Final MORTAR Tulsa Cohort Finishes Strong

2022 Pitch Night for TEDC program

By Ashley Jones, TEDC Reporter

When Amnoni L. Myers, recipient of the MORTAR Tulsa’s entrepreneurial spirit award, began the accelerator program; she was still at the idea phase, but MORTAR Tulsa helped her realize that she was actually farther along than she thought.

“While I was in the program, I ended up getting the school district to purchase 188 copies of my book and to be able to speak at a conference,” Myers said. “It was there that two of my books got placed at a university. And so I started to see my vision come more to life.”

Myers’ business, Your are the Prize, stemmed from her experience transitioning out of the foster care system. In her award winning book of the same title, she describes her journey from being homeless to working on Capitol Hill and working in the white house under the Obama administration. 

Her goal is to help form and develop trauma informed care curriculum, and to bring innovative solutions to Oklahoma modeled from transition programs in places such as Washington D.C. She says that plan was redefined through MORTAR Tulsa, an accelerator program from Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC).

“As we were doing the work, I felt like I wasn’t alone,” Myers said. “I was doing it with people that really wanted to help me succeed. I felt like they really helped build my confidence. They helped me grow. They helped me see beyond myself.”

MORTAR Tulsa is a 15-week course that started the fifth and final cohort in the fall. They helped six participants reshape and redefine their business plans, and five small business entrepreneurs presented their proposals to a panel of judges at a pitch event which was the finale to the accelerator program

“MORTAR is giving them the tools that they need to succeed as entrepreneurs, going step by step and putting those building blocks in place that they’re going to need to be successful as they launch off into their new endeavor,” MORTAR Tulsa Facilitator Shantele Taylor said.

Three entrepreneurs received awards for their presentation. SLAPS took home first place with an award of $3,000; Health4mation took home second place with an award of $1,500; and the cohort participants and facilitators of the program chose You are the Prize as the recipient of the entrepreneurial spirit award that received $500.

“Greatness or nothing,” is the mission behind Kevin Alvis’ plant based soul food business called SLAPS, which stands for Sounds Like A Plan. He plans to use his earnings to fund his food truck that will debut on the first of January to bring his plant based operation to the North Tulsa community.

“We’re bringing swag to the plant based lifestyle, and we’re going to make sure that we get this healthy, affordable food into the mouths of everyone,” Alvis said.

In second place, Charles Williams said the program helped him and his business Health4mation grow in the area of financial projections. Health4mation is a smoothie and subscription based education opportunity with demonstrations and health information.

“Getting comfortable with using data and forecasting our potential to make revenue was the hardest thing,  when I saw that I didn’t understand it,” Williams said. “But I sat down, I prayed, and when I understood it, I was like, I can do this, this is easy.

“It really helped me with the business, because you can do information all day, but businessmen and women, they want to see numbers. The numbers don’t lie.”

The next step for Health4mation is opening a Health Information Center at a local church where Williams will create a model that can be put in other adult community centers, and in schools as well.

“That’s where I’ll do consultations and I’ll do demonstrations,” Williams said. “We’ll have smoothies in there and other herbal products that will help people combat obesity. I want people to take away the fact that our body, and our health is our responsibility.”

What set this cohort apart from the others according to the facilitators Shantele Taylor and Dillon Hargrave was the connection the participants had with each other. They were collaborating with each other even outside of class. What also stood out was their drive and hard work.

“This cohort had a lot of grit, a lot of perseverance, and a lot of diligence,” Taylor said. “They came to the table knowing exactly what they wanted to do. They maybe did not know how to formulate it all, but as you saw they were able to deliver on their pitches. Just looking at the level of tenacity that makes them a little different than some of the other courses”

The judges of the pitch competition included TEDC Director of Administrative Operations and Compliance Janet Pieren, Owner of D.W. Gates Engineering Derek Gates (former TEDC Board member), Owner of King Architectural Solutions Matt King (incoming President of the TEDC Board), and TEDC Director of Small Business Lending Bill Linsao. They say that they were looking for knowledge of the business and feasibility for qualities in the winner.

“It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint, and it takes a lot of time and people and support and everything to get a business going and then to sustain it as well,” Pieren said.

“And that is the wisdom that we bring because none of us expected to be successful tomorrow,” King said. “It takes time and work. You build relationships with people, you build relationships with the community and that breeds success.”

Yanett Hollins is the manager of the Entrepreneurial Development and Education Network (EDEN) at TEDC. She was the host of the pitch night and helped oversee the facilitation of the programs.

“At TEDC, we have business programs where you can learn the skills to start, launch and operate your business and have access to capital to grow it,” Hollins said. “Go to our website and apply for Business Education. We’ll contact you to find out what program best fits your needs.”

About TEDC Creative Capital

TEDC Creative Capital (aka TEDC) is a community development financial institution (CDFI) providing progressive lending to promising start-up and growing businesses. TEDC builds equitable economic prosperity by helping small companies operate more successfully, create jobs, and advance communities! Loans range from $500 to $10 million.

Visit the TEDC website or call 918-585-8332 for more information on loan and entrepreneurial education programs! If you’re not a business owner but want to explore ownership, please contact TEDC! If you know someone who may need TEDC assistance, please share this story!

TEDC’s ongoing funding partners include the City of Tulsa (U.S. HUD CDBG), PartnerTulsa, Tulsa County, the U.S. Small Business Administration, the CDFI Fund of the U.S. Department of Treasury, the Economic Development Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bank of Oklahoma, Chase, and GKFF.

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