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Alex Kolbo


Alex Kolbo is one of those ‘cool’ teachers. He’s young, fun and he teaches high school art.

Most days there are a few students who hang out in his art room before or after school to work on projects or just to talk with Mr. Kolbo about whatever is on their mind.

Being an art teacher is a job that feels natural to Alex. It tracks well with this own love of all things artistic, plus, it’s relational, which is something he didn’t know would quickly become the best part of his job.

But Alex never saw himself as an art teacher. In fact, ever since first grade all he really wanted to be was an architect.

As a kid, Alex was always drawing. It was a hobby that was encouraged by his parents, teachers and nearly anyone who saw his work. He had talent, but he was a little shy to admit it. He remembers refusing to take compliments when people would look at his artwork. Then his dad sat him down and had a conversation about being grateful for his abilities and taught him how to accept encouragement from others.

But even though he was talented, Alex said he never thought about being an artist. He thought the more practical route would be architecture, because it combined his artistic skills with his math abilities… and he’d heard that architects earn a good living.

Architecture wasn’t just what Alex planned to do, it’s what he told everyone he would do – it was his identity. So when he went to college at UNL as an architecture major, nobody was surprised.

After two years of having a love-hate relationship with architecture – which Alex now fondly refers to as ‘archi-torture’ – he hit a major roadblock. While he enjoyed his classes, the math portion of his degree was proving extremely challenging, specifically his calculus class. He needed to pass calculus with a C or higher and after taking the class three times he was 1 percentage point away from passing the class.

He had two choices: take the class a fourth time and hopefully pass so that he could continue with his architecture degree, or change his major.

Alex went home for the weekend to think over his decision. He said it felt heavy and even a little sad to have his once certain future suddenly full of question marks. Alex met with friends and a handful of trusted mentors who listened to his dilemma and offered advice. He said the most common question everyone asked was, ‘Have you ever thought about teaching art?”

Teaching? Interesting, he thought.

But then came the list of questions and hesitations, the main one centering on if he could provide for his future family on a teacher’s salary. Plus, being a teacher didn’t seem nearly as glamorous as his architecture aspirations.

He was shocked by the fact that so many people had suggested the same career shift, but now the decision was up to him. Within a week Alex changed his major, ending his time at the architecture school and starting down the teaching path.

It’s been nearly seven years since Alex made the decision to become a teacher and he’s currently finishing up his fourth year at Lincoln East High School. He landed the job shortly after he graduated, and quickly found that teaching felt like such a natural use of his passions and skills.

“I love making art, it’s fun, but that alone hasn’t been the most meaningful part of my job,” he said. “It’s the building relationships, and I didn’t realize that would make me feel like this is where I’m meant to be.”

Whether he’s teaching pottery, photography, graphic design or even jewelry making, Alex said his goal is to connect with students and help them think creatively. He said creative thinking isn’t just for art, it’s for life, and art is the tool he’s using to teach his students these skills.

Alex knows that not every kid who walks into his classroom is thrilled about taking an art class. They don’t all have to love or even appreciate art, he said, but he wants them to know that he’s a teacher they can trust and learn from, whether it’s art or something from his own story.

Alex said teaching is something he can see himself doing for a long time. It gives him his own time and space to think creatively, plus it pairs well with his endeavors outside of the classroom. On weekends and during the summer he likes to take wedding and engagement photos, help his wife, Machelle, with her graphic design business, think up art-inspired Instagram posts, go on walks with their golden retriever and hang out with kids in his church’s youth group.

Nearly everything Alex does turns into some sort of exercise in creative thinking. It’s what he loves, what he’s passionate about and what naturally rises to the surface of both his work and hobbies.

It’s seems funny to think of Alex as being anything other than an art teacher at Lincoln East. It’s where he’s invested his skills and his time. And even though Alex is at the front of the classroom, it’s really his students who have shaped his story and encourage him to test his own creativity every day.

Stefanie Urbom


When Stefanie Urbom meets with patients for the first time she oftentimes uses her own story as part of the introduction.

“My mom had cancer…” she says, honestly, explaining her mom’s surgery, recovery and the number of years she’s been cancer-free.

She does this because a lot of her patients are skeptical and nervous about opening up. They look at Stefanie and think, ‘What could this young, healthy girl know about helping someone like me…’

Their skepticism is valid, Stefanie said, but what her patients often don’t understand is that Stefanie has interacted with cancer in a way that shifted both her personal and professional life forever.

As a kid, Stefanie said she was always helping people. Whether it was kids at school who needed a little extra attention, or a friend with a problem, she liked to be an advocate for the underdog. Which is why it seemed like a no-brainer for her to pursue a career in the medical field.

She graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan and then attended physical therapy school at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. It was while she was going through school that her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I was devastated,” she said. “I was very scared of the big C word – you just think the worst.”

Stefanie felt paralyzed and limited by her options to help her mom. Sure, she could provide emotional support, but at times that didn’t seem like enough. She watched as her mom lost her hair after chemotherapy, as she struggled with short term memory loss, fatigue and the emotional and physical pain and that followed her mastectomy.

Her mom wasn’t herself, she didn’t feel like herself and that was the hardest part for Stefanie to watch. But the one thing Stefanie could do was research how to help her mom deal with the physical repercussions of treatment and surgery. She quickly realized that her mom could benefit from physical therapy during her recovery.

