Oklahoma not-for-profit, seven state partners provide 3-week business assessment class to help small businesses validate concepts, expand market, capture new revenues
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OKLAHOMA CITY – i2E, Inc., and seven state partners are taking a popular venture assessment program to rural Oklahoma and Native American entrepreneurs with the assistance of a $200,000 matching federal grant.
State partners include the Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Oklahoma Business Roundtable and the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST). Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, Inc., is also a supporting partner. The EDA awarded the grant in November 2016.
Known as GrowOK, the program will debut this spring with a curriculum designed especially for rural communities and Native American entrepreneurs.
Gov. Mary Fallin hailed the initiative as an innovative step in diversifying the state’s economy in rural areas as well as its urban centers.
“I’m so pleased that i2E is taking this creative program to Oklahoma’s rural and Native American population,” Fallin said. “It will offer rural entrepreneurs access to services that will help them find new markets, new customers for products developed in their communities.”
The GrowOK curriculum will challenge rural and Native American entrepreneurs to identify their customers and determine whether their concept solves a true market need, said Scott Meacham, i2E’s President and CEO.
i2E provides business advisory services and investment capital to high-growth startups across Oklahoma.
“Thanks to the federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) and our great partners here in Oklahoma, this program will allow i2E to take our services to the state’s Native American and rural entrepreneurs in areas where they live and work,” Meacham said. “Our mission with GrowOK will be to help grow successful ventures in rural communities across the state.”
i2E has provided its Venture Assessment Program as an intensive three-week course at its Tulsa and Oklahoma City offices since 2015, helping scores of entrepreneurs validate their business concepts and reach out to potential first customers.
The first GrowOK class is expected to launch in Ada in May.
For i2E’s tribal partners, the GrowOK program provides another tool for their small business development organization to bring in outside expertise and as a business growth opportunity for their members.
i2E was one of 35 not-for-profits, institutions of higher education and entrepreneur-focused organizations from 19 states across the nation that were awarded a total of $15 million to create and expand initiatives to support entrepreneurship.
The $199,749 i2E was awarded from among a pool of more than 215 applicants nationwide as part of the EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program (RIS).
About i2E, Inc.: With offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, OK, i2E’s nationally recognized services include business expertise and funding for Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses. i2E has more than $40 million of investment capital under management. www.i2E.org