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April 3, 2013

RSU Innovation Center Benefits Local Entrepreneurs

The Innovation Center at Rogers State University has been encouraging regional entrepreneurship for more than a decade, which has resulted in direct benefits for local businesses.

The Innovation Center is charged with fostering economic development and addressing the educational needs of area business and industry. It provides business counseling services and training for area entrepreneurs and expanding businesses in northeastern Oklahoma. As an example of their services, one local business, Tiny Cakes and Truffles, has greatly benefitted from the services the Innovation Center provides.

In January, Tiny Cakes and Truffles owner Sherri Mullen was recognized by the Claremore Chamber of Commerce as its Entrepreneur of the Year for 2012. Mullen had attended one of the Innovation Center's ongoing business workshops in 2011 to get an idea of how to start her business. There she met with Jeri Koehler, Director of the Innovation Center.

"I learned about the Innovation Center from my credit union, Tulsa Teachers Credit Union," said Mullen. "I had an idea for a business but I needed someone to guide me through taking that idea and turning it into reality.

Koehler says she still remembers when she met Mullen.

"I knew it was something that Claremore needed when she pitched me the idea," said Koehler. "I knew that her positive energy and the passion she had for her business would make her successful."

Tiny Cakes and Truffles opened in Claremore in 2011 at 1229 west Will Rogers Boulevard. It now has added a second location in Owasso at 9100 south Garnett Road. Mullen says the help from the Innovation Center is a huge part of her growing success and being able to expand.

"They helped me put together a business plan and develop spread sheets to track finances within the business," said Mullen. "They also provided market studies of the area for me."

The RSU Innovation Center also offers many services to local businesses' including small business workshops designed to assist area small businesses and entrepreneurs in developing successful enterprises as well as business counseling, which is what Mullen received.

The Innovation Center at RSU features a business and technology incubator program geared toward growing early stage technology, light manufacturing and professional service-based companies. The Innovation Center provides start-up companies with business and technical assistance, networking support through on-site business staff and a wealth of resources to help smooth their path from concept to profitability.

"The Innovation Center services are very useful for regular people, the people who have an idea for a business, but don't have the background to operate the business side," said Mullen. "Two years later and they still contact me to see how we are doing."

In addition to its business support, the Innovation Center has been working to improve the local conditions for entrepreneurs.

With the leading efforts of RSU's Innovation Center, the city of Claremore recently became the first in the state to be recognized as an Entrepreneur Ready Community.

"Becoming an Entrepreneur Ready Community means the overall business climate is supportive and business resources are available and easy to find," said Koehler. "Claremore has many assets to leverage for growth and continued prosperity. It is important that all stakeholders in the community take a proactive business approach in ensuring policies, procedures and the general environment are conducive to business and sustainable growth."

For more information about the services offered at The Innovation Center at Rogers State University call 918-343-7533 or visit www.rsu.edu/innovation.

-Written by RSU PR Intern Lindsay Bolt