Growing up on a farm in south-central Nebraska, Doris Elifritz-Lux was her dad’s “right-hand man.”
As early as 6, Lux worked in the field, planted, irrigated land, pulled weeds and beans on her dad’s farm, among other things – she was never afraid to get her hands dirty.
“I loved it. I just loved being outside,” Lux recalled. “Dad was a farmer – he had hogs, dairy, crops, he irrigated the land. So I was a farm daughter. My older sister was the indoor daughter and I was the outdoor daughter.”
Those early days rolling up her sleeves on the farm and being unafraid to get into the thick of it, in a way, were instrumental as to why Lux is who she is today. She’s been an entrepreneur and an avid learner practically her entire life – having turned many of her ideas into full-fledged businesses throughout the last four decades.
Her passion for entrepreneurship and learning also resulted in a highly successful career in education, where she’s helped thousands of area people get their own operations off the ground through her work teaching business courses at Central Community College-Columbus and leading its entrepreneurship center. She does all this while running her own businesses and being an active community member.
“Being an entrepreneur, an educator and a business coach, it just gives me the comforting feeling of helping people fulfill their dreams, see their dreams get accomplished and see the community grow,” Lux said. “I’m very community-oriented, and that’s what I can give to the community – that help and assistance.”
STARTING AT AN EARLY AGE
Growing up in the small town of Edgar, Lux spent much of her time on the farm when she wasn’t in school. Of course, the strong work ethic she developed on her family’s farm applied to her schooling and athletic obligations. She went to Sandy Creek High School, where she competed in softball, volleyball, basketball and track. She was actually one of two freshmen that made the varsity volleyball team the first year the program started.
“Fifty years this spring I graduated high school,” she said, noting her class was part of a lot of ‘firsts’ for the school.
She went on to attend Kearney State (now the University of Nebraska Kearney), where she continued her softball career.
CHANGE OF PLANS
Besides softball, Lux had a specific plan in mind for her time in Kearney.
“I knew I wanted to do business,” she said. “I thought I would join the corporate world.”
Lux was planning to get a business administration degree with an emphasis in accounting, but during her freshman year, one of her parent’s friends recommended she switch the emphasis to education because there would be more opportunities. So she did.
“I got a teaching degree and that was it,” Lux said. “I started teaching and really haven’t stopped.”
MAKING COLUMBUS HOME
In January 1974, Lux got her first teaching job in Sherman County’s Litchfield. She taught there for a couple of years and eventually earned her master’s degree. In 1978, a friend called to tell her about an opportunity at Platte College.
“I asked ‘North Platte?’” Lux recalled, noting she wasn’t sure about moving there.
Her friend explained she was actually referring to a campus in Columbus (what is now Central Community College-Columbus). The local college was looking for a business instructor, which piqued her interest.
Once she relocated, Lux started out teaching business and mathematics courses as she had a minor in the latter. Her role has evolved in the 41 years she has been on staff, but she has undoubtedly enjoyed it.
Her career at CCC-Columbus has been an important part of her life, but hardly the only aspect. She takes pride in calling Columbus home – it’s where she works and lives, where she raised her family and met great friends.
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She has been involved with numerous organizations and initiatives throughout the years. She’s currently the chairwoman of the chamber’s entrepreneurship committee that plans all sorts of projects to help local business efforts.
“It’s about giving encouragement to people who want to have their own businesses and help the economy of Columbus grow,” said Lux, who with her husband, Norman, has two children (daughter, Crystal, and son, Gary).
She’s also a member of P.E.O., a philanthropic organization where women celebrate the advancement of women. Additionally, she’s a proud member of the local noon Lions Club and the SCORE Association. The latter, “Counselors to America's Small Business,” is a nonprofit association comprised of 13,000-plus volunteer business counselors throughout the U.S. and its territories. SCORE members are trained to serve as counselors, advisers and mentors to aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners.
“Doris is a very supportive individual, someone who is very willing to help when needed,” said longtime friend and CCC-Columbus co-worker Kathryn Ballobin. “She always goes the extra mile, whether it comes to people or things she’s working on or pursuing.
“It doesn’t matter if she’s in the room with one person or a whole big group, she’s highly enthusiastic about whatever the purpose is.”
ALWAYS AN ENTREPRENEUR
Lux isn’t just focused on helping other entrepreneurs in the area – she’s one herself. Actually, she’s been one long before television shows like “Shark Tank” made it hip to start a business. Back in the 1970s, Lux started up her Red Apple Ceramics, which began as a way for her to sell her ceramics. Throughout the years, it morphed into more, including a scrapbooking and consignment operation. She’s sold many things, including scented wax chips, and wholesale paintbrushes.
For quite some time, she operated the Red Apple Farmers Market Store at 2620 23rd St. In 2018, she decided to revamp the business by giving artists and vendors who worked at outdoor farmers markets a chance to share their products during the colder times of the year. With that shift, the business was rechristened “Market 23.”
“An entrepreneur never quits I don’t think,” Lux said, with a smile. “Market 23 is totally a new adventure. I want to give artists and food vendors an opportunity.”
About 12 years ago, Lux stepped away from teaching business courses to put her energy into entrepreneurship classes. She eventually got out of teaching everyday business courses altogether to focus on her director position and follow her passion for entrepreneurship.
In October 2018, she unofficially retired and now works part-time for CCC-Columbus. In her role, she’s essentially a business start-up coach for new business owners and helps with the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program for middle school-aged girls. Why she continues to do it is about helping Columbus and rural Nebraska remain relevant.
“My passion started when Dr. Tom Osborne approached community colleges and said, ‘If you do not help keep these young people in their small communities, we’re going to lose the small communities in the state of Nebraska.’ So he challenged us to do that,” she said.
Longtime friend Sandie Fischer, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce’s events planner and entrepreneurship/membership developer, called Lux a special person and asset to the area.
“Doris is someone who does not know the word ‘no.’ She goes above and beyond the call of duty helping entrepreneurs be successful. She is always checking on them to make sure they are doing OK with their businesses,” Fischer said. “Her business, Market 23, is an example of how hard she works helping others be successful by offering the community a storefront for entrepreneurs to sell year-round.
“She loves teaching and giving advice to help others and never will ask for recognition for what she does. She still tells us that she is semi-retired but still attends all the committee meetings she is on and continues to give 110 percent of her time.”
Arguably the only business venture that hasn’t worked in Lux’s favor was that time right after she graduated college when she attempted to purchase her grandparents’ farm. Her loan to make the purchase was approved right after the farm was sold.
Things worked out well, though. Lux married a farmer, so she spends plenty of time with Norman out in the field, where they have cattle. Their son, who lives in nearby Bellwood, also plays a part in the farm.
She also goes down to Louisiana whenever possible to visit their daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.
Columbus, though, will always be home.
“The people,” she said of what she loves most about the city she’s lived in for 41 years. “If you step out and work with people and entities in the community, you will be well-received. Everyone works hand-in-hand.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.