The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 16, 2013

Building businesses 'that don't go away ...'

James Strate Center is a good place for fledgling firms to get their start

By Phyllis Zorn, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Linda Beguin found the perfect place to grow her small business, Over the Fence Farms, when she discovered James Strate Center for Business Development at Autry Technology Center.

Beguin and her husband, Jerry; son, Adam; and mother, Betty Radcliff, all pitch in with the business.

Products are prepared in a certified kitchen inside the James Strate Center. Beguin has special words about her mother’s assistance.

“She’s a huge help to me,” Beguin said. “I don’t know what I’d do without her.”

They market Farmhouse, Spicy Farmhouse, Tomato Basil, Red Pepper and Vegetable and Stuffed Baked Potato spice mixes; Basic Beer Batter Bread Mix, Cinnamon and Raisin Beer Batter Bread Mix, and Garlic and Herb Beer Batter Bread Mix; Dad’s Miracle Cobbler Mix; Sweet and Spicy Chunks pickles; Cowgirl Kisses, also known as pickled jalapeno; and Jezebel Sauce.

Over the Fence Farms products are sold at six retail stores in the region, at home shows and the like when the Beguin family sets up a table and through mail order from overthefencefarms.com users.

Brian Gaddy, director of James Strate Center for Business Development, said the center is beginning its fifth year. Over the Fence Farms has been housed in the Center for one year — the first six months part-time and the second six months full-time.

In addition to Over the Fence Farms, the center is the home of Adventures with Travis & Presley; Aspire Oklahoma; Fuel Conversion Solutions; Privation Printing; and Tres Sucre Chocolatiere.

Other businesses have called the center home, as well, including Fence CLM/Encompass, Solutions, Grace Care, Aerosock, Klida and Pro presenters.

The center holds classes for would-be business owners, Oklahoma State University Boot Camp for Entrepreneurs and Business Development Academy. After taking classes that help them learn the basics of starting and operating a business, owners can enter the Cherokee Strip Business Model Competition.

Businesses that are ready to start up can apply for a space in the James Strate Center.

“We have a selection committee that helps pick who gets to come in here,” Gaddy said.

Businesses pay discount rent at first, then the rent is increased.

“By the fourth year, they are paying the same rent they would be paying in the community,” Gaddy said.

The selection committee looks at the entrepreneur’s business plan. If it’s not solid and well thought-out, the committee will select someone else, Gaddy said.

“Mostly they learn how to write a plan by taking classes offered here,” Gaddy said.

When the committee gives the nod to a potential business, the business representatives are authorized to make an offer.

Gaddy said ample space is available in the James Strait Center.

In addition, the Grow Enid program provides sponsorships to fledgling businesses. The program is designed to foster small businesses that won’t pack up and leave — or fold up.

Businesses selected in the Cherokee Strip Business Model Competition are awarded cash and in-kind service awards, funded by donors interested in helping build great entrepreneurial leaders and venture.

“From an economic development standpoint, what we’re doing is a long-term solution,” Gaddy said. “It’s a way to build businesses that don’t go away.”