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2014 - Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference
Heartland Student Entrepreneurship Conference

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Friday, April 18, 2014
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The 2014 Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference will take place on Friday, April 18th from 8:30 – 2:30 at Metropolitan Community College's Fort Omaha Campus and will bring together over 200 middle, high and college students from the Omaha metro area specifically studying entrepreneurship, innovation or creativity. This 3rd annual conference is able to again be offered for FREE! and is not to be missed if you are a student from the Heartland area (Douglas, Sarpy, Washington and Dodge counties, Nebraska).

At the conference, students will hear success stories from local and national entrepreneurs representing several career fields such as: video game technology, arts, fashion, corporate innovation and social entrepreneurship. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a big idea essay contest, observe the best-of-the-best student pitchers go head-to-head in a quick pitch contest and network with like-minded peers and resource providers. So, bring your business cards to distribute!

Click Schedule to view the entire conference program.


Registration is FREE! for Heartland area entrepreneurial students and educators and starts Friday, April 4th! at brownpapertickets.com.

Hurry to be sure to secure your seat at the conference and discover your entrepreneurial talents!

In consideration of acceptance of enrollment in The Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference, registrants will authorize Metropolitan Community College to use their image, likeness, name and comments in, but not limited to, photographs, videos and audio recordings created or used for the purposes of publicity/marketing and advertising for the College.


  • Click Schedule to view the entire conference program.
  • When: Friday, April 18th 8:30 am – 2:30 pm. Registration, Coffee & Networking starts at 8:00 am.
  • Where: Metropolitan Community College, Fort Omaha Campus, Swanson Conference Center Building #22. (Inside The Institute for Culinary Arts). 5300 North 30th Street, Omaha, NE (32nd & Sorenson Parkway). Parking is free and open to the public. To view information on the campus including the ability to download a map of the campus, see: MCC FOC Campus Locations.



Mike Kolker, Omaha Regional Relationship Manager, AIM


Mike Kolker

Mike is a busy intrapreneur, entrepreneur, volunteer, and much, much more! He works for AIM, a not-for-profit organization that promotes technology to empower people and enhance organizations. Mike also owns his own mobile music company called Audioscenery, does freelance creative work for a local start-up and is a trained facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League. His loves to socialize with family and friends and is passionate about food, art, and music. Even though life can be chaotic, he maintains sanity by striving to think positively and works hard to be an eternal optimist. He thrives on making friends, telling stories, and connecting the dots wherever he can!

Morning Speaker

Pink Isn't A Secret Anymore

Beka Doolittle, Owner, ThePinkStore.com

Beka Doolittle

What does a girl's-girl do when her life is surrounded by everything pertaining to sports, sweat and The Simpsons? In January 2007, Beka Doolittle started The Pink Store, LLC and began planning on how she could produce a place where pink brings happiness and femininity to the online shopping experience. The dazzling color can be soft or vibrant reaching pink lovers of every kind. To some, pink means princess; to others it means survivor. Pink is feminine, fun and fancy while exhibiting grace and style. In September 2011, the pink store's e-commerce site, www.thepinkstore.com made its debut. Now, Beka's life is full of color including the recent addition of a new baby girl which has changed the family home into a pink heaven.

Beka Doolittle and her family including her husband, three sons and daughter, reside in Omaha, Nebraska. Together they have endured challenges such as the recession and full-time layoffs to now going up against Victoria Secret for the right to maintain their business name trademark. Today, the Web Site is on its third design and represents 35 wholesalers. This sassy color and entrepreneur are in full swing to paint the world pink!

Keynote Speaker

Physics-Balloons-Video Games…Being A Creative Serial Entrepreneur

Willy Chyr, Artist and Video Game Developer of "Relativity"

Willy Chyr

Willy Chyr is a visual artist and independent game developer, who works across a wide range of mediums, from installations to interactive new media. A recipient of the Midwestern Voices and Visions Award, Willy Chyr is a past artist-in-residence of the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska, the Swatch Art Peace Hotel, and the Lawrence Arts Center. He was exhibited internationally and has received commissions from Beck's, AOL, the Wormfarm Institute, and the Interior Design Show. His work has been featured in a number of publications and media outlets, including NPR, TIME, Elle, and the Toronto Star.

Willy holds a B.A. degree in Physics and Economics from the University of Chicago. While a student at the University, he joined Le Vorris & Vox Circus and performed as a juggler, unicyclist, and magician. It was during his time in the circus that Willy learned how to twist balloons.

He is currently working on Relativity, an exploration-puzzle game set in an Escher-esque world. Most recently, Relativity was exhibited as part of the Indie Megabooth at PAX East, one of the largest consumer video game conventions.

