The Greater Omaha Chamber has its new entrepreneurial director

OMAHA—Kody Schrader knows community. Growing up in Alma, Neb., a town of 1,100 along the Nebraska-Kansas border, Schrader knew everyone. And he still knows the importance of connections.

Kody SchraderOMAHA—Kody Schrader knows community.

Growing up in Alma, Neb., a town of 1,100 along the Nebraska-Kansas border, Schrader knew everyone. And he still knows the importance of connections.

Wednesday, Schrader will begin his job as entrepreneurial director for the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, and try to grow another community.

Schrader found out about the job through a friend who knew how much community means to Schrader.

“I want an opportunity to make a difference in the community I’m going to live in the rest of my life,” he said. “Omaha’s community is similar to Alma in that community means so much to people who live there.

“I want to have an impact on that and buy into a mission to make it better.”

During the interview process he was introduced to a few entrepreneurs and thought leaders in Omaha. He said the experience was eye opening.

“The level of passion and energy that each had for what they do is what attracted me to this job. I’m looking forward to connecting with those people.”

Schrader comes from Farm Credit Services of America, a customer-owned financial co-op for farmers and ranchers in the region, where he was a customer innovation specialist. He developed the company’s first mobile app and online customer portal.

He said he was a sort of “intrapreneur” creating things from scratch.

He graduated from the University of Nebraska at Omaha with a masters in business administration and economics. He also attended Doane College, where he earned a political science degree and a minor in computer studies.

More than 70 people applied for the job, said Randy Thelen, senior vice president of economic development. The job includes cultivating a receptive environment for entrepreneurs, supporting entrepreneurial events, making connections with venture capital and angel networks to expand that network and creating innovative inroads with area schools system to help create entrepreneurship programs.

“Kody rose to the top because he brings this natural enthusiasm and interesting background,” Thelen said. “He’s got an eye for entrepreneurship, but also has corporate world experience and can be a translator between the two.”

One of Schrader’s roles will be engaging big corporations in Omaha with local startups.

“There is a huge opportunity there with 15 huge companies that could help startups get off the ground,” Schrader said. “We want to create that culture… there have been case studies from across the country that show it’s a good model.”

But his first role will be getting to know the community. Schrader hopes to meet with everyone he can and encourages startup community members to reach out to him if he hasn’t gotten to you yet.

He also plans on building on the success built by former entrepreneurial director Dusty Reynolds, who shifted roles earlier this year.

Reynolds stepped down from the full-time position in June to focus on RaceNote, his startup. He still is an entrepreneur-in-residence with the Chamber, but told SPN in June that he’ll be involved on a more micro level, working with entrepreneurs while the new director can look at things on a macro, big-scale level.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the entrepreneurial space and we’re not going to fix what’s not broken,” Schrader said. “We’re building on that success, but I’m also not going to turn a blind eye to things that aren’t going well.”

More about Kody

Hometown: Alma, Nebraska

Lived in: Alma, Crete, Lincoln and Omaha

School: Graduated with 25 kids in Alma, then a class of 300 at Doane College, then thousands at University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he got his MBA.

Home life: Married to wife Cora for two years. They have two dogs, a lab and a corgi, at home.

Age: Turned 30 on Aug. 22. Cora bought him three 10-year-old scotches (adding up to 30) to celebrate the milestone.

Best way to reach him: Twitter, email and LinkedIn, but he loves a good phone conversation, too.

Things Omaha has going on: Inc. just named Omaha one of the best places to start a tech startup.

Last book I read: I started a couple… haven’t finished them. Latest one was Age of Spiritual Machines by Ray Kurzweil.

Favorite drink: Coffee with cream… Busch Light when I’m keeping it low-key.

Best thing about your hometown: The people by far. The connections you make last a lifetime.

Best thing about Omaha: The people. That’s why I went for the position. This city is not too big and not too small.

Best meal I’ve had in town: Bacon macaroni from Louie’s Wine Dive.

An app I’m obsessed with: SeatGeek. It’s a ticket aggregator and it works so well because you can find cheap tickets so easily. RunKeeper for sharing my workouts with my dad. We like to compare.

Startup I would start: I bartended for six years. I’d love to see a new cash register system that would gamify, engage and inspire wait staff to do better.

Entrepreneur I would want to get a drink with: Steve Jobs. Cliche, but it is what it is. “Stay hungry, stay foolish” is one of my favorite quotes.

In five years I want the Omaha startup community to be: Nationally recognized as the place to start a tech company in the Heartland.

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