Mandi Ford Argo

Mandi Ford Argo is the Director of Tulsa at Venture For America, an initiative creating economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs. She focuses on driving economic development through entrepreneurship and is committed to collaboration, creative problem-solving, and influencing positive social change.

Before joining VFA, Mandi was the Events and Engagement Manager at The University of Texas at Austin’s Department of Computer Science, where she supported fundraising efforts by overseeing relationships with companies and foundations that support research and development and student programs.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Mandi Ford Argo explains Venture For America’s mission and initiatives
  • The value of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) in organizational development
  • How businesses can implement DEI practices in their hiring processes
  • Advice for attracting and retaining entrepreneurial fellows
  • Key characteristics of entrepreneurial success
  • VFA’s successes and expansion efforts in Tulsa

In this episode…

As business and entrepreneurship continue to evolve, studies have shown that DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) is crucial to organizational profitability and success. So, what are the benefits of DEI, and how can you incorporate diverse practices in your business?

According to Mandi Ford Argo, DEI promotes greater economic development by creating job opportunities for underrepresented people and providing them with the resources to launch a successful business. When fostering DEI in your hiring and operational processes, Mandi recommends pursuing mission-aligned organizations to recruit diverse candidates. It’s also critical to develop a strategic onboarding process that encourages inclusion and psychological safety for employee retention. Venture For America recruits entrepreneurial fellows to build professional development and help them achieve their goals.

Join Mat Zalk in today’s episode of The Same Day Podcast as he talks with Mandi Ford Argo, the Director of Tulsa at Venture For America, about implementing DEI strategies to recruit and retain diverse talent. Mandi explains the value of DEI in organizational development, how businesses can implement DEI in their hiring processes, and the characteristics of entrepreneurial success.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Keyrenter Property Management.

Keyrenter Property Management is a full-service property management company who helps their clients buy, renovate, and operate real estate assets.

They help clients build wealth while taking the headache out of property management.

That’s why, no matter what rental you have — single-family homes, condos, townhomes, or apartments — they can give you the management solutions you need.

To learn more about their services, go to or send them an email at [email protected].

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:05

Welcome to The Same Day Podcast where we discuss driving incremental business growth and other topics related to real estate, property management and entrepreneurship. Now to the show at hand.

