Meet the Team: Jonah Toay, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Specialist
As PartnerTulsa’s Small Business & Entrepreneurship Specialist, Jonah Toay, is dedicated to helping Tulsans get access to the resources they need to start, manage, and grow their businesses. We caught up with Jonah to learn more about his role, the new initiatives he’s spearheading for the area’s small business owners, and why he decided to bring his international business skills back home to Tulsa.
What is your role at PartnerTulsa? How do you support PartnerTulsa’s mission to drive economic growth for the city?
I am the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Specialist here at PartnerTulsa, which means that my work is dedicated to helping Tulsans get access to the resources they need to start, manage, and grow their businesses. I also support our business attraction efforts by working with foreign countries and international companies to bring jobs and foreign direct investment here to Tulsa. In our community, small businesses make up more than half of all jobs created, and I know the power that these businesses have in growing our economy. Entrepreneurs drive innovation, tax growth, and opportunity for all Tulsans, so I’m glad to help turn people’s business dreams into reality.
Why did you join the PartnerTulsa team? What do you enjoy most about your role?
I joined PartnerTulsa shortly after graduating college, and I knew that by coming back to Tulsa I could make a positive impact in my community. I knew that I wanted to work in economic development and coming from a family of entrepreneurs gave me a greater understanding of what small businesses need to thrive in today’s economy.
It’s an amazing feeling just knowing that I’ve helped someone get their business off the runway, find them funding, or connect them with a great mentor. By living in a city like Tulsa, I can see my impact every day.
What current PartnerTulsa project are you most excited about and why?
I get very excited about the about efforts to establish a physical hub for immigrant entrepreneurs in Tulsa. that I’m supporting. This includes helping to create an immigrant-focused entrepreneurial incubator in East Tulsa, which I know will be an important asset for the community. Whether it’s working to make sure our resources are accessible to non-English speakers, assisting business owners in applying for permits they may not have known they are needed, or being a point of contact for anyone looking to learn more about what PartnerTulsa does, I enjoy being a resource for people.
What is your favorite place to visit or thing to do in Tulsa? Why Tulsa?
An ideal weekend for me starts with a walk around the Gathering Place and coffee afterward at Shades of Brown, followed by a look at the new Philbrook exhibits and lunch at Stonehorse Café or any new restaurant I can find. I like Tulsa because there are so many world-class amenities without the accompanying traffic or costs. Even with Tulsa growing by the day, it retains its small-town feel and warmth.
What makes Tulsa such a great location for small businesses?
Tulsa is a city that thrives because of entrepreneurship. I think entrepreneurship is baked into the history of the city and I don’t think that it hurts that Tulsa has one of the highest numbers of entrepreneurship support services per capita in the United States. The low cost of living, combined with low levels of red tape, tons of available office space, and a rapidly diversifying economy, means that when entrepreneurs and small business owners set up shop here, they can focus on creating their best product possible.
We heard that you lived abroad and can speak multiple languages. Can you share more about your experience abroad and if/how it influences how you approach your work in Tulsa?
Before joining PartnerTulsa I originally had plans to work in the foreign service at the State Department. I lived in Jordan to help improve my Arabic and to learn more about Middle Eastern politics. I lived with a local family, worked at a Jordanian think tank, and took time to practice my language skills in conversation and research. Ultimately, while I still use those skills in helping international businesses get started in Tulsa, I knew that if I wanted to make a bigger and more significant impact, I should return to Tulsa, where I was raised. This experience also helped me understand the importance of language access for local governments, as we often take English proficiency for granted, even in an increasingly international world.