17 Dec LTFF Blog: Cheers to 2018!
By Meredith Peebles, Chief Operating Officer
It’s happened again – we’ve blinked and another year has FLOWN by. Apparently time flies not only when you’re having fun, but also when you’re getting stuff – lots of stuff – done. From the grand opening of the Gathering Place to the unanimous approval of a new flag for Tulsa, both citizens and community partners were activated in achieving the common goal of making Tulsa the best place it can be to work, live and play.
Our team at LTFF was busy doing its part, specifically focusing on empowering Tulsans to achieve their goals by decreasing the barriers associated with big ideas. In November, we celebrated the one year anniversary of Kiva Tulsa. In twelve months, over $320,000 was lent to more than fifty Tulsa businesses. Of those businesses fully funded in the first year, 58% were women owned, 45% were minority owned and 38% didn’t qualify for traditional funding.
In June, Kitchen 66 moved to its new home at the Mother Road Market. With more stations and state-of-the-art equipment, the capacity of the program to serve Tulsa’s food entrepreneurs only continues to grow. Last week, we celebrated the graduation of the sixth cohort of the incubator program and applications are now open for the seventh (visit www.kitchen66tulsa.com!).The beta Kitchen 66 impact report, also released in June, reflected on the community being built in the kitchen: 50% of business owners are women, 47% of owners are people of color, 23% are immigrants and 16% are at or below the poverty line. The entrepreneurs taking part in the Kitchen 66 program share a special commitment to learning, sharing and community. We continue to be honored to be a part of their journey.
In partnership with the Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at OSU, Cox Business and Cox Media, LTFF continued to support Tulsa entrepreneurs through the Tulsa StartUp Series pitch competition in 2018. More than 75 businesses applied to the competition this year, bringing the total applications in the last three years to over 300. The Tulsa StartUp Series impact report released this year noted that more than 60% of the businesses that have pitched live over the last three years have been women owned, almost 30% minority owned and 12% operated by individuals under the age of 18. Two of the bi-monthly category winners and Demo Day participants this year were businesses run by high school students. Both businesses were started in response to their experiences with the Oklahoma teacher walkout earlier in the year.
On November 2nd, Mother Road Market, LTFF’s newest program and biggest community investment to date, opened its doors at 11th and Lewis. Inside you’ll find more than 27,000 sq. ft. of innovation in over 20 different local food and retail vendors. The Farm Stand by the Tulsa Farmers’ Market, the Takeover Cafe operated by Kitchen 66, and startup restaurants including Radish and Bakeshop, as well as new concepts from established local restaurateurs like Chicken & the Wolf and Metropolis, are just a few of the more than twenty offerings you’ll find at the Market. Depending on the day, you may find a range of events from bilingual story time, to a cooking on a budget class led by OSU Culinary, or a candle making class with local startup Elevated Candles happening in the Demonstration Kitchen. Nourishing community is truly at the heart of all that Mother Road Market does.
When I joined the LTFF team three years ago, I was the second employee. I would not have come close to believing you if you had told me then that this would be the highlight reel of what our team would accomplish in one year. We now have close to 50 employees, 40 of whom are new to our team this year. Absolutely none of this would have been possible without their hard work, dedication to the mission and vision of the organization and commitment to their community. To our team and all the outstanding people and organizations we are fortunate to partner with in doing this work, thank you for an incredible 2018. Cheers to 2019 and all that it brings!