A new space in Lincoln's new West Haymarket wants to be the anti-bank.
Catalyst, a new small business and entrepreneurial-focused endeavor by Union Bank and Trust, wants to be the place where the startup community can meet or host a presentation, and the place where someone can get resources and guidance on starting or growing a business.
It's a place with no teller line, no rich wood tables and no intimidating bankers in suits. Instead, it's open, bright and airy with modern furniture, energy drinks in the mini fridge and Jack Johnson playing over the speakers.
The branch at Seventh and Q Streets is the first of its kind in Lincoln and first branch of its type in the Union Bank family. Similar models exist nationwide.
And instead of a banker, bank officials hired an entrepreneur, Dan Gutzmann, to help steer the first-time entrepreneur in the right direction. His title is business banking advocate. He's an adviser, a partner, an advocate.
“The first person I met in this role was a young woman and I shook her hand and she was just shaky. I instantly remembered that similar fear I had when I started out,” said Gutzmann, who owned a mural painting company for 23 years.
“But I told her, it's not scary. We're making this approachable.”
Catalyst will be used as a support system, Gutzmann said. Not only will it be a gateway for banking services like setting up a line of credit or checking account, but the space also has two conference rooms/presentation areas for anyone to use for business purposes like board meetings, training and teleconferences, even if he or she is not a Union Bank customer. Those services are available by appointment.
Gutzmann gives the example of a guy who's making custom bikes out his basement.
“If he needs to give a presentation to a distributor, the basement isn't the ideal place,” Gutzmann says. “Here, we have the professional-looking space with technology to get the job done.
“Or if you've never done a pitch and want someone to help or give advice, I can be that.”
Catalyst also plans to host networking events, skill development workshops and other events.
“Ultimately, we want to build relationships in the community.”
More than 100 Lincoln residents came to Catalyst's opening day Thursday morning, Gutzmann said.
The Catalyst is in the recently opened Railyard entertainment district near the new Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln's West Haymarket. It's just blocks away from Lincoln's startup hub of the Haymarket, where nearly a dozen startups occupy upper floors of retail buildings.
It's that proximity and economic timing in Lincoln that was the driving force for a new type of bank branch.
“There's a breath of fresh air in the startup community in Lincoln,” Gutzmann said. “This will be another piece of that ecosystem.
“I'm envious. If I had these tools, this community 25 years ago, that would've been great. Now is really the best time to be doing something new.”