Mat Zalk 0:20

Mat Zalk here on the host of The Same Day Podcast where I connect with top business experts and real estate leaders. Some past guests on The Same Day Podcast and Ben Corbin Marcotte. He’s a wholesaler real estate investor, agent and more. Listen to that if you want to talk about if you want to listen to his experience buying real estate I think he bought his first house at like 16 or 17. So some inspiring stuff there. Sean Printz is an investor of Keyrenters. He’s learned a bunch of great lessons in entrepreneurship and real estate investing talks about that on the podcast that he was on. Today’s episode is brought to you by Keyrenter Property Management at Keyrenter Property Management, we are a full service property management company helping our clients buy, renovate and operate real estate assets. We help our clients build wealth while taking the headache out of property management. Listen, Mandi, even though it seems counterintuitive for a guy like me, that is a full time have a full time job in essence, right? I mean, I, I run this business, but it’s like a full time deal. I don’t have time to mess around with construction and renovation, even though it’s kind of what we do. I want to invest in real estate but because I’ve got a full time job, I keep renters actually the perfect solution for me. I bought a house at an auction recently. And it was, you know, in total disrepair. I walked in with Seth rice, he’s our general contractor, and now he’s doing the work. He’s been it out, he’s got contractors that are fixing it up. It’s gonna be a beautiful new property, mostly new property, we’ve taken down a bunch of walls, and we’ve redone the kitchen and the bathrooms and everything else is gonna be super nice. They just get thrown into the pipeline, along with every other property that we manage to get at least and then you know, collect rent that rent will pay for the mortgage and spit off a little bit of cash flow every month. And that’s how it happens. That’s how you buy one house and then 10 and then 20 and 30. So it doesn’t matter what rental you have single family homes, condos, townhomes apartments, we have the management solutions and the renovation solutions that you need, go to, or email us at [email protected] If that interests you, I want to thank Luke Scuitto of Equality Business Alliance for actually making the first connection between us Mandi and then Mike Basch and Ross Heyman, like wash of course have attended capital has been on the podcast. He has a ton of great stories, but entrepreneurship. He started at such a young age, and was running all these coffee bean and tea leaf stores and has just a great entrepreneurial history, history and then Ross Heyman over capital Holmes, Who’s Who’s David tourney’s Chief of Staff, of course, but Luke was actually the first person that that connected us the EBA, he’s of the equality Business Alliance and EBA exists to strengthen LGBTQ plus welcoming businesses in the Tulsa community by doing a bunch of great networking stuff and outreach in the community. So if you want to learn more about that we’re a member of the EBA and I encourage other business owners to also be members of the EBA if you want to find out more go to okay forward slash equality dash Business Alliance and okay, here’s Oklahoma Center for equality, which is over there were like, behind me at like six than elegent video five with an LG right. And they do much of programming and other cool stuff. Now on demand NDI, who’s our guest today Mandi is the director for Tulsa for Venture for America two year fellowship program for aspiring entrepreneurs. And I think it’s it’s all around the country. She’s the head of she’s obviously director of Tulsa, but and we’re so happy to have her here. She Mandi, like me is born and raised or was born and raised in the great state of Texas, and she moved to Tulsa in 2020 and immediately fell in love with the city and its people. So we share that in common. She joined VF after spending eight years working at the University of Texas at Austin, where she supported students and faculty in their career research and entrepreneurial endeavors. Mandi is passionate about economic development are truly inclusive and diverse entrepreneurship and is excited to lead this work in her new hometown. Mandi, thank you for being on. I really appreciate you being here.

Mandi Ford Argo 4:14

Yeah. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to chat.

Mat Zalk 4:16

I love that. Were we actually born in Texas?

Mandi Ford Argo 4:18

I was born in Arlington outside. Fort Worth. Yes. Yeah. And then moved to Austin for school. And that is a town that just really sucks. Yeah. And so I was there for 15 years before moving to Tulsa.

Mat Zalk 4:32

Wow. I remember going to you know, and I was born and raised in Houston and we should go to University of Texas at Austin in high school when we were pretending that we were you know of age and fraternity and everything else. I remember going to spend lots of time partying in that great town, great food, great people, great energy, great music. And they beat us and they beat us for the Tesla bid.

Mandi Ford Argo 4:54

They sure did. They sure did. Unfortunately for Tulsa,

Mat Zalk 4:57

unfortunately. But again, Mike Bosch the center of everything told So it seems put together that that big F and field website that was a pretty Yeah, that was a nice little viral campaign to get some visibility for our fair town and, and that bid was ultimately unsuccessful, but pretty cool. In the meantime. Yeah. Tell us a little bit about Sorry. Go ahead.

Mandi Ford Argo 5:17

Sorry, fun facts, the current for the Chamber of Commerce and VP for economic development. We recruited he was the one who led the Austin campaign for bringing Tesla to Austin. And then we promptly sold him to Tulsa. So I think even though we didn’t get tell Tesla, we are bound to get some pretty exciting things coming our way. Because we’ve got the man who led the charge there.

Mat Zalk 5:41

That’s awesome. A little bit of poaching never heard. Right. That’s great. Tell us about VFA. Tell us what’s going on. I want to ask you a bunch of questions about include diversity inclusion, as our diversity, equity and inclusion. But before we do that, tell us just a little bit about VFA.

