Hoogeveen brothers Blake and Brett didn’t anticipate that they would one day end up as business partners, but when they reflect on what brought them here, it just makes sense.
Before they became co-owners transforming workplace culture as we know it, Blake and Brett Hoogeveen grew up in Bellevue. An experience they cherished, Brett described his upbringing as ”the traditional American childhood.”
The brother’s neighborhood played a prevalent role in their upbringing. Their childhood home was surrounded by nature and wildlife that offered the perfect balance of fresh air, freedom, and just enough room for mischief.
“I like to say that I was a pretty good kid growing up,” Blake prefaced, before recalling one of his favorite childhood memories– a memory that includes a three-person water balloon gun, the golf course behind their house, and a foolproof “duck and hide” strategy.
“The golfers were so skilled, they needed a bit of a challenge,” he joked.
They say one of the most influential parts of growing up in the Bellevue community was the exposure to Offutt Air Force Base. The close proximity to the base provided a unique understanding of the sacrifices that families make for our country.
“We’re fortunate to understand a little bit more than the average person,” Blake said.
This understanding is something they have carried with them to this day.
The brothers attended Bellevue Public Schools for the entirety of their educational careers.
“I had a “really great and stable straight-through educational path… I had a lot of certainty in that,” Brett recalled.
They both attended Bellevue East High School, and although they only shared the school’s hallways for one year, the brothers followed similar paths characterized by their academic strengths and love for sports. Both brothers excelled inside the classroom and were drawn to the most challenging classes offered. Brett had a “love-hate relationship” with the rigorous curriculum of the English department.
“They had a little bit of a feared reputation, but a terrific reputation… they really pushed students to excel,” Brett remembered. He regards the English department as phenomenal, and says with confidence that students went on to “really appreciate the education they received from the department in particular.”
While Blake also enjoyed his time in the English department, his senior year math teacher was one of his favorites. In years past, East had offered a single Honors AP calculus class that Blake had proudly earned a desk in. But when the fall of his senior year rolled around, to the surprise of many, the prestigious class was now being offered over two class periods, allowing the number of students being taught at this level to double. The intense nature of the class proved to be too much for many and called into question the necessity to be as challenging as it was by students and parents alike. However, Blake knew what he signed up for. In fact, he enjoyed what he signed up for, and he appreciated his teacher’s commitment to “teach to the spirit of what they’ve signed up for.”
“Unquestionably, that class prepared me to enter college,” he stated.
The brothers also enjoyed their time outside of the classroom. Growing up, they played everything “except baseball,” Brett joked, and were on East’s basketball and golf teams.
“The good friends that you build, the competitiveness, the life lessons that you learn through sports, they all carry forward,” Blake said.
Brett graduated at the turn of the decade in 2000, with the self-proclaimed “best graduating class ever,” and Blake was soon to follow in 2003.
Brett went on to attend the University of Kansas, where he studied engineering. Although he knew his heart did not lie in this field, he enjoyed four years as an engineer at a small entrepreneurial engineering firm out of Elkhorn, NE.
Blake studied actuarial science at Drake University before accepting a position at Mutual of Omaha where he played an integral role in one of the company’s initiatives; a young professionals group. This experience led him to help orchestrate The Omaha Chamber’s Young Professionals Summit, a unique event that brings more than 1,500 young professionals together to energize and attract Omaha’s talent.
However, their professional paths would cross when they both began working at QLI, formerly Quality Living Inc., founded by their father, Kim Hoogeveen, Ph.D. While QLI is the nation’s largest post-hospital specialty rehabilitation center for those who have suffered a brain or spinal cord injury, this wasn’t the only thing that caught the brothers’ attention. When Brett started at QLI, it had been awarded Omaha’s number one place to work three years in a row. QLI would go on to win two more times and was eventually awarded the first-ever Sustained Excellence Award.
The brothers were living together when Brett started at QLI, and Blake was quick to notice how his brother “was looking forward to going in [to work]…he was practically whistling as he walked out the door.” So when Blake received an offer from QLI that allowed him to call on his prior business experience and contribute to the company’s inspiring mission, he accepted.
The realization that they had something really special within their passion for people and culture came after the devastating loss of their grandfather. The brothers were faced with the reality of “we don’t have forever, and we have a real chance to make a mark at some companies,” which prompted them to leave their full-time positions at QLI after many great years.
To this day, both brothers still offer their expertise at QLI on a part-time basis.
Dr. Hoogeveen, their father, had previously retired from QLI to found MindSet, a company with the intent to assist other businesses in finding a successful work culture, like that which he found at QLI. This was Brett and Blake’s next step. They found their stride in creating cultures that motivate people to pursue excellence and live fulfilling lives.
As COVID-19 struck, the brothers were once again confronted with a harsh reality, which in this instance meant the realization that their current services had physical limitations. They knew that they had incredible and proven intellectual capital that could help so many people if they could make it more accessible. And thus, BetterCulture came to fruition.
BetterCulture is the “more accessible, more scalable” extension of MindSet and the brother’s future. Through software that allows them to expand their business tools beyond previously restricted markets, BetterCulture strives to support organizations through a journey of improving their cultural health.
“If you look back over a couple of decades, ever since the term “employee engagement” was coined and companies really started to [try to] improve it, we haven’t made a lot of progress… There is still a big gap between the culture that companies want to have and the culture that companies actually have,” Blake pointed out. BetterCulture was created to close that gap on a large scale. “There’s an almost endless potential for us to help companies,” they agreed.
The brothers have already been able to make an impact through BetterCulture.
Some of Brett’s most rewarding moments are close to home. BetterCulture has partnered with the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce and Leadership Bellevue’s class to provide a leadership development curriculum. After just two months of the partnership, Brett gets stopped by many who have been impacted by the class to share their terrific experience and newfound spark to improve their own company culture.
“Those are the proudest moments for me,” Brett said, “when I get to hear from actual customers. ‘I loved what I heard in your training, and it’s making a difference.”’
Though the brothers have big aspirations to grow the company, Bellevue and the Greater Omaha Area will always be home.
“Family is here,” Blake said.
The brothers can’t recall a time when they ever fought outside of the occasional wrestling match growing up, a testament to having such a well-functioning family business.
Brett and Blake’s mission is to “make the world a better place to work,” a world they know is filled with BPS alumni. Learn more about BetterCulture by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or (402) 630-6500.