Organization to assist rural Native entrepreneurs

Organization to assist rural Native entrepreneurs
(MCN Public Relations) GrowOK partners join Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin April 3 for the kickoff of the i2E project. Pictured from left to right: Cherokee Nation Executive Vice President of Business Development Chuck Garrett, Choctaw Nation Executive Director of Business Development Tammye Gwin, U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration Cornell Wesley, Muscogee (Creek) Nation Second Chief Louis Hicks, Fallin, MCN Principal Chief James Floyd, i2E President and CEO Scott Meacham, OCAST Programs Director Dan Luton, Oklahoma Business Roundtable John Reid and Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma President and CEO Scott DeWald.

“I believe the major sort of engines for economic development in rural Oklahoma today are basically the tribes.” — i2E President and CEO Scott Meacham

Honey Caranzo/Reporter

Economic development program to start in May

OKMULGEE, Okla. — i2E, an Oklahoma not-for-profit organization seeks to assist Native American entrepreneurs in rural areas.

For over 17 years, i2E’s focus has been to increase jobs in Oklahoma.

i2E President and CEO Scott Meacham said they invest about $50 million in start-ups and growing companies in Oklahoma.

A rural Oklahoma native, Meacham has high interest in job creation in rural areas of the state.

“So we’ve always been looking for ways on how we could do more in rural Oklahoma,” he said.

Meacham said they unfortunately do not have a marketing budget for their programs.

“So people kind of have to find us versus us finding them,” he said.

Meacham said when he came to i2e, he developed the Venture Assessment Program.

He said it was a program that would help people test their ideas for new companies.

“So we had that program that was several years in existence that was really doing from my estimation, a pretty good job of what it was intended to do,” Meacham said.

Around the same time, Meacham was thinking about rural economic development and identifying the key drivers of economic development in rural Oklahoma.

Meacham said a few years ago, he spoke to the economic group of the Inter-Tribal Council of the Five Civilized Tribes.

“I believe the major sort of engines for economic development in rural Oklahoma today are basically the tribes,” he said.

Meacham said the tribes are influential players in those areas and they also have a broader geographic focus.

He said REI Oklahoma, which serves rural areas is another influential player.

According to an i2E press release, GrowOK is a program designed to assist rural communities and Native entrepreneurs.

Meacham said it is a three-year program, and was awarded a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

He said the funds will be used to pay for the salaries of people to run the program and for marketing the program.

Meacham said for GrowOK to be successful they needed partners that had a presence in rural Oklahoma.

“That’s where we came up with the idea of this sort of tribal partnership as well as a business partnership with REI to launch this program,” he said. “Hopefully what comes out of the other end of it is good ideas that have been vetted, that we can put our resources, tribal resources, REI’s resources . . . to help them become successful.”

The program will partner with Cherokee Nation, Choctaw Nation, Chickasaw Nation, Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Oklahoma Business Roundtable, Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST) and the Enterprises of Oklahoma.

Meacham said the goal of GrowOK is to help create and grow good jobs in rural Oklahoma.

He said the program is targeting the jurisdictional areas of MCN, Cherokee, Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations.

Being from western Oklahoma, Meacham would like to see rural development in that area as well.

He said the program’s curriculum is three weeks long.

Meacham said participants will meet once a week in class with a facilitator who will give out assignments.

He said topics within the curriculum include product market fit, competition, risks, targeted customer segments, how to reach potential customers, customer feedback, metrics for success and introduction to start-up capital.

According to an i2E press release, the first GrowOK class will launch in Ada, Okla. in May.

For more information about GrowOK and i2E, visit their website at: www.i2e.org.

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