Mandi Ford Argo 5:55

Yeah, so VFA has been around for 10 years. We started out in cities like Detroit and Philadelphia. But really our mission is to launch in cities that have early stage, entrepreneurial ecosystems that need early career talent, and have an opportunity for early career talent to come in, make a difference and have an impact. So we recruit recent college grads from around the country who have a drive to be entrepreneurs and founders themselves. And then through an apprenticeship type experience by placing them with startups in our 13 different cities like Tulsa, they get that hands on experience on what it’s like to work for a startup, see how it grows, and it scales, to equip them to go on and become founders themselves. So during the two years of the fellowship, the fellows have a ton of professional development and training that we invest in each fellow. And then after they graduate from the program, we have investment funds and accelerator, huge alumni network, just a ton of resources to continue supporting that fellow through their entrepreneurship journey.

Mat Zalk 7:01

So actually, you know, even though VFA is trying to place fellows, and those fellows need to be paid a salary you’re actually getting, you’re getting an employee and a half, because they’re they’re getting on the side, all sorts of training that you you know, may be doing the organization already, but may not be doing and so they’re going to be better positioned better equipped for doing what they’re what they’re doing. And I assume that a lot of that stuff is just the basics. I mean, it’s the first job out of college, where you learn how to write a professional email, we learn how to like, this is what a PowerPoint slide is. And this is this is how you form clarity of thought and put it onto a presentation. Um, some of that stuff is probably not being done so well in terms of training and organizations. And I imagine that VFA does, you know, certainly a portion of that training, you’re getting not just one one person, but you’re getting one person, what’s the entirety of the of the VFA mission backing you behind the scenes?

Mandi Ford Argo 7:50

Yeah, 100%. Like the very first thing our fellows go through is called training camp. It’s two weeks in person in Detroit as an entire cohort. And over those two weeks, they do focus on professional soft skills, hard skills, they’re learning how to build websites, they’re learning how to work in an office environment, they’re learning project management skills. So we put them immediately through a ton of training and development before they start their jobs. And then once they start over the course of the two years, we have at least quarterly professional development and networking events. And then another like shorter term type training, like training camp for second year fellows that’s focused on leadership development, managing up, down and sideways, how to build a diverse team, how to negotiate a contract, all kinds of things like that. So yes, a ton of professional development that we invest in these fellows to help accelerate their careers and make sure that they’re well positioned to be effective founders.

Mat Zalk 8:51

I can’t I can’t overestimate how important it is like the basic basic foundational skills of being a professional being a just a professional in any industry. I started my career, actually, it’s in my first job was really teaching scuba diving, and I traveled the world for a bunch of years teaching scuba diving, but after that, after I like, took off my board shorts and, and laid my BCD down to rest, I got a job at McKinsey, which is a global consulting company, and they’re known for, yeah, I guess a lot of professional stuff, really, but like for producing people that have, you know, a high level of professional work ethic and whatever else. And when I look back at what I learned, it really is like, how do you write an email where the person doesn’t have to come back to you 10 times with additional questions thinking through, like, what’s this person likely to ask? What else might they? What else might they want to know? What are the implications? What’s the so what of what I’m saying, right, distilling down everything into into kind of concise communication that can be digested, and then a decision can be made on the back of it. And that’s just, I mean, I see a lot of people come through our organization, and I deal with a lot of other organizations in our business and I just see how many people can’t like, just lack that basic basic training. So I’m excited that somebody in our world is doing that even if people aren’t coming from you know, I, like other other professional backgrounds, because not everybody can obviously, tell me a little bit you guys focus a lot on diversity, equity and inclusion. To somebody that doesn’t know what that is, let’s talk about it. But I also want to know, like, why does it matter? Why does why does it matter? What Why does it benefit a business owner, or a leadership team, or anybody in the organization to have diversity of thought diversity of of from from a demographic perspective? And, like, who cares? Why Why does it benefit you? And yeah,

Mandi Ford Argo 10:30

yeah, great question. And I’ll start with the why, and then dive into VFAs approach. So di, di, having a diverse team is so important, there’s been so many studies that have come out over the last few years that show that the more diverse a team is, the more profitable they’re likely to become, the more companies that have a board that have women on it are far more likely to be more successful and be more profitable. So if you’re looking at your bottom line, this is just an important thing to do. And the reason why is because you have people who are coming from different perspectives and can look at different sides of the issue or call out problems in advance, before they become actual real problems. You also have people who can come to the table and say, as a potential customer who comes from this background and walk of life, this is what’s going to be attractive to meet. And so you start to see really unique teams that can come together and think through creatively, issues, tackle them in advance and be more market savvy. So that’s the business case. And if you want I’m happy to send over all the studies and data, back numbers.

