May 21, 2024

Community Partner Profile: How Build In Tulsa is Closing the Wealth Gap for Black Entrepreneurs

Before she became the Managing Director of Build in Tulsa, lifelong Tulsan Ashli Sims (pictured above, at center) worked as a news reporter, an advocate for vulnerable children, a fundraiser and a nonprofit leader. Now Ashli is championing the legacy of Black Wall Street by empowering our city’s Black entrepreneurs, one startup at a time. We recently caught up with her to discuss all the opportunities Build in Tulsa encounters in their day-to-day work supporting aspiring business owners.

Build in Tulsa’s mission is to close the wealth gap by catalyzing the creation of multi-generational wealth through tech and entrepreneurship. What are some of the ways you go about doing that?  

Build in Tulsa has more than 15 programs designed to meet the needs of underrepresented founders wherever they are in their entrepreneurial journey. From pitch competitions to one-one-one business coaching to our business accelerators, all of our programs are built on a three-pronged approach: cultivate human capital, social capital and financial capital to give our founders the best shot at success. In three years, Build in Tulsa has grown to a community of 450 entrepreneurs. We’ve provided 9,500 hours of training and coaching and invested more than $9 million.

Tulsa’s tech sector is bustling right now. What is Build in Tulsa doing to contribute to that activity? 

Build in Tulsa is proud to be a part of all that we are doing as a city to become a model for inclusive innovation. We believe by shining a light on tech startups and innovation led by underrepresented founders, we are opening the door to more innovation. Our partners at ACT Tulsa, Lightship, and Techstars are training the next generation of tech startup leaders. We are amplifying those startup founders by connecting them to potential mentors and customers. And we are fueling innovation by injecting more capital into the system. We have folks who have started a tech business because of the resources, connections, and cash that Build in Tulsa has provided. These are businesses that either wouldn’t have gotten off the ground or would have been developed elsewhere without Build in Tulsa and our network of partners. 

We still have a lot of work to do to make sure we are providing opportunity and resources for all of those who want to participate in the innovation economy, but I’m very proud that we’ve accelerated more than 120 companies, most of them tech startups, in less than three years.

What is your favorite current small business success story? 

They are all my favorite! I couldn’t pick just one. We’ve seen such growth in our entrepreneurial community. From those embracing technology to grow their business to those who have taken ideas developed at hackathons and gone on to win pitch competitions to founders in our network who have raised more than $1 million in venture capital, there’s really too many to count.

How can aspiring entrepreneurs and/or business owners access services through Build in Tulsa?

You can go to and sign up for our newsletter. It is a clearinghouse of information about all of our events and upcoming programs. Follow us on social at @buildintulsa. You can attend a networking event, which we have every other month. Come out to a First Friday event at our building in Downtown Tulsa and meet our community. If you are looking to start a business or reinvigorate one, business coaching is a great first step.

Can you share a recent anecdote about a success story in your coaching program? 

I’d like to share this testimonial from Crea Moore, Founder of CompleteEHR. Crea graduated from eight weeks of business coaching with Dr. Nikki Harris. She also completed the Latimer House accelerator, a Build in Tulsa partner, and won $20,000 to fund her startup through the Female Founders Pitch Competition. She credits her time with Dr. Nikki with helping her achieve a lot in a short amount of time.


I have truly learned so much and it’s just the beginning. The knowledge and insights gained from our sessions from day one have been deeply valuable, contributing significantly to my growth as an entrepreneur and as an individual. Dr. Nikki’s expertise in business coaching has opened new possibilities for me, enabling me to understand and apply fundamental principles essential for the flourishing of my startup.

Dr. Nikki’s mentorship was instrumental in guiding me through the application process for an accelerator program and a female founders pitch competition. I am extremely proud to have been selected for both, thanks to her support and advice.

Throughout each program Dr. Nikki continued to offer her expertise, and her feedback was always constructive, covering all facets of my business, thereby ensuring my presentations or whatever I was working on were well-received.

Signing up for business coaching has been one of the most rewarding decisions of my career. Her ability to distill unknown or complex concepts into actionable insights, from crafting a succinct one-page fact sheet to explaining financial building, speaks volumes of her proficiency and dedication to my success.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have been mentored by Dr. Nikki and her guidance has not only elevated my business but has also instilled a profound sense of confidence and direction in my entrepreneurial journey.

I look forward to the continued growth and successes that lie ahead for Complete EHR, inspired by the invaluable lessons learned through this coaching journey.