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Women's Day Spotlights Nebraska Women-Owned Businesses

Mar 27, 2024 (0)

Lisa Harte

By: Nick Schinker

International Women's Day was March 8, and a wonderful way to celebrate was to turn the spotlight on the vital role women-owned businesses play in Nebraska's economy.

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), in 2021 women owned 44 percent of all Nebraska businesses and accounted for 47.2 percent of the workforce. 

Those businesses touch on nearly every industry and service, from cybersecurity to childcare and retail to medical. The enterprising women who own and run these businesses, and their ancestors, have come to the state from around the world and made Nebraska their home.

Lisa Harte of O'Neill founded Advantage Logistics, LLC freight brokerage business for the trucking industry in 2008. She had worked as a freight broker for a manufacturing company in Columbus when she saw an opportunity to set out on her own.

“I had three little kids, the youngest was 2, and I was working 80 hours a week,” she recalls. “I needed something that offered me the flexibility to be with my family.”

The challenges were many. “Being a freight broker in the trucking industry means it's pretty much a man's world,” she says. “I had to learn how to deal with that, and I did it with a combination of toughness and sweetness.”

Harte says her children became her motivation. “I had to keep going,” she says. “It would have been easy to quit, but I wanted my kids to know, Mom can do this.”

She started with one customer and now brokers for 25 companies. “They know me as level-headed and honest,” she says. “I have no back office. I do it all myself. When they call, it's always me who answers, and I take calls 24/7.”

Harte is working with the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC) and its Nebraska APEX Accelerator program to become certified to seek out and secure government contracts. “I want to try for government and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) freight,” she says. “There are so many people out there who say, ‘I'll help you, but it will cost you $5,000.' I did some digging and reached out to the NBDC, and the services are free.”

Harte collaborates with Nebraska APEX Accelerator Consultant Meghann Buresh on several issues in her effort to expand Advantage Logistics, including her application for the Woman-Owned Small Business (WOSB) certification through the SBA. “Meghann has been so good with walking me through all the processes and regulations,” Harte says. “It's another challenge, but she has made it much more manageable.”

Nicka Johnson of Omaha has funneled her passion, positivity and experiences into her company, Budget to Success, to help her clients overcome economic and financial challenges by understanding financial literacy and focusing on budgeting, savings and credit analysis and repair.

Johnson uses her life as an example to others. “I grew up in a community of single parent families and teenage pregnancies,” she says. “I learned to budget off of Food Stamps. I also learned that while family dynamics may shape who I am, they won't determine who I would become.”

When she saw a Facebook post from a woman who lamented how difficult it was to save money, she replied, “That's not true – and I can show you.” Her initial Facebook posts ultimately resulted in her company and her dedication to help others by sharing her personal journey.

Her personal achievements include paying off a four-year debt consolidation loan in two years, achieving an 850-point credit score, and buying her first home at the age of 24. “I became the example people look up to,” she says. “Now, through Budget to Success, I am my clients' accountability partner.”

Johnson has worked with Kiley Phelps, Omaha Center Director of the Nebraska Small Business Development Center (SBDC), a program of the NBDC. She also was a panelist at the Minority Small Business Summit, an event in Omaha hosted by several business resource organizations.

Having survived hard times helps her to convince clients that they are not alone in their financial struggles, Johnson says. “I let them know we can go farther when we go together,” she says.

A career that had been brewing for several years led Sara Frazier to launch Mellow Grind Mobile Coffee and Catering in North Platte in November 2023.

After serving as a coffee shop manager and owning a coffee shop in Gretna, Frazier funneled what she had learned into founding Mellow Grind with her co-owner husband, Brian, who works for Union Pacific. They bought a cargo van and “did all the build-out ourselves,' she says. “It was quite a challenge, fitting water tanks and an entire coffee shop into a van. There's really no book that says, this is how you do this.”

Customers say it's the personal touch that has them following Frazier's van around town. She offers seasonal specials like a recent Valentine's Day Latte, and brought coffee and treats to customers waiting in their cars during the coldest days of the winter.

Frazier sought the guidance of Moraine Davis-Magnuson, Center Director at the NBDC office in North Platte, to develop a business plan and financial projections. “They have done a wonderful job by opening with a limited menu, and as they become more experienced, adding to the menu,” Davis-Magnuson says. “Sara uses social media to her advantage by posting weekly locations and times, offering promotions with contests and sharing new menu items.”

These three women-owned businesses, and hundreds of others like them, enrich the Nebraska economy and serve as examples of the opportunities and the resources that welcome entrepreneurs and new businesses to the state – on International Women's Day and every day.


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