Heartland Student Entrepreneurship Conference

Heartland Student Entrepreneurship Conference

heartland student entrepreneur conference

The 2016 Heartland Student Entrepreneur Conference took place Friday, April 29, 2016 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. at  Fort Omaha Campus and brought together more than 200 middle, high and college students from the Omaha metro area specifically studying entrepreneurship, innovation or creativity. 

At the conference, students heard success stories from local entrepreneurs and resource providers representing several career fields and issues important to small business owners. Students had the opportunity to participate in a big idea essay contest, a virtual pitch contest AND observe the best-of-the-best student pitchers go head-to-head in a main stage elevator pitch contest and network with like-minded peers and resource providers.

Couldn't make it to the competition? No problem. Check out the archives to watch the videos. You can also view the entire conference program PDF online.



Mike Kolker, Owner Simplify.comMike Kolker

Mike Kolker has lived and worked in Omaha Nebraska since 2001. He holds a degree in Graphic Design from Wayne State College and has worked a very eclectic collection of jobs over the years. He started his own business in 2006 and at the end of 2014 he expanded and rebranded the company.

Over the years Mike has designed air-inflated costumes, worked in college admissions, facilitated anti-bias and becoming an ally workshops for the Anti-Defamation League, entertained at countless events, created and shown studio art, and has dabbled in many other different kinds of creative endeavors and projects over the years.

His broad interests and the skills he’s gained have all lead him to where he is now - the sole-owner of a local company called Simplify. His company is dedicated to resolving complexity through design, at events, and with creative life-hacks. Mike enjoys using creative problem solving to help people organize and optimize their personal or professional lives.

Straight Shot
David Arnold, Managing Director

David ArnoldStraight Shot – Omaha's first technology accelerator – is dedicated to rapidly developing technology startups, so when they go to market they have a sustainable path to revenue generation. Founded by Mark Hasebroock, a co-founder of and Hayneedle, and supported by a deeply experienced and talented pool of strategic mentors, Straight Shot offers participating startups unmatched perspective and knowledge needed to succeed.

David Arnold is the Managing Director of Straight Shot. Born and raised in the small Western Nebraska town of Sutherland, David moved to Lincoln to pursue a Business Administration degree from Nebraska Wesleyan University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Nebraska College of Law. Following law school David took a position as the Deputy Communication Director for the Omaha Mayor’s Office where he got a firsthand look at the inner workings of municipal government. In 2012, David was hired as the seventh employee of MindMixer – a civic tech startup founded by two Omahans – in the role of Account Manager where he worked with clients across the nation. Over the next two years, David helped create and lead the Client Services division which was tasked with the company’s onboarding, support, and product utilization responsibilities. David saw Straight Shot as an opportunity to bring together two facets of his experience – community building and new business venture creation – and became the Managing Director in 2013.

Outside of work, David is active in the community by serving on the Greater Omaha Chamber's Board of Directors, the Omaha Public School’s Career Education Advisory Council, the Advisory Board for The Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic at the University of Nebraska College of Law, as well as the Omaha Small Business Network's Board of Directors.

Joining David Arnold on stage to share about her startup story is Krystal Stubbendeck, Straight Shot Accelerator graduate and recent Cox Blue Omaha Quick Pitch Contest winner:

Krystal Stubbendeck
Borrow For Your Bump

Krystal StubbendeckIn 2012, Krystal Stubbendeck launched Borrow For Your Bump, an online maternity rental service, after observing first-hand the difficulty in finding affordable, cute clothing for expecting and new moms—not to mention the cost involved to purchase special occasion items. Leveraging her skills as a financial analyst for a Fortune 500 company, Stubbendeck spent the first years balancing both her finance career and life as a start-up entrepreneur. During 2014, she took a leap of faith and moved home to Nebraska to participate in the Straight Shot Accelerator program, all while giving birth to her first real baby, Estella Ryan. This enabled Krystal to experience her customer's challenges firsthand and identify the opportunity to expand to selling everyday wear while adding a monthly membership box service and a personal concierge service called the Bump Love Club.

After winning the 2016 CoxBlue Omaha Pitch contest, Stubbendeck is taking business to the next level meeting with interested Venture Capital investors. BFYB has been featured by Fit Pregnancy, Business of Fashion, U.S. News & World Report, the Huffington Post, Omaha World-Herald and loved by mammas all over the U.S. Krystal is a graduate of College of Saint Mary where she majored in Business Administration with an emphasis in Finance.

Jeff Beals

Jeff BealsJeff Beals is focused on helping companies find qualified customers, close business deals and make more money. He is an international award winning author, newspaper columnist, keynote speaker and sales strategist. An active member of the National Speakers Association, he delivers nearly a hundred keynote speeches, workshops and webinars to diverse audiences worldwide each year. As a consultant, Jeff helps companies streamline their sales processes and coaches their employees to sell more effectively. More than 300 of Jeff's sales-and-marketing articles have appeared in local, national and international periodicals. He writes the bi-weekly “Beals Motivation Blast,” which has more than 10,000 subscribers. He is a regular columnist in the Omaha World-Herald and Thinking Bigger Kansas City. Jeff is co-host of an award-winning radio talk-show on 1110 KFAB that covers business and real estate topics. In 2009, he served as host of a weekly television show on an NBC affiliate.

