Downtown Tulsa Partnership’s Days of Wonder Brings TEDC Small Business Owners Their First Store Space

Holiday pop-up shops allow TEDC program participants a chance at their first storefront 

By Ashley Jones, TEDC Reporter

Nine years into Onifades Cookie Company, and his team has  developed relationships with loyal customers following them on the journey of a 10-year goal: to open a brick-and-mortar establishment for their business. The e-commerce and mobile company was given the opportunity to operate its business in a vacant facility thanks to Downtown Days of Wonder, a pop-up shop program by Downtown Tulsa Partnership.

“It’s been amazing,” Onifade Colbert said. “We get to see our faithful customers come in since I was 6 years old to how we are now. I love that I get to interact with the customers more.”

The program fills vacant ground-floor retail spaces in the Deco District and Tulsa Arts District for the holidays. TEDC Creative Capital shared  application information to graduates of its small business programs which resulted in four out of seven local entrepreneurs being selected to participate in the pop-up shop. Rose Washington Jones, TEDC CEO, said, “We were thrilled to receive an invitation for TEDC clients to participate in Days of Wonder. Our hope is to always give small companies access to any and every opportunity to promote their products and services.”

“The resources have been amazing, there’s so many people in the TEDC network that know us and have that extra support, because you can’t do it by yourself,”  Colbert’s mother Ifaseyi Amusan said. “People say they did it by themselves but I’m sure there was a network behind them.”

The opportunity gave each TEDC-supported entrepreneur their first experience operating a business in an actual brick-and-mortar establishment. Colbert says the major takeaway from participating in TEDC’s Program was solidifying a business plan that he has been able to carry with him into operating the facility temporarily.

“This is making us put the steps in play,” Amusan said.

From November 25th to January 15, the pop-up shop will generally operate 11 a.m.-6 p.m.,

Wednesday-Thursday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday; and 11 a.m.- 5 p.m.Sunday. Colbert’s shop is open at 525 S. Main St. and shares the space with iScents candles.

DuEwa Gordon
DuEwa Gordon

DuEwa Gordon owns Iscents, an aromatherapy candles and personal wellness company. The chance at having a space to interact with customers gave Gordon the opportunity to open a do-it-yourself candle-making station.

“It’s my first time actually being able to make the product with the customer, and they really responded to that, they’ve enjoyed it,” Gordon said “The youngest one I’ve had so far has been seven who’s come in to make a candle.”

Gordon was the runner-up in TEDC’s pitch night for their program where participants completed a course of 15 weekly sessions to prepare their business plan for presentation.

“TEDC has helped me gain confidence as a business owner to see that I can actually reach my goals and I know that they’re very supportive of us,” Gordon said. “I know once I need help as I continue to grow and scale my business that TEDC will be in my corner.”

The two other TEDC-supported shops are located at 427 S Boston Ave. When you enter the corner gallery space, you would see Bounceless, a sports bra company with a patented design for well-endowed  women to bounce less during athletic activity.

Bounceless CEO Chantelle Lott says that women were coming in to specifically try on the bra before purchasing it. Given the storefront, this is the first time that women could test  the product before buying. 

“For them to be able to come in and try it on and test for themselves whether it works for them or not has been great because we have been able to see an increase in sales since we have been able to get in front of more women,” Lott said.

Lott was a participant in one of TEDC’s Entrepreneurial Development and Education Network (EDEN)  programs where she not only solidified her business plan but also learned the right tools to tell her story to future investors.

“Having that solid business plan together is what I took away from it and just being able to really hone in on the critical parts of your business and how to tell your story and portray it in a way so that people can understand what you’re doing so that they know what they’re funding,” Lott said.

TaNesha Rushing
TaNesha Rushing

Last but not least, you can find Mi Tea Lounge near  4th and Boston Avenue in the former Tavolo Restaurant Space at the same address as Bounceless. Mi Tea Lounge owner TaNesha Rushing made her business mobile from the start in February 2020 when she joined the Black Upstart program which partnered with TEDC to assist black entrepreneurs in starting their companies.

Rushing’s business idea began as a Starbucks with a stage. As a performer herself, she wanted to include tea because she was into health and protecting her voice. Then when advised to make her business mobile, Rushing had the idea of traveling tea parties.

“We were going to put everything inside this sprinter, and you could get inside the sprinter and we’d have it set up to where you can do music inside,” Rushing said. “I still want a lounge though.”

After the Upstart program in February, everything shut down due to COVID and her dream of opening a brick-and-mortar lounge was put on hold. Her business was still doing well due to her health products such as her sea moss. Later on, TEDC then gave her the call to apply for Downtown Days of Wonder and her brick-and-mortar lounge came to fruition.

“With being able to allow people to taste the teas, they’ve been buying it like crazy,” Rushing said. “So it’s been doing super well. I’m super excited about this.”

The first performance will come to the Mi Tea Lounge stage on Dec. 30. Amber Owens will be performing. Omaley B came through with his saxophone to test the acoustics, and Rushing plans on performing one day herself.

In some cases, either DTP or TEDC provided financial support to reduce barriers to program participation, including microgrants to cover applicants’ rent or purchase shelving, displays, and other materials.

“These Pop-Up entrepreneurs were chosen from 25 applicants, demonstrating the demand for affordable retail space in Downtown Tulsa,” said Brian Kurtz, President and CEO of Downtown Tulsa Partnership. “We are excited to bring these concepts to holiday shoppers to complement and supplement Downtown’s existing small shops and businesses.”

For more information on the Holiday Pop-Up Shops, Black Friday and Small Business Saturday deals, and ongoing Downtown holiday updates, visit DowntownDaysofWonder.com.

About TEDC Creative Capital

TEDC Creative Capital (aka TEDC) is a community development financial institution (CDFI) providing progressive lending to promising start-ups  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 TEDCnet.com 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.

Posted in