After graduating from physical therapy school, Stefanie continued to study the use of physical therapy for cancer recovery and also became a certified lymphedema therapist. She realized that while people are often unaware of the benefits physical therapy can have for a patient undergoing treatment for cancer, helping these patients regain their strength, maintain activity level and manage pain are crucial parts of their care.”

Currently about half of the patients she sees have cancer. Stefanie works with them to reduce pain and improve their quality of life.

It’s a heavy job, because not all of her patients make it through their therapy programs, but Stefanie said she doesn’t think about it that way. She goes in to each day thinking about what she can give her patients, independent of how many days they have left. She makes it her mission to help her patients laugh during therapy, to talk about something other than cancer and to help them feel like themselves again.

Stefanie said she tries not to let the sad stories distract her from the reason she does her work, but it’s still difficult. She has hard days and can get overwhelmed by sadness when she sees something that reminds her of a patient who has died.

In the same way that cancer has defined the story of so many of her patients, being a physical therapist who works closely with cancer patients has shaped Stefanie in ways she hadn’t anticipated.

It’s made her a professional who craves knowledge so that she can provide the best care possible and it’s made her a wife and mother who is grateful for her family’s health.

But she’s also realized cancer, even her mom’s battle with cancer, isn’t the only thing that defines her story.

Stefanie is a young mom and wife who tries to balance working full-time and being attentive to her young children and husband. She’s ambitious and outgoing, she loves to have fun but also enjoys the simple things in life.

Her story is about using her own experience to help others. It’s about learning how to lean in to moments that others often shy away from, and seeing people beyond their current circumstances.

It’s also been about stepping back and watching how other stories have impacted her own story, learning from those moments and choosing to keep moving forward.

Her story has been shaped by some hard circumstances, but it’s also a story that she’s still trying to understand herself. She’s trying to figure out what’s next,  how to continue to grow personally and professionally and how to piece all of these elements together.

“It’s a process,” she said, one that builds over time, one patient at a time, one day at a time and one moment at a time.

Shala Hruska


It’s a Tuesday and Shala Hruska has one thing on her agenda: sew.

Well, not quite one thing. There’s picking up the kids from preschool, dinner, bedtime, ect., but when she’s in the studio she’s focused on her business, and today that means sewing.

Shala has owned and run her hand-made baby shoe shop, Belle and The Bear, for just over four years. It’s a job that she said she “fell into,” but also one that she’s been intentional about growing in a way that’s true to herself and her customers.

Back up a few years to before Shala started her business and her days were a jumble of diapers, feedings and keeping a close eye on her twin baby girls, Alice and Cora. Life was busy, chaotic and a bit overwhelming, but as Shala started to get the hang of being the mother of twins she came across a problem: baby shoes.

All the shoes on the market were either uncomfortable, unattractive, impractical or just too expensive. So, Shala decided to try making some shoes for herself. She took a pink suede blazer that was a thrift store find, made her own pattern and sewed her first pair of baby moccasins.

Getting the shoes to fit right took some time, but as soon as her girls started wearing the shoes she got comments and questions about where she’d bought them. She realized that she wasn’t the only one who had a problem with baby shoes, and she decided to start selling her shoes on Etsy.

Shala began sewing during nap time, late into the night and anytime she could to get her shop up and running. She didn’t expect it to grow much bigger than Etsy, after all, it was just a fun hobby and a way to make a little extra money on the side, right?

Shala wasn’t a business major and didn’t have any huge aspirations of one day owning a shop. In fact, she laughed about the fact that in college she had a million ideas but no specific major until her senior year in college – and she basically picked whatever major would get her to graduation.

So when her baby shoe business took off she was a little shocked. Sure, she thought her designs were pretty darn cute and she loved the shoes for her own girls, but she was amazed by the support and attention she was suddenly getting from the community. There were some big fans of Belle and The Bear, and some big fans of Shala and that felt good.

Despite the chaos of starting a business and caring for her family, Shala loved the fact that she could have one foot in motherhood and the other in the small business world. She expanded her Etsy site into a full-scale website and in 2015 she opened a brick and mortar shop entirely devoted to kids footwear.

Her shop carried her own designs as well as other brands that she knew of and liked. Having a shop was fun. It gave her an opportunity to interact with her customers, offer shoe fittings and it was a space for her designs to be seen and sold.

But it was also hard. Running a shop added another layer of complexity to her business and family life. Shala’s schedule was fuller and her time at home was in short supply.

After a year of running her shop, Shala decided it was time to close and exclusively sell online and wholesale. It was sad, because it felt like the store had failed in a way, she said.

But Shala didn’t close her store because shoes weren’t selling, she closed it because her brand of shoes were selling better than the other brands she carried. Opening and closing her shop showed her what she really liked about her business and what the community valued as well.

“Our shoes is us. That’s what I love and that’s what other people love,” she said. “I thought my dream was to own a shop, but what I love to do is design and make shoes and to have my own brand versus just my own store.”

Plus, Shala said she gets to spend her Saturdays on the soccer field with her kids instead of in the shop, and that feels good.

It’s not that running a business or even her full-time job as a wife and mother have become any easier, but closing her shop allowed her to run her business on her terms. Shala said that’s one of the things she’s learned over the last four years as a business owner – to trust her gut when it comes to her brand…and her story.

