Jasmine Deane is the owner of The Good Life Charcuterie, a high-end catering and charcuterie company. Rachel Fleeman is the owner of Raine Company, a clothing business. Olivia Vogel is the owner of False Digits, a luxury press-on nail brand.
Jasmine Deane is the owner of The Good Life Charcuterie, a high-end catering and charcuterie company. Rachel Fleeman is the owner of Raine Company, a clothing business. Olivia Vogel is the owner of False Digits, a luxury press-on nail brand.

A new wave of female entrepreneurs in Nebraska is transforming the state’s business landscape. Despite its history of agricultural success, ambitious young women are building a name for themselves in various industries.  

Recent data from the 2021 Nebraska Small Business Economic Profile indicates that women under the age of 35 are driving a surge in new business ventures, outpacing their male counterparts in terms of pace and growth. This trend represents a significant departure from the traditional image of business ownership in the state, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

Young women entrepreneurs reshaping Nebraska’s business scene

According to a new Business Wire research, female entrepreneurs have outperformed their male colleagues by an impressive 22% year over year. The majority of female entrepreneurs are still between the ages of 25 and 34, but the survey shows considerable growth among women between the ages of 18 and 24, as well as those over 65, with rises of 73% and 76%, respectively.

These data reflect the fast rise of female entrepreneurship, which is having a significant influence on the corporate scene.

Olivia Vogel, a 27-year-old from Alliance, Nebraska, exemplifies this trend. She graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in fine arts and has since become an industry leader as the creator of a luxury press-on nail company in Omaha.

She said her emphasis on personalized, high-quality, and affordable nail services has earned her a strong reputation, drawing repeat customers like Jasmine Rosemond, who sees Vogel as a source of inspiration and creativity in the beauty industry.

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Four different sets of press-on nails made by Olivia Vogel, owner of False Digits. Photo courtesy of False Digits.

Rosemond said Vogel’s dedication to offering outstanding nail services has established her as a go-to expert for many in the community, who may not have the same resources as those in larger cities. Her goal is to motivate women to feel confident and beautiful while also supporting her community by bringing her expertise to Nebraska.

“The beauty community is amazing, and the internet gives so much inspiration,” Vogel said. “Nebraska girls also want to be part of it. Maybe they can’t go to that celebrity nail tech in LA, but they can come to me, and I’ll do just as good of a job.”

But Vogel’s impact extends far beyond her business, and that begins with her connection to the community.

“The community is so strong. If you do not know how to do something, someone else does,” Vogel said. “People are so generous with sharing information or pointing you in the right direction. The clientele is so supportive as well. I’ve had women stick with my business for years. They still come back, refer a friend, or show love on a post. I feel blessed.”

Another thriving female entrepreneur is 20-year-old Rachel Fleeman from Lincoln, who founded her own clothing company called Raine Company in Waverly and started the podcast, Do The Dang Thing Podcast. 

Fleeman’s path to success has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions, beginning with the death of her grandmother in 2020. However, her grandmother’s life served as a source of inspiration, leading her to pursue her passion for spreading love and starting her own business.

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Rachel Fleeman is the owner of Raine Company, a clothing store. Photo courtesy of Rachel Fleeman

Fleeman described her business as a “feel-good place,” which has attracted many customers who praise its cheerful ambiance. According to them, entering the store is like breathing fresh air, making them happier. 

The shop’s products all carry a message of self-love and positivity, and Fleeman carefully curates them to ensure they align with her brand’s mission.

Fleeman takes great pride in providing a happy place for locals to visit, and her business has become a beacon of positivity in the community. It’s clear that Fleeman’s journey has been one of ups and downs, but her grandmother’s legacy and her dedication to spreading love have helped her build a successful business.

Despite facing mental anguish and the challenges of launching a business during a pandemic, Fleeman launched her company in January 2021, driven by her love and care for her customers, she said.

With patience and hard work, Fleeman’s business flourished, and within a year, she received news that she was accepted for a retail location, which she opened in June 2022. When asked about the prerequisites for opening a retail location, Fleeman stated that it was her responsibility to determine feasibility and then obtain landlord approval. Her position, though, was slightly different. She discussed taking over the space with the previous tenant, who was retiring and was able to secure the location with the landlords as a result.