Afternoon Speaker

Raise The Bar!

Andrew and Abigail Vrbas, Social Entrepreneurs, Pacha Soap

Andrew and Abigail Vrbas

Andrew Vrbas was inspired to start a for-profit social business after living with the Peruvian people and seeing the need for hand washing and hygiene education. He returned to Hastings, Nebraska where he was a student at Hastings College and launched the Pacha Soap Company inside his apartment, even building a "soap room". While Andrew made soap, he met Abigail who made paper. It was a match made in heaven. Their friendship quickly grew to love and a mutual passion to have a sustainable, positive impact on the world's water, sanitation and hygiene issues. As the Jefe Jaboñero, Andrew makes the soap and manages sales. Abigail is the Pacha Mama and oversees the social media, website, advertising and design for Pacha.

Raise The Bar

Washing hands with soap can reduce the risk of diarrheal diseases by up to 47%* (unicef.org). Diarrheal diseases account for 1 in 9 child deaths worldwide, making it the second leading cause of death among children under the age of 5 (cdc.gov). To help solve this problem, Pacha has implemented its "Raise The Bar" campaign where one bar of soap is donated for every bar purchased. The program has reached a global scale thru their collaborating with international partners to promote better standards of hygiene in developing nations. Andrew and Abigail have made several "Soap Drops" including to local shelters, missions and safe houses and as far away as Peru and Rwanda. They are now focused on creating sustainability by building Pacha Soap Factories around the globe to promote economic and ecological stability in developing nations by employing local people, using local ingredients and positively influencing health and hygiene behavior.

2013 Conference Videos: Missed last year's conference? Watch videos of last year's Keynote Speakers, Becky App and Abby Jordan from eCreamery as well as several local entrepreneurs participating in sharing their stories via the afternoon panel.


Innovation In Action!

Angela Galloway, Organizational Development Consultant, OPPD

Angela Galloway

The subject of "Innovation" has made its presence known as the differentiator needed to survive and thrive in today's corporate arena and build productive communities. But what is this nebulas concept exactly? Most do not consider themselves to be an innovator as it's often reserved for identifying creative individuals who have developed that next greatest "thing". Angela will present how innovation can be sparked easily using the 8 Secrets of Brainstorming enabling intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs to think and act innovatively naturally.

Building Relationships Thru Business Networking

Rita Rocker, Chief Image Officer and Owner, Transformations Academy

Rita Rocker

Our professional manner, communication skills and attitude wield a powerful influence over a prospect's decision to create a partnership with us, and to purchase our products and services. Rita Rocker will share quick tips for networking, professional image, communication and business social skills that give you a competitive edge in today's global economy. The techniques you learn can be practiced immediately and will last a lifetime.

Rita Rocker is a national inspirational and educational speaker, international published author, communications and image specialist, and career coach with Transformation Academy, LLC. She has appeared on national television and radio talk shows on self-esteem and communication. She empowers individuals to become more accomplished communicators, gain greater confidence in business etiquette, project a dynamic professional image, and create a more successful career. Rita is a former Mrs. Nebraska and Mrs. America contestant. She is the author of Guide to Marketing Yourself for Success and Hope at the End of Your Rope. She is a contributing author to Sink, Swim or Float: How to Survive the Trials of Life; The Unstoppable Woman's Guide to Emotional Well Being; Woman Power: Strategies for Female Leadership, and The Power of Transformation: Reinventing Your Life."

Creating Innovators and The Startup of You

Gregg Christensen, Entrepreneurship and Career Education Specialist
Nebraska Department of Education

Gregg Christensen

Creating Innovators and The Start-Up of You are bestsellers that address major themes of interest to all educators, especially those teaching entrepreneurship, (1) the importance of intentionally focusing on innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship (2) how parents and educators can nurture entrepreneurship in youth (3) how to manage your career as if it were a start-up business. This session will share how to access videos and other teaching resources to help infuse the concepts from these books (as well as others) into middle school, high school and college classes.


Big Idea Essay Contest

Sponsored By The Omaha Chamber of Commerce

1. BIG IDEA ESSAY CONTEST: Submit Your Big Idea! In 300 words maximum, craft an essay to show your passion for entrepreneurship by summarizing your big idea to be your own boss, an intrapreneurial-minded employee or the next great innovator. All ideas accepted including those with a for-profit, non-profit or a social agenda. Winners will be announced and must be present at the conference. Tell us what you have going on! Identify:

  • What is the idea? How was the idea born? Why is it a good idea?
  • Who would be (or are) your consumer and how can it satisfy a consumer need?
  • How will you personally make it successful? (Show your passion)
  • What are your next educational and/or professional development plans to support your idea?

