STILLWATER – December, recognized as Made in America Month to honor American produce, is also a great opportunity to promote what is grown and produced in Oklahoma.
The Made in Oklahoma Coalition and MIO Program are run by the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry to champion Oklahoma entrepreneurship and boost the economy of the Oklahoma. State. The Robert M. Kerr Food and Agricultural Products Center at Oklahoma State University reported in 2017 that the business activity of MIO coalition companies alone resulted in the creation of 58,268 jobs for the people of Oklahoma and nearly $ 965 million in payroll.
“FAPC strives not only to bring new businesses into the Made in Oklahoma program, but also to work one-on-one to help them with product development and operations,” said Andrea Graves, Business Planning Specialist and Marketing FAPC who also sits on the Board of Directors of the MIO Coalition. “We have resources that can help them get started as an entrepreneur and make their first sales dollars. We continue to work with them as their needs change and their business matures.
The MIO program has been in existence since 1991 and is a free service to its over 700 members and 60 participating retailers. In 2019, the program was successfully renamed and garnered a lot of attention before COVID-19 disrupted the world a year later.
“In 2021, we grew by 46%,” said coordinator Jenna Brinlee. “People were interested in starting new businesses and capitalizing on their downtime. “
Participating members have access to the MIO brand and can share supplier costs with the ODAFF at major statewide exhibition events such as the Oklahoma State Fair and Tulsa State Fair. Members are given their own profile page on the MIO program website and featured in MIO social media, local news segments, podcast episodes, and other marketing strategies.
“Any type of product is eligible, from woodworking and jewelry to soaps and candles,” Brinlee said. “The only requirement is that it be grown, processed, or made in Oklahoma.”
Beekeeper Lori Beth McDonald in Tulsa joined the MIO program as Okie Bee Farms in 2018 and registered the Hummingbird Fine Craft Artist Co-op as an MIO Retailer in 2020.
“I have the MIO logo on every honey product I sell,” she said. “I get calls and emails all the time from people claiming to have found my name on the MIO website. “This business is how I pay my house and I love how the MIO program helps market small businesses like me. “
FAPC has been involved with the coalition since its inception, helping to draft its statutes and welcoming new members with business training opportunities. Even though some of the companies compete in the same food business, they are friends and associates who believe in Oklahoma produce and have strong partnerships with OSU.
“Just because the coalition members are bigger doesn’t mean we stop helping them. These companies are always looking for resources like OSU graduates who specialize in food science, safety and quality control, ”said Graves. “We are very proud of our working relationship with the coalition.
The coalition is a cooperative of Oklahoma-based food companies that are committed to raising awareness about locally made food and drink products. Coalition members pay an annual fee of $ 350 to participate in cost-shared marketing programs at a reduced cost. Created in 2000 with seven founding members, the MIO Coalition comprises more than 90 member organizations.
“Over the past five years, we have grown by at least 10 members every year and have expanded into many new product categories, such as craft beer, fresh produce, and gluten-free items,” said Emily Shuping, coordinator of the MIO coalition.
Eligible businesses must generate at least $ 100,000 in annual sales. MIO coalition marketing enables member companies to expand into new retail markets and increase their footprint in grocery stores. More than 700 restaurants participate in the MIO Coalition Restaurant Program and must use products from at least five different Oklahoma-based companies.
“Our goal is to raise awareness of locally produced products and strengthen brand preference for these local foods,” said Shuping. “As people shop this holiday season, we hope supporting local businesses is at the forefront of their minds. “
Chris Fields is one of the founding members of the coalition which benefited from the wealth of business knowledge it provides. Field’s Pies was started in 1922 when his grandmother started baking pecan pies in her kitchen and selling them to a restaurant in downtown Pauls Valley. Today, Field’s Pies is sold in 25 southwestern states, and the company relies on membership in the MIO Coalition to promote its brand.
“Our social media is run by the coalition,” Fields said. “It’s a close-knit family of great people who care about spreading the word about MIO products. With his help, we have employed people for 99 years and we hope to do so for another 99 years.
Other well-known food companies, including Braum’s, also see the value of coalition membership. The Tuttle, Oklahoma-based dairy and grocery chain operates in five states with more than 300 stores.
“Being part of such a large group of Oklahoma companies is important to Braum’s,” said Amanda Beuchaw, director of public relations for the company. “We want to spread the word and share what the state has to offer.”
Buyers are encouraged to support local businesses and retailers year round. April is the state’s official Made in Oklahoma month.