Individuals looking to launch a small business or those just starting out can get a boost from Autry Technology Center.

“Most people know their craft but don’t know business,” said Meredith Westfahl, small business management coordinator at Autry’s Strate Center, located south of Autry Tech.

The resource

James W. Strate Center for Business Development opened in 2008 to bring small businesses to life with a goal of providing professional business training to those interested in starting, expanding or operating a small business.

“We know it can be overwhelming,” Westfahl said. Many people come in and say they are confused about where to start or how to proceed forward after visiting the bank.

Being a small business owner’s sounding board is her job, she said, adding the idea oftentimes is there but the business plan is not. She sets up an initial appointment to help guide potential business owners through the planning steps and address concerns.

Autry offers numerous business and industry classes every semester as well as personalized training sessions. Westfahl also can meet with a small business owner as many times as needed to get him or her from point A to point B.

“I want them to know we are their resource,” she said. She said if they don’t have the answers, they find others who do.

Make connections

Westfahl said the great thing about Strate Center is its connections. From Oklahoma Department of Commerce and Small Business Administration to regional economic development centers and Enid Regional Development Alliance, small business owners can connect and network with the resources they need to reach their goals.

Part of the Strate Center’s mission is to provide services for start-up businesses and existing businesses.

In addition to mentoring, coaching and educational workshops through Autry and its partners, small business owners can find workspace at the Strate Center. At present, there are three options certified business incubator office space, a dedicated personal station with a desk and locked cabinet or shared workspace.

Becoming a tenant in one of the 10 incubator spaces means affordable office space tailored to what the client needs. Businesses are charged a monthly rent on a graduated scale throughout a three-year period. The small business owner receives a key to the building and can come and go as they please.

Finding space

The intent of the incubator is to prepare small business owners for brick-and-mortar, Westfahl said.

“We want to get you started before you’re kicked out the nest, so to speak,” she said. There is an application process for potential clients, and it must be turned in with a business plan, resumes of principals, current financials, credit report and current marketing materials — all of which Westfahl can provide help.

The personal station is dedicated office space that is rented monthly. The client gets a desk, lockable storage and mail services. Just like the incubator space, the small business owner receives a key to the building and can come and go 24/7.

For those who don’t need a desk but rather just a space to work, there is shared workspace available throughout the Strate Center that can be rented daily or monthly. Among the choices for shared workspace are the breakroom or oversized chairs.

Many small business owners like the shared workspace option because it offers them a place to go instead of having to work from home, said Kathy Gibson, who manages the office space reservations.

Everyone who utilizes the Strate Center has access to: Wi-Fi, boardrooms, a full-service coffee bar, a document processing center with printer, a scanner, a fax machine and a podcast studio.

“We help them get their foot in the door,” Gibson said. “We provide everything they need to be able to do anything they need to do.”

The run-down

Strate Center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday and until 4 p.m. Friday. It follows the school’s schedule and is closed when Autry is closed for holidays and seasonal breaks.

To reach Westfahl, email mwest To reserve workspace, call Gibson at (580) 242-2750. Walk-ins are welcome at the center, 2020 Willow Run.

Story provided by Enid News & Eagle

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