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Tulsa City County Library is offering free business classes for entrepreneurs that will help with growing a start-up or refreshing your knowledge on what it takes to run a successful company.
“The mission is to help them get all the information they need to build a business plan that they can present competently to a funder,” said Heather Lozano, economic and community development librarian.
Grow Academy is a 10 month program for those hoping to start or strengthen a small business. Classes will cover everything you need to know to build a business plan. Each class will be split between advice from industry experts and instruction on how to utilize free library resources to gather vital data needed for a business plan and market research.
“I think a lot of it is showing them what to expect when they start their business so they’re not going into it blindly, and they’re not going into it with this expectation that this is going to be this easy thing that they devote two hours a week to, which causes a lot of work,” Lozano said.
They have three in-person classes going every month. A standalone class, a Grow Academy class and an expert session that is only for the cohort. People not signed up for the class are still welcome to come to a Grow Academy class as a standalone, they just won’t be able to participate in the cohort discussion and won’t receive a certificate at graduation.
“We have standalone business classes the first Thursday of every month from 5:30 to 6:30, and they are entirely separate from Grow Academy,” said Lozano. “Grow Academy is the fourth Saturday of every month. And then part of Grow Academy if you sign up for the cohort, there’s a separate ask an expert session that you can attend the second Monday of every month, and that’s the third class and that’s only open to Grow Academy cohort members.”
Grow Academy has called on experts at TEDC Creative Capital to assist in the learning process, teaching participants how to find funding and build a business plan. TEDC’s assistant loan director, Ray Fitzgerald, spoke at the very first Grow Academy course, and other team members plan on assisting with the standalone class Pitch Perfect: Building a Pitch Deck in preparation for the pitch night Grow Academy will have before their graduation.
“They want to help you, they want to see you succeed, and it’s so nice to know I can send them to someone that is gonna champion them and give them direction,” Lozano said while discussing TEDC.
“The Tulsa business ecosystem is wildly supportive, and I don’t think people realize, like, how many resources are there just rooting for them. There’s so much free support, and there’s so much support in general for people who want to start small businesses.”
TEDC offers free technical assistance after applying for funding or participating in one of their EDEN programs. They take the time to walk you through the steps of what you need to succeed once you’ve secured a loan.
“So many different organizations are doing great things with entrepreneurs, but if we can share the love with the entrepreneurs and really help that entrepreneur feel tailored to instead of just kind of one-sided,” said Kaci Coutee, Director of Micro Lending and Client Service Division.
“The idea is no matter how long this class takes or this resource takes, we want to be with you throughout this entire process, see how you’re growing to ultimately get you up to lending. Because we do not base a lot of our loans off of credit. A big thing that we’re looking at is character and capacity.”
TCCL has 28 consistent people in Grow Academy. One needs to commit to all 10 classes in order to be part of the cohort. If you sign up for the cohort and do all 10 classes, you get the notebook, you get access to the student page, which has a lot of resources on it. Registration for the entire cohort begins in October.
“We are super available for one on one, so now you know what you need to know,” Lozano said. “We can sit down and walk you through the information that you’re trying to find and explain why you need it and where to find it. The support and then linking people to the support and watching their confidence build has been really, really rewarding for me.”
For more information and resources for Grow Academy and the other business classes offered, visit the Tulsa Library Website.
“I want people to feel encouraged and know that we can connect them to support,” Lozano said.
“The library doesn’t have every single piece of information they need to succeed but we do know who does and we want to direct people to their community because you should know that your community is rooting for you. You should know that there are free things that can help you be successful and you don’t have to be stuck.”
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 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, and Schusterman Family Philanthropies.