As you may have heard, I’m transitioning from the role of operations manager at 36 Degrees North to work for one of our partner organizations, the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation. Through this process, now that 36°N is up and running, I can’t help but wonder if this is what it feels like to send your child off to college.
Before 36°N, I helped another company open in Tulsa by creating strategic relationships for them, but there I felt more like the cool Aunt than a mom. The community at 36°N, however, feels more like my immediate family.
I am so grateful to have helped build this space from a shell to a vibrant, community-filled workspace. It all started with a recommendation by Oklahoma State’s Riata Center for Entrepreneurship in December 2015. They graciously told Dustin, our Executive Director, about me. After lunch at Chimera, a tour (hard hats included) of what would become 36°N, one writing assignment and a meeting with a few board members, I started as the Communications and Events Coordinator, which is a humorous now that I look back and have seen where my true strengths lie.
After a lot of preparation, 36°N opened its doors on January 11, 2016 to begin testing out the space. Our Founding Members were so patient. We had conference rooms with no doors, spotty wifi, no front desk staff and an array of construction projects still occurring daily. But on January 25th, at our grand opening, we had 250+ people in the space, free coworking, camera crews in and out, and me running around doing everything I could to make sure we gave this newborn every opportunity it needed to succeed.
By early February, we realized the two of us couldn’t do it alone, and we expanded our team by hiring a front desk staff. The months after that flew by, as we figured out how to onboard members efficiently, how often to give tours and how to help current members connect to printers and wifi while also hosting workshops in the space.
March came, and interns were the topic of conversation. We had two Tulsa Tech students join us in the space that spring, with Madelein and Sarah starting in the summer. We hosted our very first co-week, as Paul Singh and his airstream trailer joined us. By this time, word was getting out, and we were giving tours to city leaders throughout the state who were interested in opening similar spaces.
With May came a change in position. Although hired for communications, we had to build the space first, and my operational instinct kicked in. The execution and management skills came in handy, and it was obvious those skills overshadowed my education in communications. So I took over operations, while searching for someone to backfill for communications. Thanks to Ally at Resolute PR, we were introduced to Lauren, who today handles all of our communication.
As June kicked off, we celebrated our half-birthday a month too early (but there was cake, so who cares anyways??).
The year was flying by, with membership on the rise and our team working to keep up. We hosted events like Global Entrepreneurship Week and 200OK. By October, we had a waiting list for dedicated space, and operations were running smoothly by the end of 2016.
Like a good mom, one of my favorite responsibilities here at 36°N was the development of those around me. So, when I was able to promote Sarah, first from intern to front desk employee, and then from front desk to full-time, I was extremely proud (not to mention relieved, as there was a lot more going on by now).
Then things really started to settle in. The winds of the storm of opening had passed, and each of us had our routine. That gave me time to reflect and reset my sails. Looking back, I learned so much in that first year and a half. And as crazy as the beginning had been, I really enjoyed myself and all the great successes we accomplished building something new from scratch.
I have great memories of sharing laughs with everyone in the kitchen during lunch and our weekly happy hours. Each of you hold a special place in my heart for your honesty, your wisdom and your wit.
I’ve also enjoyed our small, but mighty team. They have been, and always will be, more like a family than coworkers.
It’s difficult to leave 36°N, as it feels like a baby I have raised, but it has grown now, and I know it can fly on its own.
So now I’m off to see what else I can build in this great town that I love.
Wishing you all the best,