Forming a Community: The Resources

Created to address women-owned business challenges, OKC Women in Business is a “community dedicated to empowering women in the OKC metro area to thrive in their business endeavors through collaboration, networking and education,” says the group’s founder and CEO, Meagan Veoukas. “The online directory on our website – – is a convenient place for business owners to advertise, but also for our community to visit when looking for a local business they can trust.”

Going strong at 5,000 members, the group also offers seven female-only networking events across the metro. 

With offices throughout Oklahoma, REI Women’s Business Centers offer resources for financial opportunities, commercial space rentals, home ownership and general guidance when starting a business. In the past 40 years, the entity has built a reputation as one of the most comprehensive economic development organizations in Oklahoma and the nation, focusing on cultivating an environment conducive to economic growth and job creation. 

The OKC Women in Business group works to empower female business owners with the resources they need to succeed. Photo courtesy OKC Women in Business

The Kerr Foundation, Oklahoma International Women’s Forum and Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) Center for the Future of Work created the award-winning Women’s Business Leadership Conference, which is now part of OSU’s Spears School of Business. Open to the public, the conferences bring women together to hear from speakers who are known locally and nationally for their entrepreneurial success, women’s health knowledge and business development acumen. The conferences provide professional development experiences for women from Oklahoma corporations, government agencies, nonprofits, universities and more. 

Anyone who owns a company or business may get involved by becoming a sponsor or having a booth at the conference. The event welcomes women from all walks of life – ranging from students at the Oklahoma School of Mathematics to OSU undergraduate and graduate students, women in entry-level, mid-range and higher leadership positions from all industries, and those who are retired. Bringing women together from diverse backgrounds, the conference allows participants to build skills and network, and learn strategies and techniques applicable professionally and personally.

Photo courtesy OKC Women in Business

During the 2024 conference, CEO of Good Girl Chocolate, Tabatha Carr, ND, MBA, PMP, spoke on how women can be bold by conquering self-doubt, dissolving fear and empowering themselves to live a healthier, more productive life. 

Alongside the conferences, the Next Level Women’s Leadership Certificate program aims to equip women with leadership and strategic competencies needed to excel in their organization and rise to any challenge. This is a cohort-based program where participants from any industry are nominated by someone in their network (or themselves).

Headquartered at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, and with offices across the state, Oklahoma Small Business Development Centers are funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration, State of Oklahoma and public partners. Their resources include education, tools, no-cost confidential consulting, tech launch and international trade help.

Gaining Certifications 

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce (ODOC) certifies women-owned businesses in Oklahoma. The program may benefit businesses that have traditionally faced extra barriers to market entry or participation. Some companies and state agencies use certifications to ensure diversity in their selection of contractors, vendors and suppliers. The purpose of the certification program is to help women-owned businesses gain visibility and increase opportunities by being associated with the certification and its network.

“This program is a state-legislated program, and it isn’t affiliated with any other national, SBA or other certification program,” says Becky Samples, ODOC’s director of marketing and communications. “In order to apply, the business must be 51% owned and operated on a day-to-day basis by one or more women. To apply, business owners submit an application to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, which requires financial statements, organizational documents and any other reasonable records necessary to confirm that the business is primarily owned and operated by one or more women.”

Upon receiving certification, the company name and contact information will be listed on the website. 

Women In Business: The Biggest Hurdles

A November 2023 article in Forbes explains that female entrepreneurs outperform males by building businesses that generate more revenue and create higher job growth. The average return on investment for female-owned businesses is double that of male-owned businesses, with women-owned businesses contributing trillions of dollars to the U.S. economy. 

Despite these positive outcomes, 95% of venture capital partners are male, and 90% of venture capital investments go to male-founded businesses, according to Statista, a German online platform that specializes in data gathering and visualization. So, it’s clear there are obstacles for women business owners in accessing capital and finding the right networks. No matter the difficulty, women are rising to the challenge. 