Shala didn’t think her story would involve sewing baby shoes, having twin girls or even living in Lincoln for that matter. To be honest, she didn’t know where her story was going to take her. She didn’t realize how much she’d love being a maker, or how connected she’d be with the maker community in Lincoln. She didn’t even anticipate how much she’d love the differences between her two girls and the life and love they bring to her story.

Shala might say that she just “fell into” running a business, but that’s not really true. Being an owner, a maker, a mother and a wife takes work, it doesn’t just happen. Her story is one that she’s built on her passions and her skills, it’s developed and changed over time, but for now it’s her normal and it’s exactly where she wants to be.

David Lawton


David Lawton said his kids would always joke with him, saying: “Hey dad, what are you going to be when you grow up?”

It was the running joke because David has had a lot of jobs. So many, that he has a hard time keeping track of them all.

He’s done everything from stocking shelves at a grocery store to being a pediatric nurse, an interim dean, an ER nurse and ‘the mayor’ of Chick-fil-A.

Now, at the age of 69, David said he has no clue what’s next. The truth is, he doesn’t know what’s next because the past 50+ years have been full of the unexpected.

“My story is really Claudia’s story too…” he said.

He wanted to make this distinction because he and Claudia have been married for 45 years. They grew up on opposite coasts, David in Santa Barbara, and Claudia in Miami. The two met when they attended Covenant College and got married a few years later.

Despite being somewhat of a poor student, David graduated with a degree in psychology and he and Claudia looked for jobs and a place to settle down. As a nurse, Claudia had lots of options when it came to jobs and David said he had to beg employers for even a manual labor job.

After their first child was born, David decided to go back to school to get a nursing degree, thinking it would provide him with a more consistent way to support his family. He enrolled in a 15-month accelerated program, graduated on a Friday and started his nursing job the next day.

He had originally planned to be a postpartum nurse, but during that time the job was a bit taboo for a man, so he decided to be a pediatric nurse. David said he’d always loved kids and being around them all day felt like the perfect fit. He went on to get his bachelor’s and Master’s degree in nursing and nursing administration and then took a position at the local VA hospital.

David and his family lived in Florida, Georgia, California and Oregon during his early years as a nurse before he was offered a job at Lincoln’s St. Elizabeth Hospital in the early 90s. He and Claudia had never thought about moving to the middle of the United States, they were coastal people who liked views of the ocean. But after a bit of convincing, they decided to at least visit Nebraska. It was January so they packed coats, gloves and boots for their kids, and in true Nebraska fashion they were welcomed to the state with 70-degree weather.

While they hadn’t pictured a life in the Midwest, the job David was offered was a great opportunity to use both his leadership and nursing skills and he decided to take the job. Since being in Nebraska, David has worked for the state’s health department, Clarkson College, earned his Ph.D, worked for the federal government, Concordia University and Bryan Heart.

After his contract with Bryan Heart ended he began applying for other medical jobs but wasn’t having any luck. He suspected it was because of his age, but he didn’t let that discourage him.

It was around this time that a Chick-fil-A was opening and David decided to send in an application. He was the second person hired at the new location and was put in charge of maintaining the dining room.

David took his job very seriously. He’d come in every morning and make sure the dining room, bathrooms and play area were properly cleaned before the patrons arrived. He greeted customers with a smile and worked to learn the names of his regulars who grew to appreciate his attentive and joyful spirit.

“The job was really about anticipating people’s needs,” he said. “If a mom came in with a baby, I made sure she had a high chair or that she had a seat where she could easily see the play area.”

It seemed like common sense to David, but his work ethic and personality charmed both kids and adults alike. He worked behind the counter when he needed to and even cut and squeezed lemons for the chain’s much talked about lemonade.

The staff started referring to David as ‘the mayor’ of Chick-fil-A.

“I liked it,” he said. “I liked being able to serve people and not hold anything back. It was about making people happy.”

His stint at the restaurant lasted about 18 months before deciding to go back into his professional field so that his license wouldn’t lapse. So in September 2016, ‘the mayor’ of Chick-fil-A resigned and started working for a home health company.

While it’s different than mopping floors and making funny faces at kids, there’s a lot of hospitality involved in his new job as well. He said his caseload is full of lonely people looking for someone to check in and care for them, and this role plays well to his strengths.

When David thinks about what’s next in his story, he said he has no clue what the future holds, and he’s OK with that.

After all, he never expected to live in Nebraska, have five educational degrees and have worked more jobs than he can remember.

But what he is counting on is always helping people. He’s a learner and a do-er, he feels most like himself when he’s serving others or when he’s with Claudia and those are things that won’t change, he said.

Maybe he’ll retire one day. Maybe he’ll go back and work at Chick-fil-A. Or maybe, he’ll still be trying to figure out what he’s going to be when he grows up.


Photo courtesy of Rebecca Tredway.

Christopher James


“Well, my mom would say it started when I was 10 or 12 years old,” said Christopher James with a smile. “I made up little business cards and I’d offer to kill bees and wasps with my bare hands.”

Back then his clients were mostly his neighbors, and his job was a way to keep busy during the summer, but it was his start in the business world.

