By Phil Klutts
February 1, 2022

AXIS powered by FT helps grow businesses

Local companies and entrepreneurs can use resources at Francis Tuttle to turn ideas into reality.
Entrepreneurs and business owners use AXIS at Francis Tuttle to refine ideas and develop growth strategies. (Photo: <a href="https://edmondbusiness.com/author/brent-fuchs/">Brent Fuchs</a>)
Entrepreneurs and business owners use AXIS at Francis Tuttle to refine ideas and develop growth strategies. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

Francis Tuttle Technology Center is no stranger to helping businesses succeed. The career-tech was formed in 1979 as part of Oklahoma’s vocational education system to provide professional and career advancement at various levels for high schoolers, higher education students, and adult professionals. Francis Tuttle’s brand new campus on Danforth Road in Edmond is doing more than just training workers with traditional vocational skills. The school also supports local business owners and entrepreneurs.

A fresh start

Starting a business and ensuring success are not synonymous. Some studies suggest up to 45% of businesses will fail within their first few years. Francis Tuttle has committed to helping change this statistic and to create an environment of successful business startups in Edmond and central Oklahoma. AXIS Powered by Francis Tuttle is a re-brand of their business incubator focused on entrepreneurs and startups. AXIS is named for the intersection of where entrepreneurs’ and founders’ bold ideas and aspirations meet stability to transform into reality.

AXIS began as LaunchPad FT, a state-certified small-business incubator, and was formally housed at the Business Innovation Center on Covell & I-35 before the opening of the new Danforth Campus. Moving physically was a good opportunity to rebrand and better communicate what the program offers. Changing from LaunchPad to the name AXIS was an intentional move to expand the focus and opportunities for new businesses.

Dolce Vita IT Solutions completed the incubator program and will stay at AXIS as an anchor tenant. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

“We are offering more services than just the incubator,” said director Jennifer McGrail. “AXIS also has a pre-accelerator and facilitates an entrepreneur ecosystem in the Edmond area.”

Sowing the seed of success

The pre-accelerator program is for business ideas that might not be quite ready for an incubator. The 10-week sessions offer training, coaching, and connection to help individuals explore business ideas and determine what is needed to take the next steps. Three entrepreneurs recently finished the pre-accelerator program and pitched their ideas to the public at the inaugural Pitch Night and launch party for AXIS.

Each of the three business concepts contributes to the local economy in unique ways. The Street Company, founded by Karina Burns, uses data analytics to design better traffic flow that corresponds to daily changes. Right 4 U by Freida Abakah seeks to revolutionize incontinence products for the growing population of senior citizens. Entrepreneur and builder Mitch Rankin founded Heartwood Development and Projects to design housing and retail developments that implement new urbanism, and he hopes the company will be a major player in any future development of East Edmond.

“It’s just amazing we have this resource in our community,” Rankin said. “The facilities are unbelievable, and the people are so supportive and inspiring.”

In addition to the three recent pre-accelerator graduates, AXIS currently houses eight businesses in the incubator, all in diverse industries. Diversity of industry is evident in the program with businesses representing technology, IT infrastructure, service-based work, women’s health, and social enterprise. The program is designed for a 36-month tenure, but some businesses stay even longer.

Watkins-Conti Products has been housed with Francis Tuttle for almost five years. This extended period allows the medical device company to get through FDA processes. Another company, Dolce Vita IT Solutions, is graduating from the incubator program but staying at AXIS to serve as an anchor tenant. Dolce Vita will provide mentoring and services to other AXIS clients in their role as an anchor tenant.

Edmond entrepreneurs can use AXIS resources including office space, technology and collaborative groups to grow their business. (Photo: Brent Fuchs)

Room to grow

The flexibility in accommodating different business needs helps fuel the growth and stability of the program and the clients served. AXIS facilitates a community of support so entrepreneurs don’t have to build a company or explore ideas alone. This ecosystem is what will continue to drive innovation and business growth in Edmond and across Oklahoma, and AXIS has space for a couple more businesses.

“We have 13 spaces, but ten companies is considered full,” said McGrail.

Many of the clients at AXIS use more space and need more offices as they grow. The new facility in the Danforth campus allows for that growth and provides resources for other business opportunities. There is a state-of-the-art conference center and training classrooms available to the community through Francis Tuttle. Although housed in the Francis Tuttle campus, AXIS clients have their own entrance and access to their offices just like any other office building.

Starting and growing a business will always come with challenges. AXIS is providing resources and a community so no one has to face those challenges alone. Visit axisft.org to learn more and join the community.

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About Phil Klutts

Phil is an Edmond native and has managed to keep his wife here instead of traveling the world, which they both enjoy. They have two boys who love the outdoors, adventures, and learning new things. Phil is a problem-solver at heart and enjoys connecting people to the resources they need.

In addition to being the co-owner of Edmond Business, Phil founded the CK Group LLC after working for large and small businesses in the Energy, Construction, and Fitness industries. He focuses on helping small businesses and entrepreneurs improve their systems and processes. CK Group LLC's mission is to eliminate chaos and create clarity for small business by connecting vision, strategy, and implementation.