Entrepreneurship thrives in Tulsa

I went up to Tulsa this week to hang out with OU’s Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth (CCEW) and their very own Taylor Potter.  She arranged a whirlwind tour of Tulsa and setup a few workshops with local entrepreneurs.

Tulsa’s urban revitalization


The day started with lunch at the Tavern, a hip restaurant that would have felt as much in place in the new(ish) Brady arts district of rapidly revitalizing downtown Tulsa as Bushwick or Copenhagen.

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We went for a walk around Brady and you can feel the energy building in the area.  They got a boutique chocolate shop, trendy coffee spot, Mediterranean grill run by Israeli transplants, hip art museums and a beautiful green events space to tie it all together.  If they threw in a few bike lanes they’d be set!  The George Kaiser Family Foundation deserves a healthy amount of credit for this transformation and the other great work they are doing in the area.

i2e – Startup incubator

teaching at i2e
We then went to i2e so I could teach a digital marketing workshop that focused on using lean startup tools to do customer development.  i2e is a not-for-profit corporation focused on growing innovative small businesses in Oklahoma and making a positive impact on the state’s economy.  We talked a lot about clearly defining a value prop and testing your ideas against the market with MVPs and cohort tracking.  New companies looking for product/market fit need to slavishly focus on testing their assumptions against the market to find traction.  This has been neatly summarized as “solving a big problem, not pushing a big idea” by Dave McClure.

Digital Marketing for Everyone at the Mine

Next up was my workshop “Digital Marketing for Everyone” at The Mine, hosted in the coworking space the Forge.  It’s been almost a year since I taught this class in America and it felt like a good friend welcoming me home!  Entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds like forklift technology, paint stores, iphone stands, translation services and gaming conferences came out to brainstorm how to deliver value-add marketing to attract customers.

Bread baking for good

Adele Heavenly Bread
The following morning I was up at 4am to join social entrepreneur Adele Beasley at her startup Heavenly Bread to learn the secrets behind her delicious and nutritious recipes.  Adele is taking a break from learning about entrepreneurship at NYU to actually be an entrepreneur!  (Like this idea?  Check out Uncollege to learn more about what young people are doing besides going to college).  We batted around some ideas about building a college level curriculum around Heavenly Bread, letting business students learn the practicalities of starting and running a social entrepreneurship business in the structured learning environment of a college course. Learn more about what Adele is doing on her website and make sure to follow Heavenly Bread on Twitter or Facebook.

OU Tulsa and ISI

OU Tulsa ISI
After a quick shower and breakfast, I went to Oklahoma University to work with the professors who are part of OU-Tulsa’s CCEW Innovation & Sustainability Institute. These professors are all working on projects that seek to have an impact on the community, from helping doctors to get their patients to workout and eat right to best practices for using the OU-Tulsa landscape/campus.  As usual, we got up out of our seats and used post-it notes to brainstorm value props, user stories and MVPs.

Tulsa Wrapup

After a whirlwind 30 hours in Tulsa, which included meeting White House Champion of Change and civic hacker Scott Phillips, I’ve become a firm believer in the exciting activity happening here.  Sometimes it seems like New York and San Francisco dominate the startup news but you don’t need to dig too deep to find awesome things happening all around you.  I think the key challenge is making sure an entrepreneur can find a solid support network no matter where he or she decides to launch.  Luckily, the Tulsa area has lots of talented people working hard on making Oklahoma a hospitable environment for people looking to have an impact.  Thanks for the great visit!
Posted in Class follow-up, Digital Marketing for Everyone, Lean Startup, Marketing, Testing ideas in the real world, Travel
One comment on “Entrepreneurship thrives in Tulsa
  1. We, the Creekpaums, are so happy you had an opportunity to get a peak at
    some exciting events occurring in Tulsa. We are excited about you teaching
    some classes at OU.

    Eddie & Eileta

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