Christopher said he always liked working with his hands, he liked to think outside the box, surprise people and keep busy. Which is probably why he’s been able to keep the door to Porridge Papers open for the past 23 years.

Paper was never on his radar, but it was a hobby that turned into a business that turned into a career. And now, Christopher can’t imagine a day without it.

During college, he studied architecture. His father was an architect and the skill and precision of the craft came easily to Christopher. But what didn’t come easily to him was the rigidity of school.

To pay for college he worked at an art shop where one of the perks of his job was a discount. Christopher would load up on all sorts of art supplies and try them out after work. He tried his hand at painting and sketching, but wasn’t very good at any form of art…until it came to paper making. The process was long, but simple and it allowed him to add in his own creative spin once he mastered the basics.

Soak, blend, strain, press, dry and repeat. This is how paper was made and it didn’t take long before Christopher was hooked.

He started selling paper at the art shop, which led him to craft shows, which eventually led him to dropping out of school, phasing out of work and making paper full time.

A lot of people considered his paper making a hobby job, and Christopher admits that’s probably what it was. But as a single guy with minimal expenses, he could afford to make paper his full-time gig. He found a spot in the Haymarket where he could run a business and live in the same space. It was exactly what he needed, until he realized he was working 24 hours a day, seven days a week and was staring burnout in the face.

He wanted to quit and he needed a break.

It was around this same time that Christopher got married and he and his wife moved to New Mexico where his wife attended graduate school. The move gave Christopher some breathing room. He spent time trying to figure out his next step and he tried a few different jobs but nothing stuck. He eventually started working at a company that had its roots in paper making and he started to feel like himself again.

One day he received a call from a previous client who needed paper for a project. He took on the job and then slowly continued to build his business back up. Christopher said he didn’t realize how much he missed the paper making process and having it back in his life gave him all kinds of new ideas. And as his confidence grew, so did his business.

After nine years in New Mexico, Christopher and his wife decided to move back to Lincoln. They had family nearby, access to good schools and Christopher knew it would be a great community to replant his business.

With fingers crossed, Christopher moved his family to Lincoln. They lived with family, looked for a house and started renovating his new work space. Coming back to Lincoln was the right thing to do, for this family and his business, but it wasn’t without its own set of challenges.

He had to re-educate the community about what Porridge Papers was about, he had to redefine his business for himself and pivot as his business grew and changed.

Christopher said he’s gone from having as many as 12 employees to one or two. He’s had 2.5 million piece projects and others that require a single sheet of paper. He’s added letterpress printing and experimented with offering paper making classes and even selling retail goods, but Christopher said he always comes back to paper.

He likes that Porridge Papers is a custom paper mill, and that’s the way he wants to keep it. Christopher said he does his best work when he has the opportunity to be creative, to give his clients great ideas and really bring out their personality with paper. This means that he’s made paper out of blue jeans, phone books and beer hops, blueberry scented paper and glitter-infused invitations.

He loves getting calls that start with the phrase, ‘This might sound strange, but could you make…’ And his classic response is, ‘We can definitely try.’

While he has 23 years of paper making under his belt, Christopher said so much of his job is about solving problems, winging it, failing, learning from failure and trying something new again. He’s not perfect and he doesn’t claim to be, but he’s also fiercely determined and isn’t willing to give up.

“There are a lot of people who never thought this would go anywhere,” he said. “But I’m still here I’m still making a living, I’m still supporting my family and in my mind that counts a lot.”

Christopher’s story has been about letting his passion write his story. It wasn’t always practical or easy, but it’s what he loved. He figured out how to turn his hobby into a career and a life that he’s proud to call his own.

Roxane McCoskey


Roxane McCoskey has worn a lot of hats in her life. She’s been a stay at home mom, a work-from homer, an athletic director’s assistant, a farmers market vendor and now she’s a coffee shop owner.

Did we mention that Roxane didn’t even like coffee when she opened her coffee shop?

But Roxane didn’t get into the coffee business for the coffee, for her it was all about loveknots.

Loveknots are sweet knots of dough with a thick swipe of frosting on top. Every Christmas, Roxane’s mother-in-law made loveknots using a secret family recipe and the entire family devoured every last one. They often talked about how they should start a business selling them, because who could not love a loveknot?!

As years passed, Roxane tried her hand at making loveknots, but it wasn’t so easy. She had lots of failed attempts – years of failed attempts – until she finally got the recipe down and she became the official holiday loveknot maker.

But the question still remained, could they sell loveknots? Roxane and her family decided to test out their theory at the farmers market. They set up a table, laid out the loveknots and waited. Nothing happened.

“We didn’t realize that people didn’t know what loveknots were,” Roxane said. “But once we started putting out samples people would try it and immediately buy one.”

They sold 700-800 loveknots every weekend, oftentimes selling out an hour before the market ended. Then came the questions from their eager customers, ‘Where’s your shop?’ and ‘How can I buy more of these?’

So, Roxane and her husband started looking for retail space. However, they quickly realized that opening a shop that only sold loveknots might be difficult, so they decided to look for a coffee shop.

After scoping out their options around town they settled on a shop in the Piedmont Shopping Center and quickly went to work to make it their own. She and her husband originally named it Loveknot Coffee Shop as a way to stay connected with their farmers market customers, but they recently renamed it The Harbor.

