The Entrepreneurs' Organization of Nebraska on Thursday hosted 15 businesses making up the association's inaugural class of participants in its Accelerator program, marking a milestone for the 13-year-old Omaha-based organization.
The program targets small businesses grossing between $250,000 and $1 million in annual revenue and offers participating companies mentoring and development advice through various learning events throughout the year.
Kirk Hanson, a board member for the EO Nebraska chapter and chairman of the new program, said Omaha is the smallest chapter among the greater organization's 131 total chapters to host an Accelerator program.
Participants in the inaugural class include an Omaha-based apparel startup and companies specializing in software development, commercial security, health information technology and insurance industry consulting.
Each company is represented by either its owners or founders, and participants were selected through an application process and through referrals from existing EO members, Hanson said.
Enrollment for a second class will open in May. More information can be found at eoaccess.eonetwork.org/Nebraska.
Though the Accelerator launch has been two years in the making, the inaugural event at Regency Marriott wasn't the first time Omahan Joe Vasko participated.
Vasko, founder of Omaha-based landscape design firm Outdoor Innovations, spent two years traveling to Accelerator events in Minneapolis hosted by the organization's Minnesota chapter.
Between quarterly events and individual group meetings, he estimated he made 12 trips. When he couldn't make it to an event, he said he used Skype to participate remotely.
Vasko said he shared driving duties for the 14-hour round trip the first year but was on his own the second. “I would drive up the night before and stay the night, then I'd drive home right after the events ended and not get back until two or three in the morning,” he said.
Despite the long and lonely drive, Vasko found the trips worthwhile.
“The events were like retreats away from my business where I could remove all the day-to-day distractions and just focus on strategy with other people who were at the same place I was.”