By Ashley Jones, TEDC Reporter
Launchpad, a pre-accelerator program, funded by Build in Tulsa, hosted a series of panels with the organization, one featuring the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC) CEO Rose Washington-Jones.
On Jan. 10, the feature day held in the Tulsa Central Library downtown presented a panel titled, Community Builders: Knowing What to Know. The discussion centered around what investors and business advocates would like to see in founders and how to approach them.
Washington-Jones discussed the things she likes to see in founders that approach TEDC for loans and learning opportunities including perseverance and preparation.
“The squeaky wheel really gets the oil,” Washington-Jones said about perseverance. “Everyone is really busy doing really awesome things, and sometimes you just have to keep pushing to get in front of who you want to talk to. You have to never give up. If you keep bugging and keep persisting and keep emailing and keep calling eventually they’re going to pick up the phone.”
When talking about preparation, Washington-Jones told the story of when TEDC was called on to build the building that Oasis Fresh Market is in. When they began the project, TEDC did not have the $6 million to build a grocery store that the North Tulsa community had been demanding for years, but they were called upon to make the project come to life.
“We did everything that we needed to do to bring a building out of the ground, and did not have $6 million,” Washington-Jones said.
What made the building possible was the planning that went into creating it, similar to when TEDC created Shoppes on Peoria.
“We also didn’t have the money for it, but we were planning for it, and there was a financial crisis, the home mortgage crisis and grant dollars became available. We were able to build the shops without debt,” Washington-Jones said. “We built it with all grants from the government, because of the economic conditions at the time.”
While building the establishment for Oasis, COVID-19 hit the country and TEDC was prepared to handle the situation just as they did with the Shoppes on Peoria.
“We were ready, we were able to deploy $60 million for Tulsa County and earned enough fee income to close the funding gap on Oasis; and now history has been made,” Washington-Jones said. “My point is that we were prepared when the opportunity presented itself, and you see the results of it.”
Rod Walton is the facilitator for Launchpad. He works with entrepreneurs and conducts all of their coaching sessions. Build in Tulsa helped him source those entrepreneurs and execute the program.
“We grab local businesses, we take them through some very intensive, rigorous courses,” Walton said. “What we leverage is basically the foundational principles, exercises and activities for any type of business that’s looking to either attract funding, add a new location of scale, or put standard operating procedures in place so that people can have the infrastructure to actually work on the business versus being stuck on the day to day tasks.”
Build in Tulsa invests human capital, social capital, and financial capital to help Black founders achieve breakout success, according to their website.
Walton says the main takeaway he hopes people gathered from listening to the panel discussion is “game.” Both organizations brought together an array of business owners with accelerator programs and technical assistance. Other members of the panel besides Washington-Jones included Joshua Bowers with the Black Wall Street Chamber, Charlton Cunningham with the Lightship Capital Foundation, and Dominick Ard’is with ACT House.
Black Wall Street Chamber of Commerce is a non-profit membership-based organization formed to promote the sound economic well-being of African American-owned businesses. The BWSCC serves as an advocate to unify, promote and empower the African American community through entrepreneurship, programming, economic development, education, and training in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Bowers said that in business there are levels, not competition. He also advised business owners to be precise and focused on their objective.
“Pick that one focus, and then have the discipline because in the beginning, when you’re building the business and just starting out, you’re gonna wear all the hats,” Bowers said. “Work on your business, not just in it.”
Lightship Capital Foundation leverages corporate partnerships, specialized programming, mentorship, and capital investments to drive growth within the minority innovation economy. They offer an accelerator program and bootcamp.
“When we make an investment, we are taking a five to 10% equity of that company,” Cunningham said. “How do you see the company scaling over the next three to five years is very important for us because we want to also come in and see how we can help you scale.”
Finally, ACT House has ACT Tulsa, a 6-month accelerator program that aims to bolster Black and Latino entrepreneurs and create innovative ecosystems. Their CEO and founder advised listeners of the panel to get to know their customer and cater to their specifics.
“Actually go talk to about 50 people who are maybe your customers, which would then give you that clear understanding of who that actual customer is,” Ard’is said. “Oftentimes if you are taking your message and you are pivoting it so many times, you’re being more reactive than proactive. The true reality as a founder as a business owner period is that you need to have a very clear understanding of your vision and who you are serving and dial in on that and make that better and more refined. From there, that will help you narrow down what sources you go to.”
Walton led the panel and hoped that participants of feature day would take away an understanding of the entrepreneurial environment they are in.
“I’m hoping that people can understand in this entrepreneur space, there is a certain frequency that one needs to vibrate on and a way to maneuver from the actual entrepreneurs themselves and investors and the thought leaders and just gaining understanding on how one needs to position themselves to move,” Walton said. “If you are thinking about going into any particular space, you should know that environment.”
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 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.