Opening a coffee shop was a whole new kind of adventure for Roxane. Sure, she had mastered the loveknots, but running a business with employees and customers was an entirely new endeavor. Plus, she didn’t just want to be the owner of yet another coffee shop in town, she said, Lincoln has plenty of coffee shops but she wanted hers to be different.

And it was. After a few months of being in business, Roxane noticed their her clientele was different than most shops around town. She had regulars, lots of regulars who came with a few friends to drink coffee and chat for a few hours. And Roxane noticed that the majority of her customers were older.

At first, she wasn’t so sure about this. Was this the kind of vibe she wanted for her shop? But now, she said she wouldn’t change it.

Having a large population of older people who frequent her shop has made it a place where people talk with each other instead of avoid eye contact. It’s become a place that’s an extension of people’s homes and a part of their routine.

Her staff is the other thing that’s really shaped the culture at The Harbor. Roxane is very intentional when she hires employees, she looks for dedicated workers with strong people skills.

“I tell them, ‘I don’t want you just to work, I want you to like what you’re doing and build relationships,’ ” she said.

Roxane said it’s been fun to watch her employees build relationships with customers in their own ways. Some of them sit down and do a crossword puzzle with patrons, others offer a kind smile and friendly service, but they all have their own way of making people feel at home.

Walking into The Harbor feels like stopping by a small town coffee shop. There are old guys cracking jokes about birdwatching, the sweet smell of loveknots and coffee and families with their kids. It’s the kind of place that isn’t too concerned about having trendy drinks and decor, but is more focused on the quality and care they pour into each day they’re open.

A lot of the culture at The Harbor has developed on its own, but it’s also been heavily influenced by Roxane, and rightly so.

She’s the owner who started out not liking coffee, but now drinks a few cups a day. The baker who comes in late at night to make loveknots. And the boss who runs the show, but leaves the credit to her staff.

It’s Roxane’s small town upbringing and deep devotion to people that make The Harbor feel as safe and comfortable as the name suggests. Without her, The Harbor wouldn’t be the same.

That’s the thing, Roxane has poured a lot of her life into owning and running a coffee shop. But it seems like that’s what she does with just about anything she’s a part of – her faith, family, friendships, work, marriage. Her life has been about digging in and digging deep.

She’s been asked a few times recently about whether she’ll open another coffee shop and right now the answer is ‘No.’ It’s a nice idea, she said, and maybe even a good business move, but she wonders if it would dilute her passion for the work she does now.

Running a business is a lot of work, and she loves it, but it’s not her entire life and she doesn’t want it to be. She wants to invest well in her staff and customers, prioritize her faith and her marriage and enjoy being a grandmother. These are the things she wants her story to be about, these things, and loveknots.

Matt Taylor


Walking into the Tavern – a bar nestled in the heart of the Haymarket – you would never know that the space has been anything other than the warm, inviting establishment it is today. With childhood pictures of regular customers lining the walls, dark wood, impeccably clean and comfortable – a place that offers an instant welcome.

The space is a good reflection of its owner, Matt Taylor, who confidently fills the role of young entrepreneur and owner of two Haymarket businesses. A path he didn’t set out to take, but one that has provided a place to grow and directly impact the city of Lincoln.

When Matt started college, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do, but figured that the Finance Department at UNL would provide some essential tools to learning about business and managing money.

While finance seemed pretty straightforward, the actual work he experienced during an internship proved to be tedious and far from the type of work he was looking for.

It wasn’t until midway through his education that he took a job checking I.D.s at The Bar and found a surprising connection to real-world business. Each night, he left energized by the person-to-person interaction and the money he was able to earn.

The owner, Neal Grummert, turned out to be the best business mentor Matt could have asked for. Neal took a serious approach to the way he ran things and had thoughtful business practices in place – constantly investing in his employees and keeping an eye on what was going on in the Lincoln business community.

Matt rose quickly in the ranks at The Bar, gaining experience in each role, and eventually becoming the general manager. The Bar provided a place to apply what he was learning in school. After classes, Matt would head to work and sit down with Neal, discussing things like product placement, profit and losses, and even business culture. They were always looking twelve months ahead on how to develop the business.

In 2009, just after Matt had graduated from college and was finding a good rhythm at work, he felt the ground drop out from under him when his boss unexpectedly died. The loss of his mentor-friend and end of their shared plans left Matt floating aimlessly. He applied for all sorts of of jobs and tried to find firm foundation.

Eventually Matt met with his dad and cast a vision for a downtown bar in the former Crescent Moon Coffee building. His dad loved the idea and agreed to the proposal, putting up his home as collateral for a line of credit.

Over the next two months, the space was overhauled and filled with high top tables and bar stools. Matt wanted to create a place geared toward the 25 and older crowd who wanted something different than the college bar scene. It was an idea that took hold quickly.

“After four months, we had made back our initial investment. It was a good time to start a business… I think now is an even better time with all of this opportunity.”

Matt’s success propelled him forward, and in 2013 he decided to launch a second bar, The Other Room, just behind The Tavern. Through his travels, he had witnessed the revival of the speakeasy type bar in big cities and decided to bring the idea to Lincoln.

One of Matt’s liquor representatives, Miles Kos, introduced him to Jill Cockson, an award-winning mixologist, whose reputation helped provide an instant clientele and the passion for her craft matched the vision Matt had for the business. Jill formed a menu of unique specialty drinks while Matt designed the intimate space, complete with hidden door.

