Susa’s Sweets & Balloons moving into ECHO Collective

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Bia Espinoza, owner of Susa’s Sweets & Balloons, stands at her pop-up shop located inside Union Bank Place on Thursday.




Graduation day is nearing at Union Bank Place, where Bia Espinosa’s pop-up cake and balloon shop will soon end its four-month run in the downtown bank’s refurbished lobby.

“I’ve learned so much,” said Espinosa, whose gelatin-based cakes — a delicacy in her Mexican homeland — are a staple at Susa’s Sweets & Balloons, which began operating out of Union Bank Place, 1248 O St., in August. “Before, I just worked selling my cakes and getting money.

“I learned I was not ready to do the administrative part of running a real business.”

She might not have been ready to run her business in August, but she’s taken great strides since then, thanks to a newly formed multicultural banking branch of Union Bank’s small-business division.

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“We’re so proud of Bia,” said Stephanie Dinger, Union Bank’s vice president of small business. “We’re so proud she was the first to be in this space.

“… I think it’s going to continue to take a little time for people to really understand what we’re doing. I think it’s so unique.”

Dinger and her staff are currently working to determine the next pop-up business that will occupy the space in Union Bank Place. They have had several inquiries, she said.

Using a space for pop-up businesses, while new to Union Bank & Trust, has been going on for years in Lincoln. 

Gateway Mall has cleared space for pop-up shops over the years, while the Historic Haymarket district’s Creamery Building, 701 P St., had some pop-up ventures prior to the pandemic when the space was available.

What makes Union Bank’s pop-up venture unique is the mentoring that takes place, Dinger said.

“We really work on financial literacy,” she said.

In the case of Espinosa, someone who migrated from Mexico, literacy — be it financial or with the English language — becomes an even greater challenge.

“We’re really working through financial literacy, and that is intimidating to do in a language you’re not as familiar with,” Dinger said.

That’s where Raul Sarmiento, who migrated with his family from Colombia in 2016 as part of a student exchange program, comes into this success story. 

“I was the one that had a little bit of English, so it allowed me to see everything we needed,” he said. “We needed a place to live. I was the one translating and I learned how to do a lease. I learned how to bank, open a bank account because we needed that to get the lease.”

He went to school and that’s when the opportunity in banking presented itself. His experiences in coming to America gave him empathy for those migrating to Nebraska.

“It’s really hard for someone that comes from another country,” he said. “So I really became passionate about sharing the experience I gained.”

His work has brought dozens of members of the immigrant community in Lincoln and Grand Island to UBT. When the number grew to nearly 50, he pitched the multicultural banking division to the bank’s leaders.

“We want to get good at helping Spanish-speaking businesses and consumers, personal consumers,” Dinger said. “What we’re doing is really not any different, regardless of whether it’s Spanish or English.

“It’s just opportunities where they’re more comfortable speaking their own language.”

In August, Espinosa leaned on an interpreter when she opened her shop. Four months later, she was far more comfortable speaking in English.

That made it far easier for her to interact with customers while gleaning valuable information from the bankers, led by Sarmiento, who mentored her each day.

“She found a whole new group of American customers that she has worked with to grow that piece of her business,” Sarmiento said. “I think that will follow her wherever she goes.”

Her biggest lesson — and she came to it on her own — is she’s probably not yet able to shoulder the financial burden of opening a stand-alone brick-and-mortar business.

“I’m worried because I don’t feel ready yet to pay for everything that comes with running a business,” she said.

Not to worry. She’ll move Susa’s Sweets & Balloons into the ECHO Collective, 2124 Y St., which works with refugee and immigrant women to overcome the barriers that come with starting a business.

“For her, that’s a good next step,” Dinger said. “But we’re really going to miss her here.”

Holiday shopping can be a lot of fun and it is something almost everyone participates in! We can all agree, giving gifts and getting gifts is a good time. 97% of people plan to shop for the holidays according to the Affirm study by OnePoll. Buzz60’s Keri Lumm reports.



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63 thoughts on “Susa’s Sweets & Balloons moving into ECHO Collective

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