Submission: Students, submit your essay at: http://bit.ly/BigIdeaEssay by midnight, April 15th.

Judging: Big Idea Essays will be reviewed using this Judge Form on the following parameters:

  • Idea Concept Summary - Big Idea creatively presented to adequately convey business concept. Background behind idea and support for idea viability addressed.
  • Customer Identification/Needs Assessment - Target Market Consumer(s) identified and the associated benefits to them are evident and compelling.
  • Credibility - Candidate portrays entrepreneur passion and next step plans to support idea.
  • Overall Organization/Writing Quality - Professional essay presented in clear, concise and logical format. Presented within 300 words using correct grammar and spelling.

Prizes: Winners will be announced and must be present at the conference. Some students may be invited to read their essay to the audience. There will be three divisions (Division I - College/University, Division II - High School and Division III - Middle School) with three winners from each division named. Prizes for each division:

  • 1st Place:  $75 Gift Card
  • 2nd Place:  $50 Gift Card
  • 3rd Place:  $25 Gift Card

Elevator Pitch Contest

Sponsored By The Lincoln Financial Foundation

2. ELEVATOR PITCH CONTEST: This contest will bring together the top presenters as to be identified by each individual school's competitions held prior to April 18th (or as identified by Instructor if a school has not held a competition). Selected students will have 2-minutes maximum to present their entrepreneurial or innovative business concepts to a panel of judges using only their voices. It is acceptable for students to dress in business uniform or attire normally worn in the business setting. Any student using a prop of any kind including a note card, promotional handouts or technology will be disqualified. Students will have a maximum of 1-minute following their pitch to address questions from the panel of judges. There will be 3 divisions:

  • Division I - College/University: The Lead Instructor from each participating college/university attending the Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference will be able to nominate and send up to 2 students to participate from their respective school.
  • Division II - High School: The Lead Instructor from each participating high school attending the Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference located in Douglas, Sarpy, Washington or Dodge counties will be able to nominate and send up to 2 students to participate from their respective school.
  • Division III - Middle School: The Lead Instructor from each participating high school attending the Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference located in Douglas, Sarpy, Washington or Dodge counties will be able to nominate and send up to 2 students to participate from their respective school.

Submission: Lead Instructors, register (max 2 students) at: http://bit.ly/HeartlandPitchRegister by midnight, April 15th.

Judging: A panel of judges from the local entrepreneur community will have 1-minute maximum following each student’s pitch presentation to ask follow up questions. The panel will determine the competition winners using the following Judge Form. Every student participant will receive individual feedback. Criteria for judging includes:

  • Overall Organization / Logic: Pitch presented in clear, concise and logical form; Presenter conveyed confidence and professionalism and stayed within the 2 minute timeframe.
  • Presentation Quality: Elevator pitch is creative, energetic and delivered a memorable message.
  • Product/Service Competitive Advantage: Product or service concept and the benefit to customers is clear and compelling.
  • Target Market: Market opportunity and potential returns are clear and compelling.
  • Credibility: Candidate is believable as an entrepreneur with the passion and knowledge to successfully implement.
  • Q & A: Ability to answer judge's questions.

Prizes: Winners will be announced at the end of the conference and must be present to win. There will be three divisions (Division I - College/University, Division II - High School and Division III - Middle School) with one winner from each division named. Prizes for each division:

  • College/University Division will receive a $1,000 Visa Gift Card plus:
    • MCC Scholarship for 4.5 ech credit hours
    • Keys To Successful Business Start-up (book) from the Nebraska Business Development Center
  • High School Division will receive a $500 Visa Gift Card plus:
    • MCC Scholarship for 4.5 ech credit hours
    • Keys To Successful Business Start-up (book) from the Nebraska Business Development Center
  • Middle School Division will receive a $200 Visa Gift Card plus:
    • MCC Scholarship for either 4.5 ech credit hours or one College For Teens class
    • Keys To Successful Business Start-up (book) from the Nebraska Business Development Center

Additionally, the judges will award the following prizes to the best student from any division:

  • Most Innovative Concept — $100 Visa Gift Card
  • Most Marketable Idea — $100 Visa Gift Card
  • Most Panache Presenter! — $100 Visa Gift Card
    (The Most Spirited Entrepreneur)

Practice!: See last year's conference Quick Pitch Winners to help prepare an Elevator Pitch.



Lincoln Financial Foundation logo

The Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference is made possible with the support of the Lincoln Financial Foundation.


For conference-related questions, please contact:
Heather Nelson: 402-289-1376, hnelson@mccneb.edu

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