This Wednesday, Jan. 25, an old Ford Model T manufacturing plant celebrates its first birthday as a renovated coworking space in downtown Tulsa. It’s called 36 Degrees North, and it opened following a 2014 report’s conclusion that Tulsa’s entrepreneurs were lacking a physical space for development and networking. The report also declared that the entrepreneurs were worth investing in, given that small businesses in Tulsa have an economic impact on the city of around $3 billion annually.
The Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation commissioned the report, titled “Assessing Tulsa’s Entrepreneurial Landscape.” It partnered with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, who owned the building downtown, to create the missing space. The goal was to allow previously siloed business people to build off of each other’s strengths. According to the report, entrepreneurship is a great way to allow economic development, and this is especially true if the entrepreneurs can share an overarching vision. Businesses create more opportunities for higher quality of life, and ultimately help form an attractive city.
Natalie Deushchle, Grant Manager at the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, first walked into the building a year ago and was pleasantly shocked to think that it was in Tulsa. Coworking offices are in big cities across the world, so to see one here was inspiring. She said 36 Degrees North is special because “Tulsa is on the edge of so much, and the energy inside is really upbeat.” Besides, while bigger cities have coworking members who mainly compete with each other, Tulsa’s members have proven themselves quite collaborative.
The point of coworking, explained Deushchle, is precisely those mutually beneficial partnerships that can result from “collisions.” Shanese Slaton, Operations Manager of 36 Degrees North, gave an example comparing The Frontier’s coverage of Tulsa’s mayoral election with their coverage of the presidential election. For the presidential election coverage, they had teamed up with Intent Productions from What’s Happening Tulsa after meeting at 36 Degrees North. The space offers its members a happy hour every Friday at 4 in the kitchen, as well as office hours during the week, during which members can come in and ask the staff questions. Mayor G.T. Bynum has also said he will be coworking there once a month.
“We’ve come a far way in a year,” noted Deushchle, citing the online event calendar and assembly room on the first floor as their biggest assets. Hosting events at the common space is important because it allows for specific networking opportunities that go beyond waiting for people to organically have “collisions.” The calendar keeps all of the information organized in one place, as opposed to the internet-infamous disarray of different organizations hosting different events and advertising them on disparate media profiles.
Deushchle added that, a few months ago, Tulsa was named the best city in the US for women entrepreneurs. According to the Thumbtack survey, this city ranks highly in pay and friendliness toward women-owned businesses. For more on women in business, see Hannah Kloppeburg’s article Tulsa ranked #1 for female-owned small businesses.