By: Aaron Miller, Program Manager, George Kaiser Family Foundation
It happened in a dingy old warehouse, on a crisp sunny day in March. There were problems: it is not so easy to heat up a 36,000 SF concrete box that has been chilling all winter; the bathroom trailer is not the most inviting place to do your business; wifi for the day can be spotty. But Tulsa Works 2014, the coworking day in the Brady Arts district, resulted in a convening of community unlike anything I have seen in Tulsa!
In true entrepreneurial fashion, The Mine, Tulsa’s Young Professionals, the University of Oklahoma Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth (CCEW) and The Forge joined together to test an idea. The problem: coworking was still somewhat of a mystery to Tulsans. The solution: showcase a large-scale coworking environment and gather community feedback on what they want to see in a coworking space for Tulsa.
The old Universal Ford warehouse transformed from an old car showroom and repair center to a vibrant center for exchange of ideas and creative collaboration. After a good scrub, an influx of trendy furniture, and some trippy murals from local Artist Aaron Whisner, Tulsa Works 2014 opened for business.
The organizers brought in some experts – the folks from the Impact Hub in Seattle, a coworking space at the intersection of technology and social good. Brian Howe and Karl Steyart from the Impact Hub facilitated group discussions about community needs from a coworking space. They innovatively gathered feedback on the ideal physical attributes, events and resources, and culture a “pie in the sky” coworking space should have. Speaker Josh Allan Dykstra schooled the audience in what company culture really means at a Forge Ahead lunch with over 125 attendees. The Tulsa Foundation for Architecture displayed an homage to historic downtown buildings that served as the building’s main art installation for the Brady Arts District First Friday Art Crawl that evening.
The diversity of conversations amongst those who sauntered into the coworking space was astounding. From university administrators to city officials to entrepreneurs to platinum recording artists Hanson, all visitors reveled in a sense of energy and possibility in the Ford Building.
While some tech entrepreneurs huddled around laptops on white leather couches, cranking out emails and pouring over financial documents, others hobnobbed around the space getting answers to questions that might have floated around cyberspace for months if not for a face-to-face interaction.
Tulsa thirsted for a weekday interaction like they found at Tulsa Works 2014. People of all backgrounds jumped at the chance to walk into one location and be around others with a similar passion for the city and for a stronger entrepreneurial community. The organizers soaked up valuable information about amenities, events, and resources that will support entrepreneurs in Tulsa. As plans move forward to expand coworking in Tulsa, the insights and excitement generated at Tulsa Works 2014 continue to be a true source of inspiration. Tulsa is hungry for more coworking, more fortuitous collisions, and more passionate people staying in this town to realize their dreams.