Mat Zalk 11:41

But in essence, what that means is you’re able to like make decisions, you make better decisions when you have more diverse perspectives, and that’s on life on on national origin on whatever it is like you’ve better decision making power. And you might pivot more appropriately from a marketing and sales perspective, from from an operations perspective, if you have more diversity, women, people of color, any other gender, diversity, but also sexual orientation. Anything else I guess?

Mandi Ford Argo 12:11

Yeah, absolutely. So as a business, if you’re a business owner, and you’re looking at why should invest in dei strategies and make this a priority, that’s it’s affecting your bottom line, you’re likely to be more successful, you’re going to have creative problem solvers on your team just by nature of the life that they have walked in their lived experience. And then thinking about economic development, as a community that is putting together an entrepreneurial ecosystem, D AI is really important, because it’s the tide that raises all boats. So if you can create a space and open doors for more people who have historically not been able to access, you know, the resources needed to be a founder and launch a successful business. If you’re able to open those doors and bring more people to the table to start a business and be successful in their own right, they’re going to create jobs, they’re creating generational wealth, they’re solving for a lot of these problems. So at a micro level, as a company, it’s really important that as a community that’s investing in this. Being able to focus on dei and creating those opportunities is good for

Mat Zalk 13:22

good create a more robust, fruitful environment in its entirety. I love it. So what do people if a business owner says I like the idea of of more profit, I like the idea of, of greater ideas and iterations and pivoting faster and smarter. I like the idea of my company being more successful, but I don’t have any idea how to hire a more diverse talent pool more colleagues that are that are that don’t look quite like me. Are the people sitting around the table right now? How do they do that?

Mandi Ford Argo 13:49

Yeah, that’s a really good question. So one, come to the USA, right. hire one of our fellows. So VSA has. One of our big pillars is being an on ramp for entrepreneurship, for people from all walks of life. So our big focus, dei and diversity is a huge focus for us. We want our fellows to be as diverse as the companies we serve and vice versa. So we want to recruit fellows from you know, all different backgrounds, all different colors, all different walks of life, and give them an opportunity to have that experience. So one seek out organizations that are mission aligned and are really focused on Dei. So if it’s not, you know, if you don’t need early career talent, and BFA is not the right fit. Find another organization like the Oklahomans business equality program to look at, you know, what are other companies doing to hire Were there other pools of candidates to hire from? I think something that’s also really important is don’t just focus on getting those people in the door. You need to be intentional about keeping them there and the retention strategies. So thinking a lot about how do I onboard somebody to give them a sense of belonging and psychological safety from the very beginning, we want people to come in and feel like they can ask questions that they can dive right in, that they feel connected to the work, and that they’re safe to be who they are. And to take risks, because that’s really important too. And people are going to come at that from different places. So thinking about not just, you know, we want to hire people who are black, we want to hire women, we want to hire, you know, whoever, but also making sure that your retention strategies are aligned. There’s a lot of really great consultants out there that can help with it. If you don’t want to, you know, try to, I don’t recommend just like, doing it on your own without any knowledge. There’s lots of resources out there. I personally am happy to have a conversation if you want,

Mat Zalk 15:49

is it best to have like a strategy going into it before you just start hiring people that are diverse? Or should we just be hiring people? I mean, in my case, you know, I just want to hire a new property manager, for example, I’m, I’m open to the idea of that person being any walk of life, do I need a strategy to kind of define that role, I also want that person to be upwardly mobile in our organization, so that eventually that person is sitting at the leadership table, right? And we’d like to move people up within the organization, instead of hiring, you know, leadership roles from the outside. How do I, you know, how do I just do that? I can do it through VFA. I can do it through EBA. But I mean, do I need a strategy? Do you think I’m foolish for just like, just going out in hiring? Or do I need to kind of put pen to paper and, and really, you know, put some thought into how it’s going to happen.

