Five doors closed on Brent Kisling before he walked through the sixth door and opened a B&B with his wife, Jennifer. “I thought I knew it all,” says the Executive Director of the Enid Regional Development Alliance who graduated from OSU with a major in Economics. “But then five banks turned us down. We kept at it because we were passionate about it. The next bank approved us, but we learned something from all of the others, too.”
The Kislings eventually sold Maple Place in 2012, after it became the largest B&B in the state. The reasons Brent launched the business in the first place, and the lessons he learned along the way, serve as a primer for wannabe entrepreneurs.
Maple Place was born because of a perceived need in the community as well as in the Kislings’ own family. “Before we opened up in 1999,” he says, “Enid didn’t have very many nice hotel rooms. There weren’t many choices for VIPs who came to town. So we wanted to do something that would give back to the community.”
“We also started the business because we wanted something we could work on as a family. My wife is a gourmet cook and amazing at hospitality. I have an agrarian background of being able to repair things. Now we have two kids who know how to fix a toilet, tile a shower, and take care of a leaky pipe. We did all of those things together.”
As Brent crawled under the house to fix plumbing and answered calls from guests at 2:00 am, it helped to remember a speech he’d heard early in his career. “I’ll never forget what Chad Smith said when he was Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation,” recalls Kisling. “He said, ‘The reason you get involved in economic development in a community is so that when your kids grow up and graduate and want to move into the workforce, you’ve got opportunities for them so that you can keep family units closer together.’”
So what does that kind of economic development involvement look like? It is all in, and it is intentional.” A lot of folks come through our doors, because my office is in the business incubator here in Enid,” says Kisling. “And many of them just want to stick their toe in entrepreneurship while maintaining another full time job. And that makes it very difficult to be successful because entrepreneurs have to be willing to put everything on the line.”
That kind of 100% commitment helps when the job is less than glamorous. “Running a B&B is not Bob Newhart’s world all the time,” laughs Kisling. “Most of the time is spent cleaning up dirty rooms or dealing with personnel issues. It can’t be just about starting a business to make money. It really needs to be an extension of yourself and what you’re giving to your community so people will buy your goods or services.”
Even all these years after Brent and Jennifer opened their B&B, he recalls how the community contributed to their success. “After the banks started saying no to us, we went to the local small business development center and talked to a gentleman named Bill Gregory. He helped us perfect our financial package and showed us how to capture some equity we hadn’t known we had.”
“Today I serve on the advisory council for small business development centers because I want to give back a little bit to the organizations that have helped us so much.”
Kisling is also active in the Enid Entrepreneurship Leadership Series, or EELS. Of the organization, Kisling says, “It’s fairly unique to have all entrepreneurial programs under one umbrella, but that’s what we do at EELS. It’s a joint effort of Autry Technology Center, Northern Oklahoma College, Northwestern Oklahoma State University, Enid Public Schools, and the Enid Regional Development Alliance. All of the principals of those organizations get together once a month to make sure our entrepreneurial efforts are continuous.”
“There are activities at Autry during the summer to encourage kids to think outside the box. Northwestern hosts entrepreneurial seminars. There is also a boot camp for those thinking about starting a business. Then, we just finished our business plan competition.”
“With EELS, we take our community from the inspirational level all the way through to a completed business plan and then a physical location here in Enid.”
“I believe Enid truly has an entrepreneurial spirit and a lot of it comes from the way that we were born in September of 1893.That mentality has continued for the last 125 years as we have just kind of let entrepreneurship happen. But today we have a very active business incubator that is almost always full. We are deliberate in our efforts to help grow businesses.”
OVF Would Like to Introduce our
Chairman Elect for the
Brad Rickelman is the Assistant Director of the Meridian Technology Center business incubator. Brad’s primary responsibilities include program development and marketing the program to the community and region; he also consults with resident and virtual tenants, particularly on marketing and product management. Brad’s background is in product management and B2B marketing. Brad has a Bachelors in Business Management, and Masters in Philosophy, both from Texas A&M University. He served as Grand Master of Freemasons of Oklahoma in 2013. He lives in Stillwater with his wife, Dr. Jean VanDelinder.
“I look forward to working with you in continuing our tradition of great speakers and events. Over the next year I’d like us to focus on finding individuals and organizations interested in our mission and participating in our events – our membership makes OVF meaningful. We should also use our events to highlight – and assist – entrepreneurs as they work to increase Oklahoma’s economy.” ~ Brad Rickelman
No Man’s Land Foods, LLC
There’s a small portion of land located in the center of this great nation called “No Man’s Land” – the panhandle of Oklahoma. Buffalo, coyotes, Native American Indians and Outlaws all roamed this forsaken land. Drying meat for a protein rich main-stay became a necessity of life! In 1997, the Smiths perfected a great tasting authentic-style jerky recipe that harkens back to this bygone era. Through our unique slow dehydration process, No Man’s Land Beef Jerky continues to be the highest quality old-style jerky on the market.
Pete Dillingham presently serves as CFO, VP of Sales and Board Chairman of No Man’s Land Foods. Mr. Dillingham is the former Chief Operating Officer of Advance Food Company and served in that role from March 2000 to September 2010. Mr. Dillingham also served as Senior Vice President, Sales Operations of AdvancePierre Foods from October 2010 to June 2013. Mr. Dillingham served as a director of AdvancePierre Foods Holdings (NSE:APFH) from 2014 until it sold to Tyson in 2017. Mr. Dillingham served as CEO of Suits Enterprises from 1996 to 2000. Mr. Dillingham presently serves on the boards of REVx Technologies, Inc., Envirotech Engineering, Inservices, Inc. and the Denny Price YMCA. Mr. Dillingham has previously served on the board of directors of Cherokee Strip Community Foundation, Loaves & Fishes of Northwest Oklahoma and Leadership Oklahoma. Mr. Dillingham holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Petroleum Engineering from Colorado School of Mines and lives with his wife Annie and their 3 daughters in Enid.
The University of Oklahoma
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