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John Fulwider


When John Fulwider walks into Leadbelly, the bartender starts making his favorite drink—an Old Fashioned.

While it might seem a small thing to be a regular at a local restaurant, John has aspired to that title for years.

As a kid, John never spent more than three years in any one place. His father’s Air Force career led his family to Texas, Florida, Nebraska, Germany, Virginia, Germany again, Nebraska again, and finally Lincoln.

It’s in Lincoln where John’s story really starts to take shape.

“Lincoln has given me my beautiful wife, my education, my children, my church community, the launching place of my businesses,” John said.

“Lincoln has given me a place to set down roots and call home. That’s something I’ve never had before.”

He came to Lincoln to attend the University of Nebraska, where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in journalism. John laughed about the fact that he spent far more time reporting for The Daily Nebraskan than actually going to his classes.

Internships and jobs at the Associated Press, Lincoln Journal Star, and The Wall Street Journal came before John took the leap to a startup internet newspaper, Nebraska StatePaper. The startup folded after a few years and John began looking for his next adventure, which led him to graduate school.

“Most grad students are people who loved school,” he said. “But I hated school!”

Two mentors made him love graduate school. D’Andra Orey inspired John’s love of political science, while Denise Bulling encouraged John to turn his research into his second business. She also handed him his first client, so John worked half his time on getting a tenure-track professorship, and half his time building his business.

“I had Plan A for academics and plan C for consulting, and no Plan B, because who needs one?” John joked. Plan A didn’t work out—he came in second in a job search at Texas Christian University—so he cried in his beer for seven days before closing the door on university teaching work and taking his consulting business full time.

Seven years later, John had pivoted his business many times to end up with executive coaching, planning and team-building services for housing, community, and economic development organizations nationwide. He was away from his family more than he liked and it was starting to wear on all of them.

At one point, John got seriously ill while on a business trip and so on top of being away from his wife and two young daughters for six days, he had to quarantine himself from the girls for another week at home. It was miserable, he said, and it was at that point that he decided he didn’t want to travel for work any more.

John launched his third business to focus only on working with entrepreneurial businesses in Lincoln and sixty miles around, allowing him to focus his energy on Lincoln and his family.

There’s a lot of moving parts to John’s story. A lot about his family, his work and his community that he loves to share about with anyone who will listen.

He said so much of his story has been about finding his place, digging deep, putting down roots and experiencing a deep sense of joy in being known. John said that because he moved so often as a kid, he had a hard time making friends. He said he only had one friend at each place he lived, and had to find a new one each time he and his family packed up and moved to their next assignment.

But finding his place in Lincoln has meant the world to him. He’s in awe of the fact that his kids will go to the same high school that his wife attended, that he lives in a neighborhood filled with friends and that he can rattle off his favorite local restaurants and haunts at the drop of a hat.

John loves walking in to Leadbelly and knowing the bartender remembers his favorite drink. He loves anything and everything local, but mostly he just loves knowing Lincoln is his place. It’s a place he knows, a place he calls home and place that knows him.

A writer of stories


Sharing your story with a someone can be challenging, humbling and even scary. Not with her. It’s more than just the frequent nods of approval and kind smile. She has a way of making you feel comfortable, both with yourself and your story.

Somehow you have the confidence that she’ll take the tangled web of facts and short stories and craft something articulate and beautiful. You can’t put your finger on exactly what it is, but you can tell she genuinely cares about you, values your story and has a sincere desire to tell it well.

Meet Asha (like Tasha without the “T”). Don’t worry if you mispronounce her name. She gets it.

If you were to take a quick glance at Asha’s story, it might seem pretty standard for a Nebraska girl. But look a little deeper and you’ll find that her story is more than you might have expected.

** Disclaimer : Asha did not write this story. You’ll get to enjoy her wonderful writing again next week, but this week you get to learn more about the writer herself. **

Although Asha herself lived most of her life in Omaha, her father was born and raised in India and her mother is from a small town west of Lincoln. Before meeting each other in the Philippines, her parents traveled and lived in other exotic places like India and Israel. But even after settling down in Nebraska, those distant cultures, food and people remained a significant part of their life.

Asha can remember being called upon as a child to help prep and serve home-cooked food to people visiting from around the world. There was always the expectation to stay around to hear stories and take part in conversations with their guests.

Visitors would share tales about dangerous travels, risky border crossings, strange foods and the difficulties of living abroad. Listening to and sharing stories was a big part of Asha’s childhood experience and when it came to writing them down, she was a natural.

Growing up, teachers would tell her that she had a talent for writing, but it wasn’t until a journalism class in high school that Asha began to see what her talent had to offer. When she showed an interest in writing, her parents encouraged her to get involved. Soon Asha found herself as the editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper.

She attended journalism camps, entered competitions and won awards. But as high school was drawing to a close, Asha had a decision to make. Would she study medical science like her two older siblings, or would she buck the trend and go on to study journalism? The decision might sound like a no brainer, but it was complicated.

Choosing a career in medicine would be the practical, responsible and slightly more acceptable decision. But the idea of experiencing adventure, travel and stories for herself… maybe that could be practical too? She told herself she would need a plan.

Asha purposed to find as many internships and real-world experiences during her college studies in order to land a job after graduation. She wanted to take things seriously and her “plan” somehow made the impractical choice more practical – giving her the confidence to say yes.

Asha took advantage of every opportunity for real-world practice in journalism. International trips and internships around the country were expected realities.

She was doing it. Asha was doing what she loved – traveling, experiencing diverse cultures, meeting new people and still maintaining a laser focus on her career.

Asha figured she was set. With her awards, recognition and experience, she wouldn’t have any problem landing a job and traveling the world. Everything seemed to be going as planned.

Then… life happened.

Asha met a guy – Michael. She fell in love and got married. They decided to settle down in Lincoln and the decision was a surprisingly easy one. They already had friends, family, favorite places to eat and a great community. Asha and Michael had grown attached to their city and knew Lincoln would be a great place to start a family.

The first step in settling down meant starting a career and shortly after being married, Asha landed her first real-world job. But it wasn’t what she expected. She went to work in advertising. That’s right… advertising.

Instead of traveling the world, Asha would be helping businesses find their message, writing copy for websites, video scripts and interviewing people on camera. Initially she was a bit out of her element, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of things and excel.

A short time later, she was approached with an offer. Asha was asked if she would be interested in helping start an advertising agency focused on storytelling. It sounded intriguing, even exciting. But it was definitely a risk. Did she really want to stay in advertising?

Eventually she said yes and agreed to come on board to help start StoryHook.

Fast forward to today. Responsible for almost 52 stories, Asha is the creator, writer and photographer for this wonderful series we call Stories Matter. She has been instrumental in building StoryHook and injecting well-crafted storytelling into the community. People from all over have read and loved the stories she writes each week.

Being in advertising wasn’t exactly part of the plan and if you were to ask high school Asha about her future self settling down in Lincoln and working in advertising… she might be a little disappointed that she isn’t the traveling journalist she maybe thought she would become.

Instead, high school Asha should be encouraged by the surprise of adventure. She married a loving husband, has a growing family, is surrounded by a supportive community and directly impacts the lives of people through her writing.

Asha’s story is one of tough decisions, unexpected outcomes and surprise blessings. She didn’t give up on her dreams. She found a better one. With people she loves.

Asha isn’t a great writer because of her childhood experiences, her travels, or her education – though those have uniquely shaped her into the writer and person she is today. No, Asha is a great writer because when she writes about you, you’re more than just a story. You’re a person, with immense value. To Asha, your story matters… because it’s yours.

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