Fleeman said her journey as a young entrepreneur exemplifies the importance of dedication and pursuing one’s passion despite life’s obstacles. She said she thinks the community of female entrepreneurs has shifted from competition to collaboration. 

“I have many business friends and love rooting for them just as I know they do for me,” she said.

This trend toward supporting each other within the entrepreneurial community has created a supportive and empowering environment for women in business. She said she hopes the community continues to recognize the benefits of shopping locally and stressed the importance of networking with other like-minded entrepreneurs who can be a valuable source of support.

“I hope we can continue to grow in knowledge of what shopping locally can do,” she said. “I will continue to do my part in that, attend more events, host more events, and support other women-owned local businesses!”

Other young female entrepreneurs in Nebraska are making their mark. Jasmine Deane, a 32-year-old who has established herself in the food industry with her business, The Good Life Charcuterie, located in Omaha. Deane’s business, founded in 2020, has swiftly established a reputation for beautifully made and delectable charcuterie boards. Her love of cuisine and creativity shine through in the one-of-a-kind and aesthetically gorgeous boards she produces.

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A charcuterie board from The Good Life Charcuterie is represented by a wooden board packed with a selection of meats, cheeses, fruits, and crackers that have been artfully organized and decorated with herbs. Photo courtesy of The Good Life Charcuterie.

Deane’s dedication to perfection is shown in the positive feedback and repeat business she receives from her pleased clients; she has received the prestigious “Best of Omaha” award for 2022 and 2023. She said she selects the finest ingredients for her boards with great care, ensuring that they are not only beautiful but also delicious.

But Deane’s popularity is not only about her exquisite charcuterie boards. It is also about her desire to support female businesses in Omaha. She said she recognizes the value of having a supporting environment, particularly for women who are just starting out in business.

“Although my background is in psychology and therapy, I’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. After a long talk with my partner, he pushed me to take a chance and go for it,” she said. “I am not going to lie; it was terrifying, but the support that I received here from fellow business owners, especially women, has been amazing.”

She said as women, many are  learning how to run a business for the first time, 

“And that can lead to a lot of mistakes and stress,” she said. “With access to local resources, we’re able to gain the knowledge and support we need to succeed.”

Deane aspires to see more local groups of business women networking on a weekly basis, as well as more companies or organizations that give financial literacy and support for future businesswomen’s ambitions. She also aspires to establish a foundation that assists young businesswomen in developing a business from their vision and ideas, like she was inspired to do.

“Every businesswoman in Omaha inspires me to do better, and I truly mean that,” she said. “We all come from different walks of life, so it’s amazing how we’re able to come together both separately and collaboratively to have success.”

Access to resources and support for women entrepreneurs

These business owners are carving out their own niches and building enterprises from the ground up. But starting a business is not a simple task, and that’s where local resources come in. Local resources are available for mentorship, networking opportunities and funding. 

The Metro Omaha Women’s Business Center is a non-profit organization that provides resources, training and support to women entrepreneurs in the Omaha metropolitan area. MOWBC’s mission is to empower women entrepreneurs by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to start and grow successful businesses.

The organization offers a range of services to help women entrepreneurs overcome the unique challenges they may face in starting and running a business, including access to training, coaching, and funding opportunities.

It also has a program called The Young Entrepreneur Girls Program which empowers teenage girls and young women in the Omaha metropolitan area to explore entrepreneurship as a viable career option. Through The Young Entrepreneur Girls Program, MOWBC provides girls and young women with the tools and resources they need to become community leaders and create positive change through entrepreneurship.

The program includes workshops, training, mentorship and networking opportunities that are tailored to the needs and interests of young women who are interested in starting their own businesses. The program also offers access to funding opportunities, business development resources, and other support services that can help young women turn their ideas into successful businesses.

Other organizations, such as The Lily Pad Collective, is a non-profit organization founded by three female entrepreneurs: Shameah Sayed, Madeline Allen, and Makayla Leiting, to provide a supportive atmosphere for entrepreneurial-minded women above the age of 21. 

The founders identified an urgent need for more assistance and tools to help female entrepreneurs flourish and established The Lily Pad Collective.

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Shameah Sayed, Makayla Leiting and Madeline Allen, founders of The Lily Pad Collective. Photo courtesy of The Lily Pad Collective.

