By: Eddie Stephens | Category: In Our Communities | Issue: February 2007
Event Coordinators (L to R): Don Cochran, RCIDA Executive Director, and Administrative Assistant, Debi Ward.
What do the following have in common: a parking meter, a grocery cart, and a Yield traffic sign?
This is a strange combination of items, certainly. The answer is that each was invented in our state as the result of Oklahoma entrepreneurship.
For the past six years the Rogers County Industrial Development Authority (RCIDA) has showcased and honored Oklahoma entrepreneurs. Many people own and operate small businesses right here in our state.
“The Rogers County Entrepreneur Day began as an entrepreneurship and small business forum,” says Don Cochran, one of the event’s lead organizers. Cochran, RCIDA Executive Director and Administrative Assistant, Debi Ward, join with Northeast Technology Center (NTC) in sponsoring the annual event.
This year’s event is open to the public and will be on March 1 at the Claremore Expo Center from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Marking its seventh run, the event has grown each year.
Serving a broad scope of small businesses and industries, three specific categories are featured: manufacturing, service and retail.
In addition to being a showcase, the RCIDA also give three $1,000 awards to a selected business from each category. Businesses in the three categories, with 75 employees or less, qualify.
The 2007 event is significant due to this being Oklahoma’s Centennial year. Ward says, “Our Centennial year prompted the related theme we’re calling, ‘Celebrating 100 Years of Entrepreneurship’.”
A video presentation highlighting Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial history will loop throughout the day on a large screen on the main stage. Those in attendance will be reminded of our state’s rich and inventive heritage.
“With this special theme in mind, this year’s event is anticipated to be larger. The 2006 event was the first when we offered a trade show for vendors that featured 62 booths.
Booth space (10’ x 10’) is available for a fee to business owners. City and government organizations such as local chambers, colleges, universities, etc. are not charged for space. Interested vendors should contact my office by phone or email,” Ward adds. Cochran emphasizes the trade show atmosphere. “It is a great opportunity to roam through the various booths and network with others.”
Networking is an added benefit. The day’s events are launched with a breakfast at 8:15 a.m. for that specific purpose.
“This was a popular aspect last year. The Networking Breakfast provides opportunities to tell others about your business in a timed, round-table format,” according to Ward.
Following traditional welcoming ceremonies the day continues with a guest speaker, Ginger Reimer and then break-out sessions. With a focus on entrepreneurship, the event spotlights those who can address the gathering from personal experience.
Phil Miller is this year’s Keynote Speaker and will be at the Awards Luncheon. As CEO of Long Wave Inc., his business is recognized by Inc. Magazine as one of the 500 fastest growing private businesses in the United States. On the heels of his practical insight comes the awards presentation of the day.
The morning events, the keynote address and awards ceremony still allow additional free time for networking among the booths. Towards the event’s end, attendees are encouraged to use their booth browsing as a chance to qualify for a final $500 cash drawing.
Participants must obtain and complete a trivia questionnaire related to factual data associated with various booths. Completed forms are placed in the drawing where the first entry drawn entitles the winner to the cash prize.
The informative break-out sessions are at various times throughout the program. A range of topics are covered, each of particular interest to small business owners.
The Rogers County Young Entrepreneurs organization (similar to Junior Achievement) is also recognized at the event. This group, directed by Ginger Reimer, teaches and mentors budding entrepreneurs throughout area schools.
Entrepreneurship raises the level and quality of businesses. According to Cochran, RCIDA’s mission promotes this goal in and beyond Rogers County, just as RCIDA does with other vital agricultural, commercial and industrial opportunities.
Oklahoma is fertile ground for entrepreneurial seeds. Celebrate one of this state’s Centennial milestones by attending or participating in the 2007 Rogers County Entrepreneur Day on March 1.