Midlands Business Journal February 19, 2021 Vol. 47 No. 8 issue

Page 30


• FEBRUARY 19, 2021 • Midlands Business Journal

Omaha’s J. Monae Beauty Supply gains quick traction as online shop Continued from page 1. continue to do more events like this throughout the year.” Fernandez, who also owns Testimony Beauty Bar at 3610 Dodge St., emphasized such types of outreach. “We all know when we look better, we feel better,” she said. “So, this is definitely something I see as being a need in our community.” With an active community on Facebook and Instagram, Fernandez indicated that more engagement is on the horizon in the form of pop-up shops and vendor events. This exposure builds upon demand illustrated, partly, by its best seller to date: headband wigs. “The wigs are beginner-friendly, great for protective styling, secure and stylish for everyday wear,” she said. “This item we’ve had to restock several times since we’ve launched. Our customers love it because it’s a convenient, affordable wig. And, since it’s human hair, the styling and coloring options are endless.” At this writing, its website features such

As a stylist, she shares such information, wigs in 24 body wave, jerry curl, straight and curly hair textures. These products share as well as styling techniques, with her clients. “I also make sure I’m available to do the an online space with numerous combs and brushes, crochet hair, hair oils, braiding, color same for my J. Monae Beauty Supply customers as well,” Fernandez said. “I’ve discussed and lightener, bonnets, scarves and durags hair care with custommerchandise. ers over the phone, Fernandez ac - J. Monae Beauty Supply social media, video knowledged that, since Founded: 2020 message — even when the store started off so Services: hair care products, tools and I’m out at the stores.” strongly with a “trendy extensions supplied by and for Black women She encourages item,” they’ve been and girls; guidance on hair care products and customers to contact challenged to get cus- styling techniques from an experienced stylist her with questions tomers to transition to Goals: Open a brick-and-mortar location by before applying unthe other items on the 2022. Shorter-term, launch of educational known chemicals to website. sessions, pop-up shops and vendor events. their crowning glories. “The customers Website: jmonaebeautysupply.com And she takes pride in who do explore the website love that we have almost everything responding to email queries within 24 hours. Fernandez also indicated local delivery available that they’ll find in their local supply and pickup options have resonated for convestore,” she said. “Also, it’s great that I’m knowledgeable about the beauty industry and nience sake. “[Customers] don’t have to wait to have can steer them to the perfect products to suit their items shipped out,” she said. their needs.”

Tech industry continuing to grow at rapid pace by Jasmine Heimgartner

Fast and furious may be a term associated with sleek cars and a movie franchise, but it is the essence of the technology sector. While big enhancement and jumps in technology may have slowed, things are only getting faster and better. “The big change is the pace of the change,” said Ken Marr, FNTS chief technology officer. “Companies have to be truly agile and innovative to survive. That is a big driver of the technology and technical environments. They have to adopt newer technologies and processes far faster than ever. Companies born in the cloud have amazing agility as opposed to some companies that have been around for decades and don’t have as much technical data or processes in place, which slows them down.” Two factors driving some of the tech are greater public cloud adoption, which remains extremely high and has a rapid growth rate. Many companies are adopting a hybrid strategy, allowing them to determine which applications should be public and private. COVID-19 was another major influence on how technology can completely change how companies operate. “Most businesses have now proven that (most of) their employees can be just as productive or more working remotely,” said Brent Brummer, Sojern vice president of business strategy and operations. “This presents opportunities for companies to optimize how they spend on things like business travel and office space. It also enables them to consider recruiting in new locations. This could be a powerful tool in helping companies achieve their diversity goals. This also presents opportunities for employees. The ability to work remotely helps people achieve the work-life balance they desire. It also allows them to live, and work remotely, in new cities, states and countries even temporarily or permanently.” As the new year unfolds, previous buzzwords — 5G, machine learning, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, edge computing, blockchain — will become more prevalent. “5G wireless is going to change the

way technology is provided,” Marr said. “It’s really going to speed up the wireless environment to the point where to leverage that you have to change the way your