Mandi Ford Argo 16:33

I personally think having a strategy is really important. It doesn’t, I don’t think it has to be as in depth, I love that you’re coming at it with really great intention. But something to start considering is like, as a really like a rapidly growing company, and you’re creating more opportunity for more people. This is a culture thing. And culture is I mean, their strategy that goes into culture. So making sure that you’re looking at, you know, who are we as an organization? How are we supporting the individuals that work here in their movement forward? And how are we making sure that it’s equitable across the board? And so I don’t think it needs to be like a fully thought out perfect strategy to jump in. But an ongoing conversation that you keep coming back to to make sure that like, are we on the right track forward? Are we doing the right things to make sure that movement upward is accessible and equitable across the board? In you know, where can we improve and continue to make sure that we have a culture that aligns with our

Mat Zalk 17:35

it’s, it’s not enough to have to be on the lookout for hiring a specific person, if there’s not a support infrastructure that says this person, or this group of people needs a couple of things to feel comfortable and safe, and whatever. And that doesn’t exist in your organization, all of a sudden, it’s a leaky bucket, and they’re just they’re leaving, because you’re actually not a good fit. So it’s a I get it the culture. And the strategy helps support the initial intention of hiring and more diverse talent pool. Let me ask you this. So one, in our organization, one, one group of people that we love to employ are people that have tried their hand at entrepreneurship and have failed. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because they they have all of the skills that you need to be an entrepreneur, it’s something went wrong, the idea wasn’t right, execution wasn’t right. But they have the leadership skills, oftentimes, they have the ownership skills, oftentimes, they know what it’s like to have grit, and they get through tough times, they know how to be lean, they know a whole bunch of stuff. But something just didn’t work out. In the in the VFA ecosystem, where you’re where you’re placing fellows, my fear would be that they stay for a year and then leave, and then they go start their own business, which is fine. We recognize that that’s always the case. And we want a more robust ecosystem. And if that one of those people, for example, in our business goes and starts the best H back business in Tulsa, I would go great, that’s a great service provider for us if they’re doing it the right way. And with great technology, we’d love to utilize them. But how do how do some companies think through or how do some of your clients think through, you know, employing a fellow and keeping them on for a decade, for example?

Mandi Ford Argo 19:01

Yeah, that’s a great question. I would say that our fellows fall on different sides of the spectrum with how quickly they want to be a founder, or even if they want to be a founder. So a lot of a lot of our fellows come in and say I want to work for a startup. I want to be a leader at a startup. Yeah, not necessarily founding their own company. Maybe they’ve done that in the past. Maybe they started a student organization while they were in college and operated in that space. And so they come into, you know, their company that they were hired on by and they’re able to accelerate into a leadership position and move things forward that way. So we do have a lot of fellows that fall on different sides of the spectrum. For example, we have a fellow here his name is Joe he works for get wet. He’s a second year fellow and they have given him so much responsibility. He feels really at home there. And last I heard he has no intention of leaving, they just keep promoting. They keep them on taking on new responsibilities and do really great things where he’s able to have an impact, but he wants to have and do it at an already existing organization. And so there’s, you know, you have fellows that fall on different sides of the spectrum. So what I would recommend is just have a conversation with that fellow see what they need to feel like they’re being successful in their own right with their or with that organization. And just, again, it’s coming back to like those retention strategies, like what are you doing to retain really great hires in a lot of times that looks like autonomy, given you know, responsibility, that where they feel like they’re making an impact and making a difference, a lot of fellows feel like they can do that without having to go and start their own thing.

