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April Power Pitch Lunch Topic | "Oklahoma Is A Coffee State"

April 01, 2024 10:56 AM | Anonymous

Oklahoma is a “Coffee State”
An interview with Jennifer McGrail

Written by Dennis Spielman

Jennifer McGrail immersed herself in the world of family-owned businesses from childhood, marking the beginning of her entrepreneurial journey. Despite initially shying away from the idea of entrepreneurship due to its demanding nature, McGrail’s passion for making a difference led her back to the realm of small businesses. Over the years, she navigated through various sectors, including corporate and nonprofit, before finding her niche in small business development. Through her roles at Francis Tuttle and the OKC Metro Collaborative, McGrail honed her expertise in fostering innovation and supporting entrepreneurs. Now, as the Executive Director at OCAST, she spearheads initiatives to empower innovators across all 77 counties of Oklahoma, recognizing the crucial role of capital access in their success. McGrail’s journey exemplifies resilience, adaptability, and a steadfast commitment to driving positive change in communities through entrepreneurship.

The Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) is crucial in driving technology-based economic development to diversify the state’s economy. Beyond its founding purpose, OCAST serves as a catalyst for innovation by identifying and supporting Oklahoma’s innovators in bringing their ideas to market. This involves providing resources for research and development, creating workforce opportunities through internships, and fostering collaborations across various sectors.

“What that means for most people is we’re the entity that helps find and identify Oklahoma innovators and help them take those innovations, identify the problem that they are going to solve and get them in a customer’s hands to solve the problem,” said Jennifer McGrail.

With a focus on equitable access, OCAST ensures that rural innovators receive the same support as those in urban centers like Oklahoma City and Tulsa. In recent years, OCAST has expanded its initiatives, including introducing the State Small Business Credit Initiative program to stimulate private investment in Oklahoma businesses. Through venture capital investment programs and a newly established business lending program, OCAST continues to empower entrepreneurs, fueling economic growth and opportunity across the state.

McGrail’s involvement with the Oklahoma Venture Forum reflects her commitment to fostering innovation and entrepreneurship across the state. Having worked extensively in Lawton, McGrail recognized the challenges high-growth businesses face in accessing vital resources like angel groups and seed capital. She found that connecting with the Oklahoma Venture Forum provided a crucial pathway into the venture capital ecosystem, enabling entrepreneurs to access funding and support. McGrail values the Forum not only for its role in facilitating connections with venture capital but also for its role as a platform for learning and collaboration. Through her experiences sitting at tables with representatives from various backgrounds, including venture capital and entrepreneurship, McGrail gained valuable insights into different perspectives and funding mechanisms. Her active involvement underscores the Forum’s significance as a hub for knowledge exchange and resource access, ultimately empowering entrepreneurs to thrive in Oklahoma’s dynamic business landscape.

“Oklahoma is a coffee state, and Oklahoma Venture Forum is truly one of those rooms where you can come into, you can talk to different people, and I can almost guarantee you that you are literally one coffee meeting away from accessing the exact door that you’re trying to access on your entrepreneurial journey,” said McGrail. “You’re one conversation away from having access to almost anything you could want or need in whatever goal you’re trying to achieve.”

Join McGrail at the next Oklahoma Venture Forum Power Lunch on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, as several companies make their pitch presentations. The event will be open to members and guests in person at the Metro Tech Spring Lake Campus (1900 Springlake Drive in Oklahoma City) and via ZOOM.

“One thing I think most folks don’t realize is when they see Oklahoma Venture Forum, they think it’s just going to be a room of funders,” said McGrail. “And I would tell them that Oklahoma Venture Forum is that and so much more, and it truly is a place to come build a community that gets you access to the innovation we have here in Oklahoma and beyond the state’s borders.”

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