By Scott Meacham
The energy is powerful when Oklahoma’s successful and “wannabe” entrepreneurs gather for the Oklahoma Entrepreneurial Summit and the simultaneous Who Wants to Be an Entrepreneur? (WWTB) event for college level entrepreneurs.
This year’s program is Friday, November 15. The Summit begins at 8:30 a.m. and concludes with a networking luncheon, which participants applaud as an industry highpoint year after year. In the afternoon, college students and faculty advisors attend the WWTB session where they delve into details of developing a business plan, figuring out financials, and mastering a pitch — all delivered with advice that you won’t hear on Shark Tank.
The Summit and WWTB, which are offered free of charge, attract startup experts, community leaders, investors, and experienced and first-time entrepreneurs.
Although the companies that these entrepreneurs are starting up and growing run the gamut from main street to high-tech, they are connected in spirit and heart, an essence that is especially Oklahoman.
The spirit of entrepreneurship is embedded in our state’s DNA. From the early wildcatters to Sylvan Goldman’s grocery cart, to Wiley Post’s pressurized high-altitude suit, to Carl Magee’s parking meter, to the Love’s Travel Stops, and to the Farzaneh brothers’ Home Creations, all types of entrepreneurs start all types of successful companies here.
And while we can be very competitive with each other, Oklahomans also are committed to helping each other. Nowhere is this mindset more evident than in the way successful entrepreneurs in this state reach out to help other friends, neighbors, and, yes, even strangers, who want to start new businesses.
Spirit and heart is what the Summit and WWTB are all about. We will be hearing from four entrepreneurial founders at the Summit who are living proof that Oklahomans who started their own businesses tell the most compelling and inspiring tales.
Shoaib Shaikh, co-founder, will tell the company story of XploSafe, a provider of critical safety solutions for homeland security and chemical safety. Cory Littlepage, CEO, leads Tribal Diagnostics, a high complexity diagnostic lab owned and operated by Native Americans. While Tribal Diagnostic supports the laboratory needs of any healthcare provider, the firm focuses on Indian Country and rural communities.
Robin Roberson, president and co-founder of Goose & Gander and previous CEO of WeGoLook (one of Oklahoma’s businesses with an exit), is striking out in a new entrepreneurial direction. She will talk about building a boutique consultancy with a laser focus on enabling the rapid growth and adoption of emerging technologies.
Daniel Mercer, CEO and co-founder of COOP Ale Works, has a career that includes venture capital, accounting, flying in the US Air Force, brewing amazing beer, and, most recently, spearheading a $35 million renovation of the historic 23rd Street National Guard Armory into a world-class brewery, hotel, and resort destination.
The Summit and WWTB event is sponsored by AT&T, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Oklahoma EPSCOR, and i2E. Our organizations believe in entrepreneurs and their ideas. We have seen what they can accomplish. We are believers.
Come to the Summit and you will believe it, too.
Scott Meacham is president and CEO of i2E Inc., a nonprofit corporation that mentors many of the state’s technology-based startup companies. i2E receives state appropriations from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology. Contact Meacham at i2E_Comments@i2E.org