Partner Spotlight: Keep It Local OK

October 3, 2022

You’re probably familiar with Keep It Local cards- maybe you have one, or have seen them proudly displayed at your favorite local spots like Ida Red, Chimera, or Made. Keep It Local cards offer incentives for “keepin’ it local” and supporting small businesses in the Tulsa and OKC areas. We’re excited to have them as partners here at 36 Degrees North and give our members, locals and new Tulsans alike, a chance to learn more about local businesses in our city!

Keep It Local OK Co-Founders, Chris Branson + Bryce Bandy

Written by Keep It Local Co-Founder Bryce Bandy:

In late 2009, my friend and now co-founder, Chris Branson, came to me with the idea of what would become Keep It Local OK. At the time, I was working with small businesses and restaurants as a freelance photographer and graphic designer in Oklahoma City. When Chris shared the concept of Keep It Local, it made total sense to me and I honestly couldn’t believe that no one had done it already. As the type of person who would give recommendations to my friends and family about all of the coolest places to eat and shop, the idea of turning that into a business seemed like a dream job.

When we launched the program in 2010, the biggest challenge we saw for all of the new coffee shops, restaurants, and retailers that were popping up was affordable promotion and exposure to the right customers. Most of them didn’t have big advertising budgets, if any at all, so they relied mainly on word of mouth. Another issue is that Oklahoma City is spread over 620 square miles, and at that time (in the beginning stages of social media as we now know it) most people didn’t even know about, much less where to find, all of these new places. A lot of the new businesses were located in emerging neighborhood districts that you weren’t likely to stumble across in your daily commute.  Unless you knew someone with their finger on the pulse of what was happening, it was much easier for the general public to end up where it was most convenient - at the mall or eating at a chain restaurant.

We were fortunate to launch our business during the early stages of social media and quickly realized what a great (and free) tool it was for promoting local businesses. As a start up with no money, the community we built through social media became everything. We slowly and steadily gained a large audience who specifically followed us to discover and support local, independent businesses. It became word of mouth on a much larger scale.   

There have been quite a few highlights throughout the years. From the beginning, we had a goal to grow to the point where we could expand outside of Oklahoma City and bring the program to the Tulsa Metro. Partnering with our first few independent businesses in Tulsa felt like a huge win to us. We have since continued to grow into the Stillwater, Guthrie, Enid and Weatherford communities, with a dream to eventually expand statewide. 

Another milestone was the release of our first app in 2014. While there have been multiple updates to that original app, we are happy to say we will be releasing a brand new and much improved Keep It Local app very soon.  While meeting our growth goals and releasing an app was great, I would say the biggest highlights have been the partnerships and relationships we have made over the years.  

Very early on we knew we wanted to work with local artists to design our Keep It Local Card each year. Not only does that give our cards a fresh and diverse look every year, it gives us the opportunity to promote some of the most amazing artists Oklahoma has to offer.  So far, we’ve had the privilege of working with Mauricio Cremer, Grant Hill, Chris Castro, Scott Scrivner, Jerrod Smith, Matt Goad, Aaron Whisner, Desmond Mason, Jason Pawley, Denise Duong, Sarah Sullivan, Tony Thunder, and Jake Beason.  It’s been an honor to work with the artists and fun to share their artwork with a larger audience.

In 2016, we started partnering with local non-profits. We choose a local non-profit from both the Tulsa and Oklahoma City metro every year and give them $1 from every card sold throughout that year. To-date we have partnered with The Margaret Hudson Program (TUL), OK Foster Wishes (OKC), Street School (TUL), Positive Tomorrows (OKC), The Pencil Box (TUL), Infant Crisis Center (OKC), The Foundation for Tulsa Schools (TUL), The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKC), New Hope Oklahoma (TUL), City Care (OKC), Lindsey House (TUL), and Restore OKC (OKC). We’ve been able to donate close to $70,000 so far thanks to the support of our community.

Oklahoma’s Credit Union has been another great partner to Keep It Local since the beginning. We’ve worked together on various events, developed an economic study, and created the “Oklahoma Originals” Video Series where we get the opportunity to interview small business owners who participate in our program about how and why they started their businesses in Oklahoma - it’s been fun to share their stories.

We’ve also enjoyed partnering with KOSU (local Oklahoma NPR affiliate) over the years to give away Keep It Local Cards to their supporters during membership drives.

 And, of course it’s been a pleasure to sponsor 36 Degrees North and support the mission over the last few years by providing members with a complimentary Keep It Local Card to enjoy. 

We’re also excited about our newest partnership with Rivet Corp. - a Tulsa based FinTech company and a fellow member of the 36 Degrees North community. We are currently collaborating with Rivet to develop a Keep It Local banking app using their collaborative banking platform which will offer some features that we think will be valuable to both small business owners and the community who chooses to support them.   

While the message and methods may have changed over the years, our mission at Keep It Local has always remained the same: To help people discover and support the best local places to eat, shop and play in Oklahoma. Focusing on that mission allows us to provide local businesses with a targeted audience of potential customers and an affordable way to reach them.

We are very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many amazing businesses, artists, non-profits, and organizations over the past 13 years and are looking forward to continued growth and new partnerships in the future!

Anyone who owns, manages or works for a locally-owned Oklahoma business who might be interested in learning more about the benefits of the Keep It Local program and the qualifications to join, can visit their website or follow their Instagram page!