLink Nebraska Program Director, says that from mid-November 2021 through November 2022, 152 startups and existing business owners came to SourceLink Nebraska for individual assistance in a range of areas, resulting in 1,761 interactions with SourceLink Nebraska’s network navigators, the staff members trained to guide clients to the resources best suited to their needs.
Additionally, the network navigators created 127 Personal Action Plans, which are customized plans of resource connections geared specifically to each client, resulting in 1,146 direct referrals to resource partners in the Nebraska network. Asmus says business planning assistance – such as writing or reviewing a business plan, conducting market research or preparing financial projections – was the most common network navigator referred service, followed by the desire to secure loans and startup assistance.
SourceLink Nebraska is a statewide platform that connects entrepreneurs and business owners to resources that help start, scale or accelerate businesses. The Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) is the host for the program.
“The SourceLink Nebraska team provides clear access to resources and one-on-one support,” Asmus says. “These interactions with SourceLink Nebraska and our resource partners ultimately serve as a support system that will continue to help people establish and expand their businesses.”
SourceLink Nebraska launched its website, sourcelinknebraska.com, on November 16, 2021. Serving as infrastructure for business development resources, the website has grown to showcase nearly 950 resource partner profiles, along with startup guides, growth guides, capital guides and a connection to a video library for entrepreneurs and business owners. Additional resources include event listings for entrepreneurs and business owners across the state. To date, the website has resulted in more than 143,700 online referrals, Asmus says.
NBDC Executive Director Catherine Lang says Nebraska has a robust economic and business development ecosystem, with partners that provide important services to entrepreneurs and business owners. “The challenge is finding the right resources at the right time,” Lang says. “SourceLink Nebraska provides easy access to these resources on one platform.”
Although similar to rural and urban resource platforms in other states, Lang says SourceLink Nebraska is one of the more complete and innovative networks, due in large part to the SourceLink Nebraska team of Asmus and Network Navigators Brandi O’Malley and Alan Martinez.
SourceLink Nebraska benefits from the financial support and partnership of the Omaha Public Power District, the Peter Kiewit Foundation, the University of Nebraska System, the University Technology Development Corporation, University of Nebraska–Lincoln Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Nebraska Extension, the NBDC and the Economic Development Administration (EDA). “I want to thank our supporters and partners across our state who are working with us to make SourceLink Nebraska the go-to connector for entrepreneurs and business owners,” Lang says.
Most recently, SourceLink Nebraska collaborated with Heartland Workforce Solutions to expand its outreach directly to entrepreneurs and small businesses in north and south Omaha. Each Wednesday, O’Malley and Martinez welcome entrepreneurs and small business owners for one-on-one meetings to develop Personalized Action Plans. O’Malley hosts the meetings at Seventy Five North, 2112 North 30th Street; while Martinez meets with interested persons at the Metropolitan Community College South Express, 3002 South 24th Street.
O’Malley says the process begins with filling out a short-form request for a Personalized Action Plan, listing basic information about their business or proposal, including what stage of development they are at and where the business will be situated.
“We look over the information they submit and put together a list of resources based on the specific things they say they need help with,” she says. “It becomes a customized strategy for them, and can range from writing a business plan to marketing to securing financial backing and grants.”
After delivering the Personalized Action Plan to the client, O’Malley and Martinez follow up with emails and phone calls to check on progress or additional needs.
With a background in workforce development and human resources, O’Malley says her work as a network navigator is a fulfilling way to promote economic growth and help people realize their dreams of business ownership. “I know from experience how important small businesses are to Nebraska,” she says. “Through SourceLink Nebraska, when I meet with someone who says they’ve hit a roadblock, I love to be able to say, ‘I can connect you to resources that can help,’” she says.
Asmus says many SourceLink Nebraska users have expressed their gratitude for the connections they have made. One wrote: “The resources and nonprofits available for small businesses are more abundant than I ever imagined. The folks at SourceLink Nebraska have helped me tremendously so far, and they are happy to continue to do so.”
Lang says the growing number of direct and online referrals illustrate the valuable, unique service SourceLink Nebraska is providing for entrepreneurs and business hopefuls across the state, and to those outside of Nebraska contemplating starting a business here or expanding to the state.
“By making these connections possible, we are supporting success today and tomorrow,” Lang says. “Strong economies yield strong communities, and SourceLink Nebraska is one more example of what makes our state a great place for business.”