The Collective, which has more than 100 members from various industries such as technology, real estate, e-commerce, and healthcare, provides a platform for members to educate one another and cooperate on initiatives. Weekly professional development events, conducted at different sites across Omaha, feature speakers from the community and business-related seminars, giving members the opportunity to network and engage with others.

The Lily Pad Collective provides a supportive space for women to pursue their professional and entrepreneurial ambitions. While working full-time or transitioning to become a full-time entrepreneur, members can start a side hustle, passion project, or new company endeavor. 

One of the co-founders, Makayla Leiting, said the organization’s services were notably missing for women in their area. 

“Women don’t receive the same opportunities as men, especially in the entrepreneurial area, and we want to level the playing field. We see a lot of opportunities for women to start businesses and spur economic growth in the area, and we wanted to be able to help people realize it. We have been able to impact over 100 women in our area, and we continue to grow that number on a month-by-month basis,” she said.

Leiting said the Collective intends to provide additional value to its members by bringing in significant speakers from the community’s successful entrepreneurial women to present seminars on specific topics such as technology, finance, marketing, operations, and human resources.

“With our collective, we want to push more entrepreneurs that launch their ideas into reality, which will create more economic growth and opportunity for the community,” she said.

Entrepreneurship thrives among young small business owners who support one another

Deane said success is about more than simply individual accomplishment; it is also about community building and support. Her work is motivated by a strong sense of community. Her entrepreneurial initiatives usually aim to help the community in some capacity, whether it’s through staging fundraisers or raising awareness about Omaha’s social problems.

“I always tell women to know their numbers, have a bulletproof business plan, and be confident,” she said. “I promise the rest will follow.”

Through her passion for her community and her commitment to encouraging women entrepreneurs, she said she aims to encourage people to make a difference in their own communities.

Vogel is also one such woman who meets with other women in the community who manage small businesses regularly to provide advice and support. She said she encourages her clients to support other local small businesses, knowing that they link their success to the development of the community.

Vogel is excited to share her experiences with other aspiring business owners as a member of the Committee Board of Content Besties Social Club, bringing true and honest insights into the entrepreneurial process. 

Vogel knows the difficulties of starting a business from the ground up, and she is dedicated to assisting others in overcoming similar barriers. She feels that with workshops, interviews and meet-and-greets on the horizon, Nebraska entrepreneurship has the potential to flourish in the digital sphere.

However, she said content creation will be critical to success in this industry.  

“This is where Content Besties Social Club comes into play, offering a platform for female entrepreneurs to refine their content production talents while also building a strong, supportive network,” she said.

These young women are not alone in wanting to help other small companies. According to a recent survey, more than 70% of young female small company owners actively seek ways to help others in their community expand their businesses. This is a positive trend since small companies are the backbone of our economy and require all the help they can receive.

The changing face of business ownership in Nebraska 

According to American Express’s 2019 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, women-owned firms in Nebraska are seeing considerable growth and success. The number of women-owned enterprises in the state grew by 57.8% between 2014 and 2019. This ratio is significantly higher than the national average of 21%, demonstrating that women entrepreneurs are thriving in Nebraska.

Apart from the growth in the number of businesses, the report revealed that income generated by women-owned businesses in Nebraska increased by 30.6% over the same time period. In 2014, these enterprises contributed $4.4 billion in sales, which grew to $5.8 billion in 2019. This increase in income illustrates the considerable economic effect of women-owned enterprises in the state.

Technology has enabled women to start their own businesses from anywhere, even in rural areas. Young women entrepreneurs in Nebraska may flourish companies while remaining in the comfort of their homes with the help of internet access, a laptop, and a unique idea.

Fleeman has some advice for fellow women eager to start their own businesses. The secret to success, according to Fleeman, is to take action and get started right away. She advises young entrepreneurs to avoid getting caught up in the “one-day” attitude, which might prevent them from following their goals. She tells people not to wait for the ideal opportunity to begin since it may never arrive.

“Now is the time. Start researching, creating a business plan, figuring out your target market, etc., little steps each day will get you there much faster than waiting for that “one day,” she said.

Ana Chincoa is a senior journalism student with minors in English and Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln focused on social media marketing, brand strategy, features, and lifestyle reporting.