So, What Have I Learned in Five Years?


July is an especially exciting month for Sunflower this year, as we get ready to celebrate our FIVE-year anniversary! I have so many memories of the very beginnings of this company that I am so proud of – many of those involve a great deal of coffee and my making multiple cold calls a day, as I tried to break into Omaha’s nonprofit scene, and then anxiously cleaning the house, waiting for people to call me back! 50% of small businesses fail in their first five years and I am proud to be on the successful side of that statistic.

Lessons Learned 

So, have I learned anything in five years as a CEO?  Yes.  I have learned more than I had learned during my first nineteen years of working.  Here are some thoughts. 

1. Try everything – but know when something isn’t working. 

Never assume that an idea won’t work. First say, “Wow! Then say How?,” as my husband often states. You should encourage your team to bring ideas to you anytime, and together, who knows what you will come up with?  Don’t be afraid to walk away from an idea when it isn’t working though.  Some things I’ve tried: the power of digital advertising (this is a great tool for how many people it can reach, quickly); Never miss a chance to meet someone new and introduce yourself (you never know where the conversation will lead); Not every client is your best fit (try to make this assessment as early as possible). You can’t ask enough people for advice – a great business coach, successful CEOs, business mentors, spouses and more. Speaking of, get a great business coach – you need it. I’ve had mine for five years.  Lastly, get a deposit up front – not everyone is as trustworthy as you want to think they are. 

2. Be open to learning about new things. 

I always tell clients we have an extremely diverse team, knowledgeable on a huge range of topics, but that we are always happy to learn new things, and that allows us to take on any project. We have tackled many things so far and our list of “areas of expertise” just keeps growing!

3. Make sure your potential clients are Grant Ready. 

II is almost impossible to do good, efficient and effective work with a group who doesn’t have the basic building blocks already in place.  Push these individuals to get these basic pillars in place before they work with you. 

4. Stand your ground. 

Know the worth and value you and your team bring to a client – we bring myself, a researcher, a grant writer and an operations manager for a fraction of the cost it would cost an organization if they had to hire a full-time grant writer. 

5. Celebrate. 

It’s important to celebrate. Celebrate your wins. Celebrate the great team you are surrounded with. Celebrate new clients. Celebrate potential new partnerships.  Celebrate five years.

Colorful pencils arranged in a circle around the handwritten words "Lessons Learned"

Do you need a grant for any of these unique opportunities?

Hello July

July 3 – International Plastic Bag Free Day (grants for the environment).

July 27 – National Disability Independence Day (grants for disabled populations).

July 30 – World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (grant for anti-trafficking programs).

Purple plastic grocery bag


The largest cash grant given was from GlobalFoundaries for $666 million in 2011. Shoot for the stars!


It can be easy to be worried about being rejected for a grant, especially if it is something you and the organization are stretching for; but this is part of the process and is an opportunity – to refine narratives, to get constructive feedback, to beat the odds, to learn something new. Don’t shy away from the challenge! It’s part of the experience and some grant applications will simply not be successful.


Don’t fall into the trap of using the following types of words: “exciting,” “very,” “innovative,” or “uniquely qualified.” Everyone else is using these words to try and set themselves apart; so, to actually set yourself apart, think outside the box, and come up with something more creative that paints a specific picture.

Open corrugated box with blue sky and clouds above


The Building Healthy Futures Fund – opens July 1. 

The Building Healthy Futures grant program supports learning for school-age youth by improving access to quality healthcare.

This is an exciting, inclusive grant opportunity!

Call or email us at 202-277-6344 or at

Spotlight on a Sunflower Client

This month we are featuring Omaha Street Soccer.

Established in 2021, Omaha Street Soccer (OSS) wants to level the playing field by collaborating with local and regional organizations to make resources accessible for all when it comes to the game of soccer. Their vision is to drive through the streets of Omaha and see our youth of all racial, social, and economic backgrounds enjoying the game of soccer, together!

Mary Matthews, Founder of OSS, became frustrated with the disparity in soccer resources available to the youth in Omaha, specifically in the North Omaha area. She knew it was time for change. Omaha Street Soccer partners with several organizations to drive the change. OSS focuses on K-8th grade; preparing athletes to play for their school teams in Middle and High School.

They are working to create soccer fields, provide soccer for any skill/ability level, and creating mentoring opportunities for young leaders.

The mission of Omaha Street Soccer is to cultivate an environment of love, freedom, and creativity for the Omaha community and future leaders through soccer. Sunflower Grant Writers is thrilled to work with OSS to make this mission come alive!

“Sunflower Grant Writers has done an amazing job helping our organization secure funding for our programming initiatives. Katie and her team are extremely knowledgeable and efficient in the process of getting to know our organization and find the words to capture our mission and needs.”

Mary Matthews
Black and white soccer ball on green turf near the goal line in the shadow of the goal.

That is all for now! Stay hopeful and passionate! 

More articles from Sunflower Grant Writers

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