A number of area businesses were named winners of Rep. Adrian Smith’s inaugural 3rd District Young Entrepreneur Awards.

Smith said the award was created to celebrate the efforts of “young and rising leaders who strengthen their communities with their entrepreneurial spirit.”

The winners will be recognized by Smith before the U.S. House of Representatives.

Among the area winners are:

The Medina Street Vault Coffeehouse & Bistro in Cairo

Smith said that through the experiences of her high school job as a barista, owner Jenna Schweitzer realized her life’s passion was coffee.

“She knew she wanted to open her own coffee shop, and to attempt to share her passion with her hometown,” he said.

In 2017, Smith said, thanks to Schweitzer’s vision, hard work and the support of her family, she opened her coffee shop and bistro in a former bank building in Cairo, and strategically selected her food and drink menu to ensure she complemented and supported other local businesses.

Schweitzer said she feels that The Vault has become “an experience area residents turn to when they want a place to meet their friends, relax, and lose two or three hours in conversation.”

Smith said her goal of creating a family-centered environment to share her passion with others has become a reality.

Upstream Farms, Albion

Owned by brothers Matthew and Joseph Brugger, Smith said in Upstream Farms, they work every day to bring new meaning to the phrase “Farm to Table.”

He said the Bruggers co-founded Upstream with the goal of establishing better rural communities.

“They saw few opportunities for young people to become involved in agriculture, and wanted to create a business that would inspire young agriculturalists and entrepreneurs to pursue their passion in a rural community,” Smith said.

To demonstrate their desire to embrace their vision, he said, Upstream is more than just a traditional farm.

“Upstream strives to demonstrate diversification through action, offering services in agronomy, technical innovation, resale of market-ready produce and angus products,” he said.

Striv Inc. in Henderson

Smith said Striv’s founder, Taylor Siebert, discovered his passion for sharing stories when he started the Heartland Beat, an online blog and newsletter, to reach out to alumni of Heartland Community School.

“This experience inspired Taylor to explore other avenues for schools and their alumni to create and share content,” he said.

This discovery process led to the founding of Striv Inc. in 2012, Smith said. Today, the business has taught hundreds of students the necessary skills to provide high-quality streaming access and coverage of school events and activities for their schools and communities.

“The business currently provides educational and streaming services to over 100 school districts in Nebraska,” he said.

Ever the innovator, Siebert has never stopped creating, Smith said.

“The purpose of his latest development, ‘Class Intercom,’ is to help school districts more effectively utilize social media to maximize connection, promotion and information sharing in their communities,” he said.

Smith said Taylor could have created his internet-driven business in any state in the country.

“He chose to come back to Nebraska, back to his hometown, and invest his talents in training tomorrow’s leaders and creating a better version of ‘The Good Life,’” he said.

Game On, McCook, which also has a store in Grand Island

For owner Cody Dame, Smith said, a 2007 submission to the Hormel Business Plan Competition permanently changed his professional direction.

“Winning the business plan competition allowed him to transition from owning his own traveling videography and disc jockey service to pursuing his passion of building a community through creating a fun and experiential gaming environment for all ages,” he said.

Dame’s business quickly grew, Smith said, from a 1,000-square-foot retail space to a much larger location in the community of McCook. Dame has expanded into North Platte, Kearney and Grand Island, as well.

“Game On has become a successful regional retail business, committed to strengthening the communities in which they are present,” Smith said.

The other inaugural winner was Papa Moon Vineyards of Scottsbluff, which began in 2007 as a grape-growing hobby for the Massey family “and has since evolved into an absolute passion for grape cultivation and craft-wine production,” Smith said.

He said he appreciated the opportunity to review the numerous submissions from every region of Nebraska’s 3rd District.

“Each nomination was a great example of young and rising leaders working to strengthen their community with their entrepreneurial spirit,” Smith said. “To all Nebraskans who work tirelessly to grow our economy, I will continue to support your efforts and pursue policies to get the federal government out of the way and empower your success.”

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