When he's not speaking, writing or consulting, Jeff works as executive vice president of marketing at NAI NP Dodge, the commercial real estate division of NP Dodge, the longest running family-owned real estate company in the United States. A frequent media guest, Jeff has been featured in Investors Business Daily, USA Today, Men’s Health, Chicago Tribune and New York Times and on more than a hundred television and radio stations across the country. Jeff’s first book, Self Marketing Power: Branding Yourself as a Business of One, has won four major awards including the Bill Fisher Award for Best First Book (Ben Franklin Awards); Foreword magazine’s Career Book of the Year, Silver Medal; National Indie Excellence Awards, Finalist; and USA Book News, First-Place Award for the business category. His second book, Selling Saturdays, won a second place in the business category in the Next Generation Indies Awards. Jeff holds a Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Political Science and a Bachelor of Journalism degree in News-Editorial, both from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. He and his wife, Stephanie, have two children, Jack and Maddie.

Sabastian Hunt, Founder, Year of the Startup

Sebastian HuntSabastian Hunt is a military brat who has always considered Omaha home. Attending UNO, he studied economics which shaped the way he thought and viewed the world. Combining his economic thinking with a deep curiosity, Hunt was drawn into entrepreneurship, experimenting with a couple different startup ideas while in college. Following graduation, Hunt became interested in exploring entrepreneurship as a means of economic development. Together with a former UNO classmate, Hunt founded Year of the Startup (YOTS), a live/work/incubator community for founders. From humble beginnings, it has grown quickly already having served over 25 entrepreneurs while expanding to 5 startup houses in just under 1.5 years. The high growth was precipitated by YOTS winning the Small Business Administration’s Accelerator Prize in the summer of 2015, an award that was announced at the White House by President Obama.

Joining Sabastian Hunt on stage are the following Year of the Startup entrepreneurs:

Eric Burns, founder, Gazella Wifi

Eric Burns with Warren BuffetEric is an Omaha based entrepreneur and founder/CEO of Gazella Wifi. Eric has been an entrepreneur as a bar owner, management consultant, and transportation startup. After graduating from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Eric went to work for Contemporary Analysis working as an outbound sales executive and project manager. Eric landed the companies first international sale, taking the local company international. In 2012, Eric began working at Gallup as an Organizational Structure Specialist. During his tenure at Gallup, Eric developed a tool which automated a good portion of his job which enabled him to begin moonlighting, owning and operating a local bar and grill. During this same time Eric began living at the Year of the Startup to develop his most recent business, Gazella Wifi, a customer engagement and analytic tool for business’s offering Wifi to understand and interact with their users.

James Rolfsen, founder, Kojuba

James is a Data Scientist with expertise in network science and predictive analytics. In a past life, he worked in many blue collar jobs for both small and large companies. He is passionate about helping established companies overcome the social effects of bureaucracy and realize their true potential. He is building Kojuba, a data science company that exposes the social mechanics of organizations so that the "social contribution" of each individual can be measured for the first time and accounted for in the Human Resource decision making process. In so doing, Kojuba seeks to maximize the "social efficiency" of organizations.


Marketing & Legal Issues are classic demand areas all entrepreneurs must manage. Select the workshop topic which most interests you!

Lisa TschaunerMarketing

Emerging Marketing Trends

Lisa Tschauner, Owner, and Professor, Bellevue University

Workshop Description:
In this interactive workshop, participants will consider new trends for marketing. They will be exposed to creative approaches for message delivery that cuts through the noise and clutter to grab the attention of the target customer and leaves an impression. This session will also shine a light on how marketing strategies are cyclical and can be predicted based on societal trends. Participants will walk away with applicable tools to be instantly implemented.

Lisa Tschauner is a creative individual who can cross off the following professional achievements from her business bucket list: Author, Educator, Business Consultant and Entrepreneur.

Lisa is the founder and Chief Purveyor of Ingenuity at Open for Business Magazine, a B2B publication in central Nebraska which specializes in promoting area entrepreneurs. She has owned numerous companies and worked in many industries including small business settings to corporate America. She is a writer with a book focusing on the secret to business success; Customer Service & Business Relationships. She is a professor of business at Bellevue University focusing on entrepreneurship, marketing and consumer behavior. Her goals in life are to help shape education to foster the talents and ambitions of today's student and be a part of the creation space and business culture for tomorrow's leaders.

Andrew SagartzLegal

Protecting Your Business

Andrew Sagartz, Business Law Instructor, Metropolitan Community College


  • Grant Maynard, Attorney at Law, Dillashaw, LLC
  • Ari Riekes, Attorney at Law, Marks Clare & Richards, LLC
  • Matt Poulsen, Patent Attorney, Suiter Swantz

Workshop Description:
As entrepreneurs lead the charge to obtain business goals, the assistance of qualified attorneys will most likely be obtained. Attorneys will provide valuable guidance and representation in confronting legal issues that are common with any growing business such as intellectual property, employees and contracts. This panel of experienced lawyers will discuss many legal issues topics that will most likely be faced by new and experienced entrepreneurs.

As a business strategist, intrapreneur, educator and attorney, Andrew Sagartz recently joined Metropolitan Community College from the Chicago area where he practiced law and taught for many years. With a wide range of experience drawing creative connections when posed with puzzling problems, academically, professionally, and personally.

Andrew is passionate about business and the law. He has consistently found practical business and legal solutions for the entrepreneurs has has counseled, and he prides himself in delivering results in innovative, cost-effective ways. He enjoys connecting people and resources that may be useful to them in pursuit of their business objectives. Andrew instructs in the areas of Business Law, Immigration Law, Employment Law, and Legal Issues for the Entrepreneur.


There are 3 competitions that took place in conjunction with the Conference.  Any student can compete in the Big Idea Essay Contest.  However, students cannot compete in both the 30 Second Virtual Pitch contest and be selected by their teacher to represent their school by making a Main Stage Elevator Pitch presentation live at the conference.

Big Idea Essay Contest

30 Second Virtual Pitch Contest (video upload)

Main Stage Elevator Pitch Contest (in person)