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Catalyst aims to be community meeting space, anti-bank for Lincoln

Design renderings of the Catalyst branch by Union Bank. The 1,200-square-foot space features a conference room, a teleconferencing area with projector and a snack area.

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, but also 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 intimadating 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 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, they hired an entrepreneur to help steer the naive, first-time entrepreneur in the right direction. He’s an advisor, a partner, an advocate.

That man is Dan Gutzmann (left) and they call him a business banking 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 his own 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 service like setting up a line of credit or checking account, the space also has two conference rooms/presentation areas for anyone to use for business purposes like board meetings, trainings and teleconferences—even if they’re 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.”

They have a good track record so far—more than 100 Lincolnites 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,” he 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.”


Credits: Photos from the Catalyst website.

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