Marr Korensky technologies work. Computing on the edge means that you are actually taking the computing process, which used to be done in data center, and putting it in the device. The more computing you can do on a smartphone or other device, the faster the experience is.” These technologies have the potential for massive change in various industries. “There has been a natural development of growing interest in ag technology, as well as unique technology around the medical space,” said Taylor Korensky, Appsky CEO. “Machine learning is an absolute highlight for 2021, especially around employee retention and COVID-19 and cancer research. Blockchain is another one of those mythical techs that people don’t fully understand. We will start to see more. Cryptocurrency is exploding right now. It is attracting a lot more people than it used to. There are a few startups in the Midwest related to trucking and logistics using that.” With more cloud-based offerings, and people in general using the internet more, security will continue to be a major focus. “There is a big push around cybersecurity,” said Emily Matis, AIM Code School director. “It is a big field both in private and public sectors. For all walks of government, there is a push to get people trained in security. People working from home has also changed dynamics. How do you keep employee data secure safe from home?” The rapid growth of technology has also

changed other ways businesses do business. “One thing we have seen is that marketing has changed, both physical and digital ad,” Korensky said. “As a repercussion of COVID-19, people have more money to invest since they are not attending trade shows. A lot are looking at digital marketing. We are seeing more increased focus on providing a good web experience for customers and end users, having a better website and web presence. Those are all things we have seeing a need to increase. It has forced us to adapt very quickly since a lot of frameworks being used are only a few years old.” While the growth may be an exciting time for developers and end users, maintaining a skilled workforce will continue to be a challenge. “Tech always grows, and it even has through pandemic,” Matis said. “It is a growing and booming field, but there are barriers when it comes to hiring. There are often expectations that you have a certain amount of experience and education. Our big trend in 2021 is to help more people get into tech. Because we are small, we can create new curriculum based on what we are hearing from the industry.”

The current environment supports such options. “Many people aren’t ready to return to in-person shopping,” she added. “So, being able to order your items and have them available on your doorstep is a benefit for most.” In fact, these delivery and pick-up services will remain a permanent fixture of the business even after the pandemic is in the rearview, according to Fernandez. And, although J. Monae had products to suit “just about anybody,” she said, its current customer base is the working woman, the woman of color, the busy mom and the fitness enthusiast. “We’d love to expand our customer base this year and get everyone to come experience ‘the Monae way,’” she said. “We spend too much money on our beauty essentials to continue to be treated poorly.” In fact, it was these experiences that took ownership of a beauty supply store from an idea that had long been at the back of Fernandez’s mind to a feasible reality. “It wasn’t until I really sat down and researched the industry more, that I realized that my dream to own a beauty supply was attainable,” she said. “Our current state of crisis is what gave me that extra push I needed.” Hair and discriminatory practices in business collided last year in the unicameral when Omaha Sen. Michaela Cavanaugh introduced a bill (LB1060) to add specific hair textures and protective styles (such as braids, twists and locs) to the definition of race, in turn, offering protection from discrimination in the likes of hiring or promotions under the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act. A search for related bans on such discriminatory practices at various stages in the law-making process produces millions of results, and news coverage related to bills in states from coast-to-coast — New Mexico to Connecticut, Washington to Ohio. Fernandez doesn’t take her role as a pioneering Black-owned business lightly; in the Oct. 30 press release announcing the store’s launch, she noted: “It’s important to have the option to support people who look like you.” The time is also now, she indicated, to “get creative” — pivoting operations as an entrepreneur or taking the leap like Fernandez did. “To anyone that’s on the fence about starting a business during this pandemic, just do it,” she said. “As long as you have a solid business plan and faith, you can’t lose.”

US home prices rocketed higher in fourth quarter by Steve Brown

U.S. home prices were up by 14.9% year-over-year in the final months of 2020, according to the latest survey by the National Association of Realtors. “The fourth quarter of 2020 presented Real Estate circumstances ripe for home price increases,” Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun said in the report. “Mortgage rates reached record lows, thereby driving up the demand. “At the same time, inventory levels also reached record lows, leading to grim inventory conditions of insufficient supply in the fourth quarter.” More than half of the 161 major metro areas the Realtors track each quarter saw double-digit percentage home price increases. The greatest percentage price gains

in the nation were in Bridgeport, Connecticut (39.2%); Pittsfield, Massachusetts (32.2%); Atlantic City, New Jersey (30.0%) and Naples, Florida (29.9%). While near record low mortgage rates are driving a surge in home purchases, price jumps are putting the pinch on buyers. “The average, working family is struggling to contend with home prices that are rising much faster than income,” Yun said. “This sidelines a consumer from becoming an actual buyer, causing them to miss out on accumulating wealth from homeownership.” None of the U.S. metro areas that the Realtors surveyed saw a decline in home prices in the fourth quarter. ©2021 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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