TCC Launch Program Benefits Entrepreneurs
By K.J. WEBB
NEW BUSINESS: Tulsa Community College’s entrepreneur program, Launch, recently completed its third flight. From left is Launch Flight III Captain Kristen Bergman, Susan Lockart-Real, Daniel Cameron, Lara Williams, Anita Boykins, Lauren Orcutt, Pat Grimes, Justin Orcutt, Carol Musick and President/CEO Tulsa Community College Dr. Tom McKeon.
Photo by SEAN GRIFFIN
Tulsa’s entrepreneurs have a fantastic, powerful resource available to help them launch their start-ups. Appropriately named “Launch” and powered by Tulsa Community College (), the program was inspired by nationally renowned entrepreneur, motivational speaker and author Sean Griffin. Launch’s 16-week mission is to accelerate the start-up process for entrepreneurs by guiding them through the steps required to build a company.
According to Kristen Bergman, president of Atmos Strategic Communciations, and also Launch board member and flight captain, the biggest challenge for entrepreneurs is that most are idea people. “Entrepreneurs are creative, driven people, and full of ideas.” She adds, “The Launch program helps them to focus and develop core skills that are necessary to succeed in business.”
Each year, three 16-week sessions, known as “Flights,” are launched and led by a Flight Captain. Weekly sessions are held at various locations around Tulsa such as the Center for Creativity, Spirit Bank, and Gable Gotwals law offices. These are led by thought leaders with proven track records and many years of success.
During the sessions, thought leaders facilitate business building to support the development of a start-up. By the end of the 16 week Flight, participants will have successfully developed a business prototype that is ready to go to market, or has already started operating as a business.
Significantly, according to Bergman, 60 percent of the Launch start-ups are started by women. “This is tremendous,” says Bergman, “nationally this statistic is about 17 percent.”
Bergman says that what prevents many people from becoming entrepreneurs is that they do not self-identify as entrepreneurs. “A lot of people have great ideas. But for one reason or another, they have never thought of themselves as entrepreneurial when all they need is focus and guidance.”
Launch provides this type of mentoring and helps participants develop their entrepreneurial potential. Just as crucial as focus and skills however, are the legal guidelines related to forming and operating a business, and developing and maintaining a network of other entrepreneurs, business leaders, funding sources and start-up specialists. Launch provides these services as well.
According to Daniel Cameron, who graduated from Flight on June 28, “The Launch program was fundamental in developing my knowledge and capabilities, and instrumental in helping to make my idea tangible and executable.” Cameron’s idea, a natural foods grocery store located in downtown Tulsa, has become a reality. He is currently in contract negotiations for a building and plans to open Cam’s Grocery by late fall. “Launch has helped me turn my passion for high quality healthy food, and my desire to work for myself into something real.”
A key value of the program, adds Cameron, is that “out-of-the-box” thinkers are welcomed and encouraged. “The Launch leaders are expert, passionate, creative and enthusiastic about ideas. They’re also absolutely dedicated to the program and the participants.” Cameron says the program is demanding, but also dynamic and energizing. “It’s a challenge, but if you’re dedicated and willing to work very hard you’ll succeed.”
Bergman emphasizes two qualities that are essential to succeed in the Launch program: commitment and the ability to be coached. “You will not succeed if you are not 100 percent committed to the program and willing to be coached without being defensive.” Constructive criticism is essential to help focus and guide participants along the journey and those who don’t have the intestinal fortitude to deal with it won’t make it, she says.
Launch participants must also be prepared to accept that their idea may be great, but their business plan isn’t. “The business model is key,” says Bergman. “Lots of people develop business plans on their own, not realizing it’s the wrong model. The best idea in the world will not fly if you’re using the wrong business model.”
Bergman also points out that success is not dependent on being stubbornly committed to a specific business idea. “Ideas change, sometimes necessarily because they’re just not workable.” She says, “We have participants who enter Launch with one idea, then throw it away and come up with something different. That’s part of being an entrepreneur. Don’t give up.”
When asked to describe an entrepreneur, Bergman offers the following: “Entrepreneurs are optimists, They’re very creative, passionate, ‘scappy’ people who never give up.” She adds, “Tulsa was born from a tremendous spirit of entrepreneurialism. At Launch we’re passionate about reviving the strong entrepreneurial spirit that built this great city, and that makes Tulsa such a great place to live and work.”
The next 16 week program, Launch IV, begins on Sept. 12. The application deadline is Aug. 12. To apply visit www.launchyourejourney.com.
Launch Flight : A natural foods grocery store, a personal delivery service, and sweet potato pies are just a few of the nine startups that recently completed the third flight of Launch, Tulsa Community College’s entrepreneur program. The new businesses were introduced to the Tulsa community as they pitched their companies during a reception June 28 at TCC’s Center for Creativity.
More than 30 startup specialists and local business leaders mentored and coached the startups throughout the 16-week program designed to guide the participants through the critical steps required to take an idea to the marketplace.
TCC’s Launch program, flight entrepreneurs and startups are:
• Anita Boykins, Eating for a Cause, customized fundraising service
• Daniel Cameron, Cam’s Grocery, a natural foods grocery store set to open in downtown Tulsa
• Pat Grimes, Patty’s Pies, homemade sweet potato pies
• Susan Lockart-Real, Real Impressions, event and wedding planning
• Debra McCullough, The Back Lot, café in downtown Tulsa
• Carol Musick, GARDEN-UP, raised tub gardens
• Lauren and Justin Orcutt, You Buy We Fly, personal and commercial delivery service
• Charles Thomas, Rear Minder, an automated motorcycle safety device
• Lara Williams, 411mommy.com, a family management web site and blog with tips, tricks, and products for moms.