Mat Zalk 20:39

Yeah, entrepreneurial. People within larger organizations have huge impacts. I mean, obviously, all the people at Google that have started different than the person that I think YouTube’s a bad example, because I bought that business, but some of the people that started, you know, Google Docs and these these intrepid kind of forward thinking, folks, we’re we’re employees that an organization and just felt the that entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to go kind of create something that’s, that’s better. So not everybody needs to be putting their own capital at risk in order to feel like, you know, real, real entrepreneurial spirit. Among the among the fellows that you see as most successful in in the organizations that, you know, where they, where they are, where they’re placed, what are some? What are some similarities or some characteristics that you see that that maybe aid with those six with their success? Or just correlated with their success? Amount?

Mandi Ford Argo 21:28

Yeah, that’s a really good question. I mean, I immediately again, think of Joe, I get a lot of autonomy, a lot of trusting him to take on projects and responsibility where he can have and drive impact. So like, he’s really involved with the 19 day studio that they’re launching. So, so cool. Um, so it’s very aligned with like, you know, his personal goals and what he wants to accomplish. He’s learning all the time, he has access to leadership. So he’s learning directly from, you know, Jacob, and, and the leadership team. So that’s what I would say are like some of the consistent features is the access to leadership for that mentorship type experience, a lot of autonomy, and that ability to do the work that feels impactful. And a lot of that is going to come from really solid communication. Because sometimes when you’re like that young, in your earlier career, you don’t know where the work that you’re doing is important or not, has an impact. So hearing from leadership about why the work that you’re doing matters, can go a really, really long way. So yeah, those are those are probably the key things I would

Mat Zalk 22:40

I mean, just sounds amazing, taking on responsibility, grabbing the bull by the horns, kind of asking for more when when, I mean, those are all amazing things. Sometimes, again, with entrepreneurship, it’s just about grit. I mean, it’s about saying, I own this problem, I’m going to solve this problem come hell or high water. And, you know, sometimes that’s just that’s busting out a bunch of doors, I say, in our business, like, you know, they’re they’re towns in Oklahoma, where you need to turn on water with a paper form and a check and you in and you take it into the office, and they will not accept anything over the phone or a credit card or anything else. And I say to my team, like let’s find a you cannot drive to that town, every time you want to turn on some water, it’s ridiculous. So go in there with a with a, a basket of goodies, a box of doughnuts, but whatever, to sweeten this situation to find a solution for this one little problem that we have, that really turns out to be a thorn in the side, but like somebody needs to think through the solution. And if job is just thinking through the solution, it doesn’t have doesn’t rely on Jacob or on on joey to drive the solution downward. That’s an amazing, I mean, that’s an entrepreneur in your organization. Some big some big VFA wins. I mean, anything from the 2021 class that you’re proud of that you that you think our listeners should hear. Actually, before we talk about that 90 days, we should do a plug for 90 days, because that’s an awesome, that’s a venture studio, that Jacob and Joey started. I think I’ve got Joey coming on the podcast at some point in the next little bit. We’re investors in that, in 90 days, I was super excited that that that thing started their new opera, the first opportunity that they’re really capturing is something around something related to banking, and the kind of general ecosystem of banking and document storage every time you have to apply for a new loan, you’ve got to put together 1000 documents. And so there’s not really a repository where all this works, it makes it easy from the facilitates the process. I don’t really know. But Joe is gonna talk to us about it when he when he comes on shortly, but I’m happy. I’m happy to hear that that’s at that venture Studios is pushing along and doing well. But ask you another question, and I forgot

Mandi Ford Argo 24:36

what it was wins for the 2021 cohort. Um, so thinking, thinking nationally about VFA and some of our wins. I mean, for one VFA launched in Tulsa and 2021. So like, that’s a win.

