Monday, April 3, 2017
OKLAHOMA CITY – Governor Mary Fallin today announced that i2E, Inc., a nonprofit that assists Oklahoma’s emerging small businesses, and seven state partners with the assistance of a $200,000 matching federal grant are taking a popular venture assessment program to rural Oklahoma and Native American entrepreneurs.
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 U.S. Economic Development Association (EDA) awarded the grant in November.
Known as GrowOK, the program will debut this spring with a curriculum designed especially for rural communities and Native American entrepreneurs.
The governor said the initiative is 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,” said Fallin. “It will offer rural entrepreneurs access to services that will help them find new markets and 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 chief executive officer.
i2E provides business advisory services and investment capital to high-growth startups across Oklahoma.
“Thanks to the federal Economic Development Administration 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 next month in Ada.
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 nonprofits, 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 grant awarded to i2E was 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. For more information, go to www.i2E.org