Sachleben: Investing in young entrepreneurs makes good business sense

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Fawn Sachleben

Growing up in a working-class neighborhood in Little Rock helped me to understand the value of a dollar from a young age.

As a Girl Scout, I dipped my toe into entrepreneurship, mimicking the hard work ethic I witnessed in my family and community. Eventually, I became the first Girl Scout in town to sell one thousand boxes of Girl Scout cookies.

Those early entrepreneurship experiences instilled in me confidence and an appreciation for numbers. They made me who I am now, a community banker, and led me to a career supporting entrepreneurs and small business owners through our daily work and community partnerships at Stride Bank.

This year I have the unique opportunity to meet and invest in budding entrepreneurs at Francis Tuttle Technology Center’s Future Founders Pitch Night, scheduled to take place from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, May 9th at their Danforth Campus. At the dynamic event, student entrepreneurs will present their business concepts before a panel of industry experts.

As a sponsor of the event, Stride Bank will award $10,000 in seed funding to one or more of the presenting small businesses. I am eager to hear from these young visionaries alongside the event’s keynote speakers, Rachel Cope of 84 Hospitality Group and Bailey Wilson of Bondi Bowls, both of whom have created businesses making an impact on Oklahoma.

The founders include more than 20 high school students taking Francis Tuttle’s college-level entrepreneurial courses. At Pitch Night, the top 6 businesses will compete for the prize money, pitching ideas ranging from a product geared at protecting pregnant aircrew from radiation to an AI healthcare technology to minimize the language barrier for Spanish speakers. The winner will have a chance to compete for additional funding dollars at the National INCubatoredu Student Pitch competition in Chicago, IL.

A panel of local business leaders will act as judges, providing feedback to students. The list includes financial leaders, entrepreneurs and those with a passion for supporting innovation, like developer Mark Beffort, a visionary behind the Convergence ecosystem in Oklahoma City’s Innovation District. Stride Bank is proud to have assembled the complex financing for that project, which will become a hub of economic activity, innovation and growth in our state.

Investing in Oklahoma’s small businesses makes good business sense, and we can begin by showing up for them when it matters most. Small businesses are the heart of our community. According to the Small Business Administration, small businesses across the nation contribute 44% of U.S. economic activity annually and employ nearly half of the country’s labor market.

I am grateful for those who invested their time and money to create opportunities for me as a young scout. It’s important that I do the same now that I’m in a position to give back. I encourage investors and community members to join me May 9th. Learn more about Pitch Night here.

Fawn Sachleben is the Oklahoma City Market President at Stride Bank.

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