Owning two different bars gives Matt the opportunity to offer quality drinks and distinct experiences to people visiting the Haymarket. He values the conversations he has with whoever comes through the door and sees this engagement as the heart of his business.

“A bar can be an interesting human behavior experiment. Every day, I meet all kinds of people – from the homeless man coming in asking for change, the traveling salesman who has decades of experience or the person sitting at the bar who has been married for years. It’s a constant exchange of story, experience and learning what has worked and what hasn’t.”

Matt looks toward the future and is always considering how he can grow and improve. He listens to podcasts and reads articles focused on small business and entrepreneurship. He regularly sits down with other small business owners from around town with no agenda other than conversation and learning. He also sees the wisdom in taking his time to make sure he’s taking good care of the people and businesses he’s currently managing.

Like the historic buildings Matt occupies, his work ethic and priorities point directly to the past. To a mom who daily encouraged him, to the boss who believed in his ability and trusted him with big responsibilities, and a dad who borrowed against his home because he believed his son could make a dream happen.

On a daily basis, Matt reflects on this spirit of generosity and continues the legacy of believing that a good business keeps people at the heart of the process. His story is not only adding to the positive growth of the business community in Lincoln, but to the character and reputation of the city – as he brings attention to the things that really matter.

Beth Brady


We all play different roles in the stories of the people we come into contact with. We might be a minor, supporting character or fill a major role that changes the whole scene. In every story we are involved in, it’s clear that the interactions between us and the information we add to another’s perspective are powerful and can even change the course of a life.

When Beth Brady began filling out college applications, she knew she wanted to pursue some sort of career in therapy, but wasn’t sure of her particular area of study.

Before she was born, Beth’s mother had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and was bedridden by the time Beth was ten. Throughout her childhood, she helped play a role in taking care of her mom and so had a firsthand experience with different kinds of therapy.

Starting at Nebraska Wesleyan, Beth pointed her studies in the direction of physical therapy, but was rerouted by a simple piece of paper she received in an elective education class. She knew she didn’t want to become a teacher, but wanted to work with kids. So when a flier was passed out in class one day listing the top ten careers in education, the top-listed “Speech Language Pathology” career grabbed her interest.

That one small thing was all it took. By her junior year, Beth had transferred to the University of Nebraska and enrolled in the Communication Disorders program. She immediately loved the scope of her classes and the curriculum’s science foundation.

When she encountered Dr. Mary Pat Moeller, director of the Boys Town Center for Childhood Deafness and Professor of Aural Rehabilitation (therapy to develop speaking and listening skills), her calling was solidified. She became Beth’s first career mentor, and provided a passionate and contagious case for Speech Language Pathology (SLP).

With the completion of her undergrad work, Beth wanted to expand her experience but needed a larger population to work from since deafness is a low-incidence disability.

She enrolled in the master’s program for Speech Language Pathology at the University of Minnesota where she could do research in a large city where there would be a lot of kids, with a lot of different case situations.

With her studies narrowed to aural rehabilitation, she focused her research on deafness. Her clinical supervisor provided invaluable information on how to interact with children who are deaf and their parents, and helped her to understand the parents’ point-of-view.

At that time, technology was less developed and children were arriving in their offices with unidentified deafness at the ages of two and three. The diagnosis at this late stage made it particularly important to consider the responses and worries of the parents.

The rest of her time in Minnesota was filled with learning sign language and cued speech (a method of communication with coordinated mouth and hand movements). She also played an active role on a cochlear implant team at the research hospital, where she helped make decisions on the benefits and risks of surgery and determined if the projected outcome was in the best interests of the patient.

When Beth and her husband Eric completed their respective degrees, they decided to return to Lincoln to be near parents and siblings and to establish roots for their own family. They bought a house in the near-south area of Lincoln and Beth found employment through Lincoln Public Schools.

“At first, I was disappointed with the job because I was working with a large variety of cases and I had thought I wanted to remain focused on my work with clients who are deaf. I quickly found out that the multi-disciplined nature of the work was a gift.”

At LPS, Beth worked with a team of professionals – physical therapists, speech-language therapists and occupational therapists. The team-approach proved to be invigorating and helpful. Together, they made home visits and worked in school settings, expanding their collective experience and knowledge.

“In Minnesota, our clients typically were those who had more resources and sometimes more extensive support systems. At LPS, we worked with all types of kids – those who had many resources and those who had very little.”

Although she found her work with LPS rewarding, Beth began to see the need for a better work/life balance. She had three children, and the limited resources and extensive needs at her job made it difficult to work part-time hours and arrive home with energy left over for her family.

Then she came across Heartland Speech and Occupational Therapy Services. The business had been started by two sisters who wanted to provide excellent care for children while simultaneously creating a work-environment that was family-friendly.

Beth eased into the job, gradually transitioning from LPS to working exclusively for Heartland, where she continues to work today.

In private practice, Beth still engages with a variety of clients and coordinates with a team of occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists who bring unique and beneficial perspectives to the table.

“I’m so glad this is a place where we share knowledge and are actively problem-solving. I believe that if a person ever gets complacent in their job, they are missing out. It’s important to keep learning, to be in a place where you are forced to dig for answers – it makes the work exciting and keeps you engaged and doing your best.”

