Jof Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships to start the Trojan War in ancient Greece; Dick Roland of Greenwood was the unproven arrest that launched one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history in Tulsa, Oklahoma. As many as 300 black city residents died in 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, and nearly 10,000 were left homeless while white mobs were reduced to rubble a thriving business center and wealth of black property.
The two days of death and destruction left a quiet silence that remained for decades, and recently gained widespread national attention on its centenary. But an unfair detention based on an unsubstantiated report of an assault launched the first
government-directed airstrike on American citizens, destroying more than 35 square blocks
Greenwood Avenue, a thriving community of black entrepreneurs and businesses, is transforming
the rune and ashes. This decimation, combined with a later century of denied racist laws
the opportunity for thousands of black Tulsans to build generational wealth, a family legacy
But, as the citizens of Greenwood did in 1921, today the Tulsans have rebuilt a powerful one
channeling community support to strengthen opportunities and reduce barriers than others
communities can be duplicated.
When the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation laid the groundwork for building Tulsa’s entrepreneurial ecosystem during the Great Recession in 2009, we envisioned a world where entrepreneurship was accessible to all. Black Tulsans are more than twice as likely as their white counterparts to be unemployed and continually face significant disparities in education, food security, wages, unemployment, imprisonment, and police brutality.
Quickly, a reality emerged in which “entrepreneur” meant a high-growth technology business and the
only people who had the capacity for education, networking and fundraising to raise capital
technology-intensive companies were not largely available to BIPOC women and citizens. In 2013, the
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation conducted an analysis of the gap to provide information on equity
creating entrepreneurial ecosystems, learning through reporting that the best first step was to do so
lower barriers that inhibit equity. We have worked with our community to create a pipeline to
ANY TULSAN’S BUSINESS SUCCESS WITH HURRY AND PASSION TO ACHIEVE ITS GOAL.
One of these barriers was reduced with the opening of the time-limited market or LTO | MKT a
Mother Road Market stores specifically meet the need for innovative and intentional space
to test retail concepts before signing a lease or investing in accrual costs. When booking one
we create a state-of-the-art space inside a white box inside a commercial showcase plaza on our campus
opportunities for underrepresented local entrepreneurs who have had systemic disadvantages
to traditional means of business growth to have barriers to entry into a brick and mortar presence
drastically reduced. When we explain the details that often hinder the concept of retail, such as sales concessions, tax remittance, marketing services, promotion, and point-of-sale technology, we create opportunities for BIPOC-based entrepreneurs in Tulsa bring theirs
concept of retail directly to consumers, thus increasing sales, brand awareness and brand
loyalty along the way you may not have access to networks that will help you maintain in the long run
As a society, we must protect the ability to dream for those who have historically faced systemic oppression and designed disadvantages and continue to intentionally support and elevate their right to innovate, dream, and create.
Also, when we learned that poverty rates are the highest among black Oklahomans, we
I knew that the best way to support the growth of COPD companies was to increase the salary of
all workers. In LTFF’s nonprofit food room, Mother Road Market, non-tip employees every hour
obtain a living wage, earning 79% -134% above Oklahoma’s minimum wage, providing the
opportunity to build a life for them and their families that will last their work to the mother
Road market. Plus, for members of our kickstart kitchen incubator Kitchen 66, as well as for mom
Road Market food and retail traders, we reduce the initial capital needs by providing
emerging testing space, business assistance, mentoring, and connection to community resources.
Offering ample space for short-term testing allows employers to learn about
location, pricing, inventory, and staff before they commit to a long-term lease
and invest in equipment.
We have seen that this model directly benefits the BIPOC entrepreneurs in our community. Take Tamiqua
Whittaker, founder of the luxury line of Queen Kisses lip care, and Shawntel Lindsay, founder of
Sheigh Lounges clothing company. When we introduced Queen Kisses and Sheigh Lounges
on our February Black Business Ownership and Women’s March commissions, both
product lines almost run out, which also causes an increase in the number of social media followers, customer
engagement and invitations to participate in local showcase events.
In addition, it pairs startups and established companies alike, specifically within the BIPOC
community, allows start-up companies to seek advice when they encounter a new hurdle.
Connect entrepreneurs with associated programs like Stitch Crew, a shooting accelerator
collaboration with OKC’s Thunder basketball team that prioritizes women and BIPOC
Employers help to help employers gather the necessary documents to submit
your business to investors to get financing. Similarly, connect entrepreneurs with programs like
Tulsa Economic Development Corporation Creative Capital (TEDC) helps drive small
Business success in Oklahoma through non-traditional loan programs that help
entrepreneurs start or expand a business.
Through these programs LTFF has created so that other companies can model and create them
across the country, we have found ways to reduce barriers to COPD
entrepreneurs ultimately create equity and opportunity to build wealth and generational legacy
despite a tragic story. Either by paying a living wage or by providing financing through Tulsa
In the StartUp Series pitch competitions, we want to create spaces that affirm the need for BIPOC
entrepreneurs as they are.
Creating a space and a culture of representation is very important as barriers decrease
BIPOC entrepreneurs create opportunities for individuals from all backgrounds to see reflections of themselves and ultimately continue the line of diverse talent connecting with opportunities.
To achieve equally great dreams within the reach of our entire community, as a society we must do so
protect the ability to dream for those who have historically faced systemic oppression and
have designed disadvantages and continue to intentionally support and elevate their right to innovate,
dream and create.
Elizabeth Frame Ellison is the president and CEO of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation and
specializes in creating equity through entrepreneurship, especially in the food and retail sectors. During his 12-year tenure, Ellison founded Mother Road Market (a non-profit food room to eat well x do well), Kitchen 66 (a kickstart kitchen incubator), Shops @ Mother Road Market (a small retail testing space) and Tulsa Market Route 66 District.
Shakori Fletcher is director of time-limited market collaborations at Mother Road Market stores. Shakori consults on projects that advance the community and works to elevate and connect
and advocating for artists, entrepreneurs, and creators of change for the ultimate goal of provoking intentional collaboration for community development and social change
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