The past week has been great as I connected with new people when they entered the contest to win a free ticket to Big Omaha. Reading some of the entries got me excited for some of the startups that are happening in the area. It was also cool to see how many college students entered the contest.

There were a number of solid entries, but two entries separated themselves from everyone else. And then a slight dilemma. I knew the individual behind one of the two finalist entries. That guy, Dusty Reynolds, is a friend. His story, and his company’s story, is amazing. I’m a big supporter of what Sababu Clothing is doing in Mali, Africa.*

*In a nutshell, Dusty founded this company a few years ago. He and his wife moved to Mali, Africa to start it up. They lived there for two years. They’ve provided jobs and hope to a number of people living in one of the most impoverished countries in the world. Once Sababu was up and running, they turned it over to locals. Dusty now handles the marketing and advertising for Sababu here in Omaha.

I wanted to be objective, though. A good thing something about the other finalist entry intrigued me beyond how solid the entry was. Here’s what was entered:

As a first-time entrepreneur, launching Red Clay, a home décor company that crowd-sources designs and utilizes sustainable materials, my first true love of all things community has evolved.  In my first career iteration as an urban planner I sought to bring people together to improve urban communities. It was passionate conversations within those communities that drove my desire to improve urban environments.  I am convinced that those same conversations and community building will happen at Red Clay in order to build a movement that propels a community forward.  This time, rather than neighborhoods, the scope shifts to building an artistic community that helps people design their own homes.  To Red Clay, Big Omaha represents the opportunity to continue to conversations and grow community.  We are eager to connect with fellow open-minded, Mid-Westerners on this journey. 

A couple of reasons why this entry resonated with me. The contact information had northwest Arkansas as the location. I lived in northwest Arkansas from 1995 through 2004. What this entry was pitching I could see as a benefit in that area. When I lived in northwest Arkansas, the population was exploding and communities grew into each other before they knew it. There wasn’t a plan in place to handle the population explosion. The homes and buildings were now close together, but there wasn’t always a sense of community amongst everyone.

Also, the idea sounded cool. Of course, tons of people have cool ideas, but they are never executed upon beyond the idea stage.* When I checked out the website of this startup, they weren’t just talking big. They were hustling to make their idea a reality.

*Cue Scott Belsky’s Big Omaha presentation from last year.

Finally, I thought if someone is willing to drive up from northwest Arkansas to attend Big Omaha, and pay the expenses of travel, food and lodging that I don’t have to, then they really want to come. It’s easy for me to attend Big Omaha. I just get in my car and drive across Omaha. For them, it’s a cost. A smart startup just doesn’t splurge money on unnecessary things.

These were some of the reasons why this entry ended up on top, beyond the original pitch.

So, congratulations Abby Kiefer! You’ve won the free ticket to Big Omaha.

Thanks to everyone that entered. I hope you at least come to some of the public events that are happening in the evenings of the conference. I’d like to meet and talk to you.

4 thoughts on “And The Winner Of The Big Omaha Ticket Is…

  1. I look forward to meeting Abby and the Red Clay folks (and you!) at one of the public events!

    I salute the very cool thing you've done here! Keep it up.

    Go Omaha! Do good,


  2. We at Red Clay are beyond excited about this opportunity! Thanks so much Robert!

    Can't wait to meet you all and the rest of the Big Omaha crew next week!


  3. Thanks everyone for the support and the kind words. And, congratulations again to Abby and Red Clay! I've had a few people message me about how they think Red Clay is a great concept. Some of them want to find out more about it.

    Looking forward to Big Omaha one week from now.


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