By Scott Meacham
Act Tulsa understands what it is like to be in the shoes of minority founders.
Each of us has our own perspective on the plusses and minuses of 2021. There were plenty on each side of the ledger — 2021 wasn’t a quiet year by any measure.
We celebrated our first unicorn with the IPO of Alkami and another significant exit with the Spiers New Technologies acquisition by Cox Mobility. We lost a dear friend and stalwart board member with the passing of Dr. Stephen Prescott. He was tireless in his dreams and hope for Oklahoma. I think of Steve every time I see something important happening in Oklahoma’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
One of the best and most important things that came about in 2021 is Act Tulsa, the joint venture between i2E and ACT House. This accelerator program aims at cultivating and driving innovation of minority-led technology startups located in Tulsa.
“I started my business two years ago,” said Ambrose Midget, founder of Fresh Fabrics, a mobile laundry service that is one of the first nine ACT Tulsa graduates. “I needed a laundry service myself that provided same day laundry to my doorstep. I figured that if I needed something so badly, so did someone else.”
Ambrose is not a person who waits for others to act. She performed her own market validation, set up a digital marketing plan, and started serving customers.
“They really liked the efficiency and the quickness of our service,” she said. “I was doing everything–pick-ups, drop-offs, wash, dry, and fold. I have people who helped now, but I wanted to ensure the quality of the service myself.”
Ambrose came to ACT Tulsa armed with that in-the-trenches experience from paying customers. She knew she wanted to build a business that could scale. That meant a new business model and new ways of signing up customers.
“I hadn’t ever done anything like this,” she said. “I was aware that people invested in other people’s companies. I wasn’t aware that Tulsa had these opportunities for entrepreneurs and particularly for Black people. I didn’t know if this was something I would be able to do. I am so thankful for ACT Tulsa surrounding us with other Black and Latino founders, VCs, advisors, who are doing what we want to do. It is inspirational and encouraging.”
Ambrose built Fresh Fabrics on her strong sense of customer service. “I was big on customer service before,” she said, “but it was a more face-to-face type of experience. Being in ACT Tula taught me about using polls and surveys to find out exactly what customers want. I was able to reach a price point that customers feel ecstatic about and produces new revenue.”
Fresh Fabrics serves customers who need to catch a plane and customers who live in apartments without washers and dryers or laundry rooms. Work-from-home parents can always use a hand.
“Most of our clients lack time,” Ambrose said. “That’s what we are able to add to their day, extra time to do more of what they love. In fact, the most challenging thing before ACT Tulsa was thinking through who is my target customer. Everyone does laundry, thank God, it is an essential business.”
About 75 percent of Fresh Fabric’s customers are repeat business. You can find the service at freshfabrics.net, the firm’s exciting new website.
“ACT Tulsa has helped me scale my business,” Ambrose said. “They taught me how to think through the process of being an entrepreneur and make the transfer from being a founder to being an employer running and scaling a business. Wanting Fresh Fabrics to grow like that, I have to have a different mindset. They have also given us so many resources — people to help us grow our business with technology, and funds with zero interest and zero equity.”
Ambrose Midget is from the north side of Tulsa. “My family has been there many generations,” she said. “ACT Tulsa understands what it is like to be in my shoes. They are helping me take my business to the level I want to take it to. They want to build generational wealth in our community. I look forward to doing my part.”
There is not a more perfect way to start the New Year than that.
Scott Meacham CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state support from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology and is an integral part of Oklahoma’s Innovation Model. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org.