“I designed the Next Level Women’s Leadership Certificate program, knowing that some of these women will be more than their title,” says program coordinator Alexis Hightower. “They are moms, caregivers and/or have a life outside their jobs. I wanted to ensure the program wouldn’t interfere with those other roles.”

Hannah Barnthouse, founder and owner of the gem and jewelry business Feed Me Gems in Edmond, highlights that point.

“I started my business with $200 in supplies at my kitchen table,” she says. “The biggest hurdle I’ve faced is work-life balance. I’m a mama, wife, business owner and human being. At first, I had a hard time knowing where my work ended and life began. I knew I needed a structured work-life balance with clear boundaries. Leasing office space created a healthy balance, and this is one of the most important parts of longevity with my business.”

Barnthouse says in a male-dominated space, it’s no small task to be a female business owner. But she adapted, pivoted, grew and changed to meet the challenges.

Photo courtesy OKC Women in Business

“Consistency, hard work and passion fueled my business,” says Barnthouse. “Most of what I do, I’ve learned by merely doing.”

Alongside the expectation of balancing outside commitments, curating a community of like minded women can be a tough undertaking … alongside dealing with and bucking tired stereotypes. 

“I can really relate to not having any network of support for a female-owned business,” says Stephanie Hale, founder and owner of Urban Oak on 66, a salon and boutique perched on Route 66 in Yukon. “Another issue is the building where my business is located. Anytime I have to deal with repairs or maintenance on my building, contractors would initially call my husband. But now I have trained them to call me, and they believe that I know more about plumbing and electrical than my husband does. It is just a long, overused stereotype that men are more handy than women – that is untrue, and needs to die with other gender identity roles that put women in a box.” 

OKC Women in Business works to diminish those and other hurdles by creating a built-in support network.

“OKC Women in Business was founded to create a safe space for women to find resources and support, to navigate the unique challenges of being an entrepreneurial female business owner,” says Veoukas. “Our members come for the networking, to advertise and grow their businesses, but stay for the community of women who advise in navigating difficult situations.”

Women Entrepreneurs in Oklahoma

The 2024 Women’s Business Leadership Conference speakers pictured here are experts in a wide array of topics and industries. Photo courtesy OSU

Of Oklahoma’s female entrepreneurs, Veoukas says, “Jean Florea, owner of FG Electric and founder of WorkHers United, saw a need for the support of women in trade industries, and started WorkHers United to provide just that, along with educationship, mentorship, and fellowship.” 

Veoukas continues: “Cori Maag, owner of Hello Beautiful Social Media Agency, and founder of We Rise Collective, saw a need to create a space for women to empower each other and rise together. She thoughtfully crafted a unique conference experience that ignites female entrepreneurs, propels their businesses forward, and forges connections with like-minded women. Finally, Kalee Isenhour is owner of Kalee Isenhour Photography. She also founded the Self Love Club, which is a female only group created to connect women and support one another in their self-love journey that has now extended beyond a virtual group into uplifting and encouraging events, dinners, galas and more. Kalee’s group has an incredible impact on the self-love, self-image and self-confidence of women in our community.”

How To Get Funding

Polishing one’s pitch and business plan are key to securing funding. A July 2023 Forbes article stresses that investors need to know whether or not a business will make money. So, a female business owner’s biggest objective should be to figure out whether or not there is a viable market for her service or product, also with strong enough customer interest. Owners should highlight their unique value in the market, conduct thorough market analysis, illustrate a competitive business model, and describe a clear execution strategy.

Developing a strong network is critical as well, because it enables women to access funding opportunities. Consider groups, networking events, conferences and meetups as venues to meet potential investors and increase knowledge of the funding landscape. 

Part of this process also involves mentorship, through which business owners find guidance, get advice and learn how to wisely use investment monies. Mentors can help perfect pitches. Creating and maintaining a strong online presence is as important, as well as proactively sharing one’s accomplishments. Snag every opportunity for public speaking, too. 

“Life takes a village, and business is no different,” Veoukas says. “We created a unique support system for women in business to cultivate strong relationships and thrive in their businesses because we all know that we are better together.” 

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