Oklahoma and Tulsa have made the national news recently due to Green Country’s small business allure. Folks at the state and local chambers of commerce say young entrepreneurs are working with seasoned professionals, creating mutual assistance and success.
“Small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in the Tulsa region and provide more than 55,000 jobs and an estimated payroll of $1.4 billion,” says Heather Davis, small business director for Tulsa Regional Chamber. “Small businesses comprise more than 80 percent of business here.”[pullquote]“Marshall Brewing Company is a great example of the pay-off to all our efforts to keep our young people here and also coming back to the Tulsa area after college,”[/pullquote]
Tulsa’s Young Professionals (TYPros) organization – which is affiliated with the chamber – is one of largest of its kind in the U.S. It’s effective in helping young professionals start new companies.
“That mass of young, talented people, together, generates excitement,” says Davis.
To augment and build on this success, the chamber recently launched Tulsa Small Business Connection – a group of more than 40 business owners providing small businesses with the tools to build the connections needed to succeed in a competitive global environment. TSBC began under the leadership of Carey Baker, owner of ProRecruiters, a staffing and employment agency.
Oklahoma’s comparatively low cost of doing business (11 percent less than elsewhere in the nation) and the state’s centralized location favor new enterprise, says Jessica Flint, entrepreneur manager for Tulsa Regional Chamber. One recent success story is the Marshall Brewing Company. Fourth generation Tulsan Eric Marshall became a brewmaster in Germany before bringing his knowledge back to T-town.
“Marshall Brewing Company is a great example of the pay-off to all our efforts to keep our young people here and also coming back to the Tulsa area after college,” says Flint.
Tulsa Regional Chamber Communications Manager Zack Stoycoff points to the interaction and positive overlap as “a grassroots uprising of community support, such as 1 Million Cups.”
A weekly forum for entrepreneurs to make presentations and receive feedback from the business community and mentors, 1 Million Cups is found in cities and communities around the country and helps entrepreneurs help each other.
The Forge – powered by TYPros – is “a start-up hub, a small business incubator that provides a trusted environment and a network of people, mentors and information needed to avoid the pitfalls that small-but-growing businesses face,” says Flint.
Another youth-driven, business-friendly initiative is Cultivate918, a meeting held for “Tulsa’s Entrepreneurship Scene” every second Wednesday of the month at 5 p.m. at various locations (www.cultivate918.org).
“The tradition of philanthropy is strong in Oklahoma,” says Davis. “And we are a hotbed of entrepreneurship with support from people who want to see small businesses succeed. One example is Sapiens Brands, a current tenant of The Forge, that is about to expand into their own space. They started with two employees and now have five after moving here from Los Angeles. They’ve fallen in love with Tulsa, and they got the support they needed to hit that $1 million revenue mark.”
The Mine is a catalyst for social innovation meant to equip entrepreneurs and other creative minds via fellowships, programming and more. Davis points to The Mine as thrilling evidence of the impact of creative entrepreneurship and philanthropy coming together: The Mine is powered by The Forge, the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation and the University of Oklahoma Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth.
The Tulsa Small Business Connection will host the Small Business Summit and Crystal Star Small Business Awards on Oct. 3 at the Hard Rock Tulsa Hotel & Casino. For information, visit www.tulsachamber.com.