By Mark Rountree
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Oklahoma State University students will be buying groceries for their families in the years ahead, and a business advocacy organization hopes those students purchase items produced in the state.
“It’s important to educate students about products made in Oklahoma,” said Kerry Barrick, a representative of the Made in Oklahoma Coalition. “They need to know what is made in Oklahoma and why it is important to buy Oklahoma products.”
Six Oklahoma businesses had booths set up Wednesday during a Made in Oklahoma Coalition event at the Oklahoma State University Student Union. Samples of their products were on display.
One of those booths featured Head Country Barbecue of Ponca City.
“We are a very well-known product in Oklahoma,” said Trevor Cooper, management coordinator at Head Country and an OSU graduate. “The Made in Oklahoma Coalition lets us diversify our product and we get a chance to show people different ways to use the products. There’s a lot of applications in terms of recipes that we like to promote at these events as well.”
Cooper said attending events such as the Made in Oklahoma event is another way to market the product.
“We have been so big on word of mouth (advertising). Everyone in Oklahoma loves our barbecue sauce,” he said.
“It’s like a cult following, and we want to promote that cult following and promote products made in Oklahoma.”
The Made in Oklahoma program is designed to help new businesses market their product at such places as state fairs or home and garden shows.
Once a business gets established in grocery stores or in the food service market, it can become a member of the fee-based Made in Oklahoma Coalition which helps market the product in the primary business sector.
“We would hope that people would choose a product made in Oklahoma over a product made out of state,” Barrick said.
“At the end of the day, it’s having a positive economic impact on Oklahoma when you choose that Oklahoma product.”
The Food & Agricultural Products Center at OSU also was on hand Wednesday, talking to students about how to build a practical business model in the food industry.
The FAPC features a one-day basic training class that instructs new business owners on a wide range of business essentials, including labeling, trademark, marketing, food service, liability insurance and packaging.
The $150 course fee is money well-spent, said Andrea Graves, business planning and marketing specialist for FAPC.
“You could do it yourself, but I think it would be the hard way,” Graves said. “We have so many experts at FAPC that can help you along the way.
“We also tell you the truth about what you are in for. By the end of the day of that basic training class, you might say, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s way more than I want to bother with.’ So in that way, we might be saving people money.”
Graves said that FAPC and the Made in Oklahoma Coalition work hand in hand.
“Their program is amazing with what they can do for your new business,” Barrick said. “It’s like boot camp for your new business.”