Beth’s days are filled with collaboration and play. For young children, words create a framework for understanding what to do and how to interact with toys, games and books. Play-based therapy provides an environment where children can learn to match words and sounds to their play.

“The reason I was so attracted to speech therapy was that I love to see progression and I wanted to be a part of each kid’s story. I wanted to be able to be involved from the start to the finish as a child begins to learn to communicate.”

This year, that desire will be met when her first client with a cochlear implant walks across the stage to accept her high school diploma and heads off to college. The moment is significant because Beth had been the one to teach the patient her first word.

Life can change with the smallest of details and also through the large, unexpected ones. Beth Brady is simply grateful to get to play a role – of any shape or size – in the lives of each one of her patients.

Ben and John Siebert


Returning home to the family farm is a common Nebraska story. But returning home to start a farm from scratch, with a crop that covers four and a half acres, is an unusual tale.

“We had approached our dad with nearly 100 business ideas,” Ben laughed.

It wasn’t until they proposed starting a vineyard that he responded positively and wanted to hear more.

Ben and John Siebert were raised on an acreage in the Bohemian Alps between Lincoln and Seward. It was a perfect place to grow up, and the brothers took every opportunity to roam the rolling hills.

While they were provided many freedoms as kids, Ben, John and their brother Jason were instilled with the value for discipline, hard work and engagement in the world around them.

Their parents led by example – their dad waking up early every morning to head into the office, while their mom was busy volunteering, working various jobs and caring for foster kids who lived with them.

When summer arrived and sports were on pause, the boys took on the many available jobs associated with farms: detasseling, roguing, working cattle, even catching and blindfolding a neighbor’s pheasants.

As John and Ben found themselves graduating and entering college, they continued to follow similar paths. Both went to UNL, graduated with business degrees, and landed jobs at Sandhills Publishing.

At Sandhills, the brothers’ work-ethic and desire to learn paid off. John was assigned to ad sales in an aviation magazine while Ben worked with a construction equipment publication.

It was a job you jumped into head-first, traveling, meeting with top-level executives and learning from your mistakes. They developed patience, business acumen and a value for listening to people’s stories.

It wasn’t surprising then, when they came upon a story that became the starting point to their business of making wine.

“We were at a washer tournament (which is a competition comparable to the game of horseshoes) near Sprague, Nebraska when we noticed this guy carrying a pony keg under his arm. He was going around, filling people’s glasses, but it looked more like wine than beer.”

A washer tournament is an unusual place to find business inspiration, but Ben and John did just that.

They came to find out that Chad, the tournament organizer and keg-holder, was indeed pouring wine, and it was good. A certified winemaker who had studied the craft in Europe, California and Washington, he had returned to the midwest and had been experimenting with Nebraska grapes for ten years.

Friends and family had occasionally suggested that the Sieberts attempt to grow grapes on their land. Meeting someone with the unusual expertise in winemaking and familiarity with Nebraska grapes and growing seasons made this seem like a real possibility. The pieces began to fall into place.

Soil samples and a successful test crop led to laying out the first acre of grapes in 2011. In 2013, they planted 3.5 additional acres.

“It took three years before we were able to produce wine. We use 100% Nebraska grapes – a combination of our own and varieties from other vineyards in the state.”

As Ben and John talk, it is evident they have thrown themselves into the labor and learning curve of owning a vineyard.

They discuss their method of production, which mirrors French winemaking. No sugar or preservatives are added in order to allow the flavor of the grapes to shine through.

They speak of the seasonal difficulties they have already encountered, acknowledging one of the most mild and optimal growing seasons and one of the most unpredictable, challenging years in Nebraska’s history.

“In sales, there is a predictability with four or five routines to each week. When you are growing grapes and making wine, your routines are responsive to the weather and your produce.”

They are beginning to enjoy the “fruits of their labor” quite literally.

“Opening a bottle of wine, you remember the year of that harvest and everything that was going on. Every bottle, every vintage, a memory.”

The brothers’ goals have been straightforward from the beginning: Make the highest quality wine and make the business successful.

In order to do so, they have maintained a philosophy of partnering with good people and facilitating a place where ideas and mistakes are part of the process.

Which is reflected in their name: Junto Wine.

“We had originally had a name that played off our location. One night, John called me and said he had a better idea,” said Ben.

John had been watching a documentary when he learned about a club Ben Franklin had begun to promote conversation about philosophy, community involvement and politics.

The name and intention struck a chord with Ben and John. The name reflected their own beginnings and pointed to their love of history.

Junto Wine is now in full swing, with a tasting room and an event space built right next to the vineyard. Friday nights are busy with local music and guests gathering after the week of work.

Ben and John speak of agritourism and the good relationships between Nebraska vineyards, but eventually come back to the simple pleasure of working so close to the land.

“There is a divinity in the process of making wine. It points to a higher quality of life. There is a delicacy in everything you do and in everything that is involved. Makes it easy to be proud of it.”

Ben and John are living out a new Nebraska story with Junto Wine. But it’s the weaving of history and tradition with the new industry of Nebraska grape-growing and winemaking that makes this place particularly special.

Jeremy Tredway


When you live in the midwest, and your job is on the west coast, it seems some reevaluating needs to take place.