Mat Zalk 24:52

Yes. Thanks to you for that. We’re so happy that you’re here. Yeah, so

Mandi Ford Argo 24:56

good. I mean, that led me to be here. So that’s really tightening, we were able to get 10 fellows and Tulsa, which is the most we’ve gotten for a brand new VFA city. So 2021 was an exciting year for VFA, just in our expansion efforts, and, you know, launching in a whole new market. So super exciting about that. We had a number of really great companies, by fellow founders who went through our own accelerator, and they’re doing some really great work. There’s one called athletic who they were founded by some fellows. A few years ago, they went through our accelerator, they’re now in TechStars. They’re just doing really increased, like really amazing work and blowing up like crazy. They’ve raised a bunch of money. So yeah, we’ve got some really great fellow founders who are doing great work with starting their own businesses and using VFA as a launchpad to make that happen. And then locally thinking about Tulsa and the work that we’re doing here. I mean, we were able to host our annual alumni reunion, our rise retreat, which is a dei Leadership Conference for some of our fellows who lead affiliation groups. And then redox, which is that second year professional development intensive for a second year fellows posted all of that in Tulsa in May. So we had about 200 VFA folks come to town for about a week experienced folks that were you know, they’ve never been here before. Connect with folks like, you know, Mike Bosch and build in Tulsa and act Tulsa and Dom and just it was really amazing experience. So first year getting to do some in person things after COVID Getting to do them in Tulsa, which was just amazing for me to see. So lots of wins for sure.

Mat Zalk 26:47

So much of you know, growing entrepreneurial ecosystem just seems to be getting more publicity for Tulsa. People don’t know where Tulsa is. So when somebody says, hey, I need to recruit top talent for this position, and somebody’s never heard of Tulsa, it’s really difficult to recruit them. But if they’ve heard of Tulsa, or they maybe have been here through a BFA program or through through one of my bosses programs as an he calls him a 10 turns, that’s their internship program. I love that the attendance then, you know, they’re they’re just top of mind brand recognition is, you know, leads them to an easier decision actually be here. So it’s I love that. Absolutely. What how has Mike been helpful to VFA in general through attend to UK FF tell us a little bit about that ecosystem and how and how they’ve all been helpful.

Mandi Ford Argo 27:30

Yeah. How has it Mike? Not been helpful. I mean, he was like a huge champion from bringing VFA to Tulsa, which was very exciting. Um, I mean, he like small scale stuff. Like he led the leadership training for our Redux this year. And I mean, our fellows just ate it up. They loved his story they were hearing from him. He’s hired a fellow Chrissy Brannon who’s there, and she’s crushing it. And then attend to in general, I mean, just constantly making introductions, pulling our fellows into the ecosystem. So you know, their first Friday art for all event that they host in their office. My fellows are always there, doing all of the attentive events. I mean, they’re just Mike has really led the way in opening a lot of doors and making connections and pulling VFA into the entrepreneurial ecosystem so that we can have pathways forward for our fellows when they decide to you know, jump into being founders find the resources that they need, and find community

Mat Zalk 28:36

to someone who else in our community here in Tulsa has been helpful.

Mandi Ford Argo 28:39

Yeah, um, build in Tulsa is another really stellar organization. They are if you’re not familiar building, Tulsa is really focusing on underrepresented founders, specifically from black and brown communities. So they are doing a ton of work to support a lot of our fellows and they’ve had conversations with fellows that are interested in starting a business and bringing them to Tulsa and plugging them in with resources here. The Act wholesale accelerator which falls under the building Tulsa, umbrella, Dominic artists, who leaves that and was the founder of act house, again, just an incredible resource and connector and champion of all things VFA in general, George Kaiser Family Foundation whose primary funder but also just more than that, like really focusing on how do we create a community that brings people in and makes them feel at home and like they can put down roots here and grow. The Schusterman Family Foundation is another amazing funder. And same thing like really just wanting to create community and make sure that this is a place where our fellows can come in, be founders be successful, and put down roots here. So I mean, I’m sure I’ve missed some folks, but these are the this is my team. You know, it was like

