“Dream Big Oklahoma” Asks Rogers, Mayes County Area Entrepreneurs to Reach for the Stars

From the start of the 1889 Land Run, Oklahoma was built on the dreams of entrepreneurs who began with an idea and then built it into greatness.

“Dream Big Oklahoma” — a new, statewide series of regional entrepreneurial contests — seeks to follow that tradition by encouraging entrepreneurs and small businesses to share their dreams for launching or growing a business. The winners will receive business grants to use towards their “dream” business projects.

Starting Jan. 6, 2014, entrepreneurs and current business owners in Rogers and Mayes counties are encouraged to submit their innovative business ideas to the Green Country competition of Dream Big Oklahoma for an opportunity to receive a business grant.

To participate in Dream Big Oklahoma, entrepreneurs simply upload their “dreams” during one of many regional contests administered by a local economic development organization. Contestants then encourage friends, family and customers to vote for them online.

A slate of popular regional contest winners compete in a live “pitch-off” event for a $5,000 business grant and a chance to win an additional $10,000 grant during a live statewide “pitch-off” event, slated for fall 2014. The competition will be open for proposals from Jan. 6-31. Online voting will be Feb. 3-14. The awards ceremony will be Friday, March 7.

The Green Country competition is being administered by the Innovation Center at Rogers State University, which also is helping organize the statewide Dream Big Oklahoma competition.

“Throughout the United States, economic development professionals are turning to entrepreneurship development as a means to diversify the economy, create jobs and build local wealth,” said Jeri Koehler, director of the Innovation Center at RSU. “This approach to economic development is especially important in rural areas, where finding and engaging entrepreneurs can be challenging.”

Regional hosts across the state include other higher education institutions such as Southwestern Oklahoma State University, Autry Technology Center and Cameron University, as well as economic development partners such as Cherokee Nation and Bartlesville Development Corporation.

Dream Big Oklahoma is based on a nationally recognized, award-winning contest in Iowa, known as “Dream Big Grow Here.” The most recent Iowa contest attracted 225 contestants taking part in one of 10 regional contests. The Iowa events resulted in more than 150,000 online votes and almost one million online views via the custom contest platform.

The Innovation Center at RSU is charged with fostering economic development in northeast Oklahoma by assisting entrepreneurs and expanding businesses to turn passion into progress through solution-based programs and one-on-one technical assistance. Through a strategic partnership with the University of Northeast Iowa, the Innovation Center is introducing the statewide contest in Oklahoma to connect entrepreneurs with economic development organizations and entrepreneur support organizations, where they can be served with access to capital, technical assistance and networks to prosper their business.

To learn more about the Green Country competition or about the statewide event, contact Jeri Koehler at 918-343-7533.