LEFT: Tamar Yellin is one of three city leaders for Bunker Labs Omaha. RIGHT: Bunker Labs Omaha has hosted several Bunker Brew events, including this one in November at Hard Bean Coffee in La Vista. The nonprofit seeks to assist veterans and military spouses in starting their own businesses. (Photos courtesy Tamar Yellin/Bunker Labs Omaha)
Bunker Labs Omaha
New Nonprofit Backs Military Spouses, Vets Interested in Starting Small Businesses
By Scott Stewart
The Daily Record
La Vista – A nonprofit’s new Omaha chapter is aiming to help veterans and military spouses start their own small businesses.
Bunker Labs Omaha will hold a launch party today at the Magnolia Hotel, 1615 Howard St., from 5:30 to 8 p.m. to welcome new members and share its mission with the community.
“Omaha is a really great community for this because it is a small enough city that people can find their niche but they don’t have to feel overwhelmed,” said Tamar Yellin, one of three volunteer city leaders for Bunker Labs Omaha. “I have also found that the resources are amazing.”
Yellin said Bunker Labs isn’t really a veteran’s service organization but exists to help aspiring entrepreneurs make connections and find ways to grow businesses.
“We’re not duplicating services,” Yellin said. “We’re really about creating a community.”
She added that circumstances unique to military families – such as permanent changes of station or deployments – can be hard for civilians to understand, and it can be helpful to have a knowledgeable community provide support.
For her part, Yellin is an attorney who works remotely practicing real estate law for a California-based law firm. She also practices trademark and intellectual property law, where she represents clients across the country from her Millard home. She has previously worked as in-house counsel at different businesses.
“This is my first real private practice position,” Yellin said. “It’s very flexible, which as a military spouse is great.”
Yellin’s husband, Air Force Maj. Ian Yellin, is stationed at Offutt Air Force Base. They are on their second tour in Omaha after marrying eight years ago.
Yellin is joined by two other volunteer city leaders, Valerie Rivera and Trevon Brooks, and is supported by Bunker Labs’ national office in Chicago. The three leaders have organized monthly get-togethers since September and are working to build Bunker Labs Omaha into a sustainable group.
Bunker Labs hopes to have at least one chapter in every state by 2021. Omaha’s the 26th chapter nationally and the first to launch in the group’s new growth phase.
The nonprofit has chapters in Chicago and Denver, and a chapter is also planned in Kansas City, Kansas, according to a chapter listing on the group’s website.
“They spent a lot of time over the last year refining the model and making it replicable,” said Yellin during an interview at Hard Bean Coffee, a veteran-owned business in La Vista that’s hosted a few of the gatherings.
At the meetings, Yellin said members have learned about starting a business, franchising, prototyping and how to access venture capital. The group also focuses on networking opportunities.
Upcoming Bunker Brew events include a July 22 visit to the Startup Collaborative and an August field trip to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Innovation Campus. The October meeting will be at the Nebraska Business Development Center at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
“We want to bring the Lincoln ecosystem into our fold,” Yellin said. “Of course, everybody is welcome in Lincoln to come to events here (in Omaha), but we want to do at least one or two events every year in Lincoln.”
Yellin said the Omaha group is also planning to launch a separate program for CEOs of medium-sized businesses and would like to eventually participate in Bunker Lab’s Veterans in Residence program, which is partnered with co-working space provider WeWork.
The launch party will be mostly networking and socializing, plus a few speakers, Yellin said.
“We want everybody to come to create that community, to really be able to both inspire and help connect people, start their own businesses, become entrepreneurs and be successful,” Yellin said.
For more information about today’s launch party, visit bunkerlabs.org/omaha. Find more about the chapter at bunkerlabs.org/our-locations/Omaha or on facebook.com/BunkerLabsOmaha.