Mat Zalk 29:58

a super welcoming and supporting committee. So I’m happy to be there. That’s the case. Dominic, I tried to get Dominic on the podcast he’s helped studying Arabic at Middlebury for the summer the intensive what do they call the Middlebury College program the like the language, the immersive language program. I thought that was awesome. Oh, he did Hebrew I think last summer Susie and Arabic this. Awesome. Immediately I saw that. And I was like, I email my wife, I was like, I’ve got to get to Middlebury to get back to my Arabic studies. You know, like, so cool. You can have beautiful language. That’s, that’s awesome. That’s great to hear that the community is welcome and receptive to this idea of having the event in town and actively promoting it. So it’s, I just love to hear that. So much great stuff happening, and also that we want to get out there to the world. And people understand that we’re doing fun stuff. And we are actively trying to nurture the entrepreneurial community because it helps all of us live better lives. What are you focusing on when you’re not working on VFA? stuff? What are you focusing on? What are you reading? What podcasts are you ingesting? What generally inspires you towards more action and more creativity?

Mandi Ford Argo 30:57

Yeah, really good question. So I we were talking about this a little bit, I have a 19 month old daughter who takes up all of my other free time and then an eight week old puppy that if he takes a you know, the rest of it, so a lot of time spent on the kiddos. And then I just started reading Adam grants, give and take, it’s one of Mike bashes recommendations, amazing bog, looking at how to be effectively altruistic, making sure that you are able to give back to the community in a really strategic way that doesn’t burn you out. And also, you know, sets you up for success. It’s I mean, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s really wonderful. And then I personally am super focused on DTI work and how I can better build my own skills. As someone who never considered herself a founder or thought that I would be personally an entrepreneur and really focus on being like a part of the ESO entrepreneurial support organization side. I’m starting to have some ideas around something I could launch in the DEI space. And so I’ve been spending a lot of evenings doing some research and learning more about how to start my own business. So hire VFA fellow to help you as a fellow. So that’s, that’s really what I’ve been focusing a lot of my time on, for sure.

Mat Zalk 32:28

I love it. It’s hard when you have a 19 month old and as I was telling you, I’ve got three year old twin girls and another baby girl. That’s like 15 months, it’s it’s hard to find time alone, it often happens at seven or 730 or eight when your kids are asleep. But then you’re exhausted the day has just taken its toll. I find that early early morning is the best time to get things done before your kids wake up. You know, these days, I was also telling I just got back from Greece and my kids are on like a little bit of a funny schedule. So they’re up at 330 in the morning, because they’re jetlag they’re like 330 to 430 Somebody asked to help them with food and then get settled back into bed so that we can all get a couple more hours of should I but you know, I’m up at 530 Anyway, so it’s it’s a tough transition.

Mandi Ford Argo 33:11

For sure. That’s rough Um We’re finally out of the out of the weeds or out of the woods but the like late middle of the night wake ups but yeah, buying and digesting that’s

Mat Zalk 33:25

sleep regressions come at some point to give and take why helping others drives our success. That’s Adam Grant love that. I’m gonna pick that up. I have Mike has a copy of that, that I can steal. Thank you. He’s got to hopefully, we’ll end with Manny, thank you for being on the show. We really appreciate your perspective on entrepreneurship in our environment of entrepreneurship and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Dei. Where can people learn more about the work that you’re doing it? Yeah,

Mandi Ford Argo 33:55

great question. is our website. You can also reach me anytime feel free to email at Mandi [email protected] I’m happy to sit down and chat about what we do and how we can collaborate. Those are the easiest way to figure out who we are as an organization and how to get in get in touch.

Mat Zalk 34:17

Awesome. Mandi is the director of Tulsa for Venture for America. She has been in Tulsa since 2020. We’re so happy to have her here. Thank you for being on the show. You and I have a conversation right after this about Keyrenter are getting involved with VFA fellows. So thanks for being on. I appreciate you.

Mandi Ford Argo 34:32

Thank you for having me.

Outro 34:37

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