Community Partner Profile: How TEDC Empowers Entrepreneurs
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Recently honored as the 2023 Anna C. Roth Legacy Honoree at the Pinnacle Awards, Rose Washington-Jones is known as a catalytic leader in the Tulsa community. As Chief Executive Officer of Tulsa Economic Development Corporation (TEDC), she oversees the development and implementation of services and resources for more than 500 Tulsa entrepreneurs and small businesses each year.
Over the years she’s earned countless accolades for her work, including the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Oklahoma Minority Small Business Champion of the Year and The Journal Record’s Most Admired CEO awards, all while building a strong connection with the diverse and innovative community she serves. That is why she may not be able to choose a favorite small business success story, but she’s always happy to tell us more about the projects she’s excited about.
Q: Over the course of the past 3 years, TEDC has deployed millions of dollars in loans to Tulsa area small businesses. What have you learned about Tulsa small businesses through these efforts?
TEDC has participated in the lives of many business owners throughout Tulsa. Our clients are family! We experience economic booms and busts together. Funding companies and seeing firsthand some of the most brilliant minds at work in our city keep me amazed. Small companies, indeed, are the backbone of the economy. They give many young people their first employment opportunity and, in aggregate, are the most prominent job creators. Business owners and entrepreneurs risk everything to pursue their dreams. Being the first one in, the last one paid, and the last to go home each night is a demanding lifestyle. However, Tulsa small businesses are resilient, persistent, and dedicated. Those who work hard and smart find a way out of no way. They learn to squeeze blood from a turnip! They jump hurdles like Olympic track stars. And many are driven to make Tulsa the best little big city in the nation.
Q: What is your favorite current “small business success story?”
Identifying a “favorite current small business success story” is an unfair question. It feels like asking a mother to choose a favorite child! Thankfully, so many TEDC clients are enjoying success. I can’t choose anyone over the others as a favorite success story! However, I will share what excites me. Ten years ago, in partnership with the City of Tulsa and Tulsa Development Authority, TEDC built the Shoppes on Peoria at 1717 North Peoria Ave.
Along with constructing the shopping center, we created a program to help start-up companies prepare plans to lease space primarily with a franchise in mind. Several tenants have experienced great success and have been a gift to the community. However, for the first time in many years, the largest space at the Shoppes, a restaurant space, is being reimagined. I’m hoping that the young entrepreneur breaking barriers in the food business will create a fantastic place where all Tulsans can enjoy creative, cultural cuisine from various restauranteurs. I can’t share too much more, but I anticipate this will become my favorite “current” small business success story in the coming months!
Q: TEDC, the City of Tulsa, and PartnerTulsa have been working for the past year-plus to prepare for the construction of the Greenwood Entrepreneurship Incubator at Moton—most recently with the demolition of non-historic buildings on the site. Why is a physical space for entrepreneurs and small businesses in Greenwood and North Tulsa so important?
Moton was where life was born for many people in the north Tulsa community. And in partnership with PartnerTulsa, TEDC will support the birthing of a different kind of life—the life of new small businesses that will help the city elevate inclusive growth while honoring the spirit of those who created Tulsa’s Black Wall Street more than a century ago. GEIM (Greenwood Entrepreneurship Incubator at Moton) is another symbol of Greenwood rising! It is a physical reminder that our city is sincere about removing obstacles, providing plentiful resources, and leveling the playing field for Black Tulsans and others who desire to build successful enterprises. We will remove barriers historically created by zip code, personal financial strength, or other demographics.
Entrepreneurship is the new American dream. GEIM will allow Tulsa to honor the legacies of the Black Tulsans born on sacred ground, those who lost lives there, the businesses of the Historic Greenwood era, those that followed, and the generations to come. I hope the mere existence of such a beautiful building, where creative energy is activated each day, will serve as a beacon of hope for the community and a magnet of curiosity about how they, too, might explore the notion of business ownership.
Tulsa Economic Development Corporation, also known as TEDC and TEDC Creative Capital, is a catalyst for building equitable economic prosperity in under-resourced communities. We empower people, enable small businesses, and transform neighborhoods with collaborative initiatives that drive diverse and inclusive wealth-building. As a certified Community Development Financial Institution, TEDC is an expert economic development lender. Creative financial and knowledge capital are the dual engines that power all TEDC initiatives. Empowering people as entrepreneurs is our intention, and harnessing the power of small businesses as anchors of equitable community growth is our fuel. GEIM and TEDC are a perfect match!