Omaha-metro startups, entrepreneurs connect, learn how to grow businesses

Keeping local talent in Omaha is always a factor when discussing stimulating the city's economy.
Published: May. 24, 2023 at 10:19 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - Keeping the talent here is always a factor when talking about stimulating the local economy.

Organizers of a weekly gathering for young entrepreneurs and businesses say they not only try to fight the brain drain but try to make it easier for folks to establish themselves.

The 1 Million Cups event is held every Wednesday at the Millwork Commons in downtown Omaha. It’s a chance for upstarts, other local businesses, and those looking to start careers to network and make connections.

“A lot of those people are entrepreneurially minded and are thinking forward to one day starting something,” co-organizer Justin Krug said. “So it’s kind of a good precursor of things to know going into to it and avoid when they kind of sit in the saddle.”

It’s not only for the tech sector either. Representatives of local apparel chains and kombucha producers were also in attendance.

Krug thinks he’s seen an increase in the number of people starting their own business ventures in the past year and that it’s because of the work-from-home routine prompted by the pandemic.

“A lot of those folks worked full-time for a company and part-time building something,” he said. “But there was a point where they were like, ‘Oh, man. I could actually do this if I went full time.’”

If you’re trying to fire up your own local operation, it never hurts to have a leg up. That’s what the weekly meetings are about. They even connect attendees with resources to help them get their feet under them.

Opportunities include the Nebraska Innovation Fund Prototype Grant, which is a matching program that provides financial assistance for new product development.

“It’s been here for a long time and just one of the most innovative things Nebraska’s done in a long time, in my opinion,” MOVE Venture Capital co-founder Charlie Cuddy said.

He said his firm has been attending the weekly meetings and answering questions about how to access those grants.

“Not just how to apply, but who are the resources that you could leverage in the state after you’ve been accepted,” Cuddy said.

Overall, organizers said events like 1 Million Cups help combat brain drain by getting innovators together and shaking up the local startup scene.