Fortunately for Jeremy Tredway, his commute requires climbing a flight of stairs rather than a cross-country flight.

A web developer living in Lincoln, NE, Jeremy has enjoyed the benefits of remaining in a family-friendly and affordable city while working for a company based in San Francisco.

Jeremy is full of confidence and loves creative problem solving. Two characteristics that have been a blessing throughout his life.

Most of Jeremy’s days growing up were spent in some mode of exploration. His band of neighborhood friends sought adventure outdoors or played role-playing games in someone’s basement. When he was alone at home, he lost himself in imaginary worlds found in books.

As he entered high school, the theme of exploration continued. Jeremy’s interest in architecture and engineering evolved into a thought that aerospace engineering would be a good career.

Between his junior and senior year, Jeremy decided to attend a summer seminar at the Air Force Academy to test his theory. The military lifestyle presented there quickly turned him off and he decided he would need to pursue a different career course.

That year Jeremy found himself in an unusual place. He followed a friend to a Young Life meeting where people his age were listening to a message he had never heard. He left shaken and full of questions about Christianity and meaning, the direction of his life and relationships.

The questions continued to nag at him. So much so that in the middle of his senior year, he switched enrollment in a chemistry class to a philosophy class.

Even as Jeremy entered college, architecture and engineering were pushed aside and he triple majored in Philosophy, Psychology, and Independent Studies in Church History.

Despite all of his reflection and philosophical pursuit, Jeremy remained unconvinced. He wasn’t ready to commit to any belief that required a significant life change.

Throughout college, Jeremy and his group of childhood friends stayed close and during the summer following their freshman year, began making some poor decisions.

One summer night, the guys set out to make explosives and while Jeremy was holding a piece of pipe, the explosive went off.

What happened next was unimaginable. In the explosion, Jeremy had lost both hands and shrapnel had broken his knee. He was bleeding profusely from shrapnel wounds to his chest, abdomen, arm and upper right leg.

A critical care nurse nearby heard the sound and rushed to the scene. Her presence that day helped save Jeremy’s life.

The next few months wove together as his body stabilized and he adjusted to his new normal. Weeks of therapy at Madonna Rehabilitation taught him how to use his new prosthetics and despite all he had lost, the word to describe how he felt at that time was ‘Optimistic’.

“It’s hyperbole to say I never journaled, but… I never journaled,” he grabbed a book from his bookshelf. Turning the pages, he explained, “I was in a hard place and wrote this eight days before the accident. ‘Dear Christ, I’m still here…trying to hold on to faith…I want to know where I am going.’ After the accident, I wrote again, but it’s a lot harder to read because I didn’t have hands anymore.”

He smiled and read on, “I wonder if this is God’s answer to my question. It has to be more than coincidence.”

As his journal entry implied, he was ready for change and felt he needed to go a new direction. “A new hope blossomed and motivated me. Something that wasn’t there before, was now present.”

Eventually, Jeremy went back to school and finished his undergrad over a span of six years. Throughout this time, he continued to face questions about his identity and new relationship with God.

Toward the end of his program, Jeremy spent a year at Oxford. He ended his time in Europe with a bike trip, following an ancient path through France and Spain.

The El Camino de Santiago was a pilgrimage also known as St. James’s Way. The route had historical origins, but Jeremy was more concerned with the current challenges the path presented a man with no hands.

“During the pilgrimage, I couldn’t repair a tire, I didn’t know if I could afford the trip, I didn’t know the path, and I didn’t know the language. But I felt like God took care of me.”

Jeremy relays each detail with little surprise in his face or voice.

“I finished the pilgrimage, returned home to complete the last few classes I needed to graduate, met the girl I was to marry and then decided to go to seminary.”

Heeding the repeated advice of friends, Jeremy began pursuing his Masters of Divinity and Counseling and the following year, he was married.

“The interesting thing about seminary is that they don’t push you to do one thing. They want you to consider your gifts and personality and use them.”

By now, Jeremy had spent almost a decade pursuing degrees that pointed toward ministry and counseling, but as he began to spend time taking personality tests and thinking more deeply about his calling in life, he felt pulled back to his original interests in applied sciences.

“I knew some careers were no longer an option without hands.”

So he began thinking about computers. And systems and programming and solving problems.

Jeremy was always curious about those things, and that gave him a head start. Throughout seminary, he had earned the nickname “Tinker” because he was always messing around with his computer. “I learned how to network and reconfigure stuff just by messing around.”

It wasn’t until he was asked to set up a computer network at a friend’s law firm that he began to seriously consider a career change. “I began to talk with friends and professors and pray about everything.”

With only two classes remaining to finish his degree, Jeremy completed his Masters in Theology, switched gears and enrolled in an HTML class at the local community college.

And the rest… is history.

“I love the job. Love solving the problems. Love the detail of putting things together. I find so much pleasure in the creative process.”

Although Jeremy’s life has been filled with shifts, twists, turns and the unexpected, so much of his story is about being passively prepared. His natural curiosity and confidence keeps him one step ahead and he’s not afraid to try new things, explore and solve problems.

As for life’s next curve? That’s still unknown, but Jeremy and his wife are always ready for the next curve because they know that somehow, they’ll be ready. And for them, that’s what really matters.

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