By Stephanie Gardner, OCC Durant
“When my circle got smaller, my vision got clearer.”
For aspiring entrepreneurs, there is no shortage of how-to books or small business seminars from which to learn the mainstream steps to success. A simple Google search will return nearly a million results. In Durant alone, we have at least six organizations that focus on guiding small business owners. That’s fantastic! …And overwhelming. Navigating the system of resources can be just as daunting as actually starting a business for beginners.
In a brainstorming session focused on how to fill downtown building vacancies, Sierra Kovash, realtor for Coldwell Banker VanMeter Select, suggested Durant Main Street rally our resources and host a workshop that connects all the dots for prospective entrepreneurs. Yes, another workshop, but not just any workshop, one that focused on making our people their people. We titled it Startup Business Saturday and planned the program with three goals in mind: to educate, to inspire, and above all, to connect.
Startup Business Saturday features local experts candidly discussing everything from business plans, branding, budgeting, financing, to leasing or purchasing a storefront. Our partners include realtors such as Coldwell Banker VanMeter Select, REI Oklahoma, Oklahoma Small Business Development Center, the Durant Area Chamber of Commerce, Choctaw Nation Small Business Development Center, and Imagine Durant. This circle of support aids aspiring business owners in formulating a clearer vision of their business plan.
Aspiring entrepreneurs are naturally creative. Many of them have multiple business ideas in the pike and simply need to envision which one will work in this time and place. One of the most exciting parts of Startup Business Saturday for most attendees is the real estate tour of available properties. We walk the streets of Downtown Durant together and visit every storefront that is available to lease or purchase. We dream about what it would look like with their business inside. They meet current small business owners along the tour and begin to feel like they belong in our downtown neighborhood.
Our partners connect with the audience and become long-term mentors that encourage attendees to make the leap from dreamer to doer. We are their people, their squad. Even in our techno-centric world, we believe if we can connect people we can create the future.
Since March 2017, we have held two Startup Business Saturdays. Of our twelve attendees, two have already embarked on opening new businesses in Downtown Durant. In the past sixteen months, we have welcomed ten new businesses to our district. We are proudly building a close-knit community of experts, creatives, beginners, and everything in between to cultivate the growth of small businesses. Now that’s the ultimate #squadgoals.