What is OTEF? OTEF is the Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation, a not-for-profit whose mission is to connect disadvantaged populations to the same resources, connections, and training given to America’s best and brightest entrepreneurs.
Who started it? Francine Hardaway, a former foster parent, her business partner, Ed Nusbaum, and their friend and attorney, Rob Dunaway. They decided over lunch that it was time to do something for the people in their community who were stuck in dead end jobs.
When was it founded? The Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship Foundation (OTEF) launched in November of 2005 as was granted 501c3 status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2006. Following IRS approval, OTEF held the First Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference at the Ritz Carlton in Phoenix, Arizona with the support of New York Times Bestselling Author Michael Gerber, executives from the Kauffman Foundation, and 50 CEOs from across Arizona who shared their experiences with attendees. Proceeds from the conference were sufficient to fund our first program and OTEF was on its way.
How is it funded? Since its inception OTEF has been completely funded through community support and the proceeds of the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference, AZEC, which, over period of eight years, grew into the largest annual event of its kind in Arizona.
Each year speakers from across North America took the stage at AZEC to share their insights and experiences. Proceeds from AZEC and other public support to fund programs that benefit disadvantaged and at-risk populations that truly need a hand up. OTEF’s leadership is currently 100% volunteer with funds allocated to individual project direct expenses as approved by the Board of Directors.
What has OTEF accomplished? In 2007, OTEF helped the women of SEEDS house, a domestic violence half-way house, plan, open, and run a coffee shop in Mesa, Arizona where they could work in a safe environment. The coffee shop, Cup O’Karma, is still in existence and is a favorite of locals and college students from nearby Mesa Community College.
In 2008, partnering with a nonprofit that helps runaway youth, OTEF, in partnership with Tumbleweed, helped a group of young adults start a t-shirt printing business to supply other nonprofits and an art gallery where runaway youth could exhibit their art and receive part of the proceeds from sales. The t-shirt business is still in existence.
In 2009, OTEF shifted gears for the recession, partnering with the Scottsdale Jobs network to offer four “Blueprint for Survival” workshops to help laid off workers develop income streams through involuntary entrepreneurship.
In 2010, OTEF provided services to the Southwest Autism Research and Rehabilitation Center to help it set up sustainable business models for enterprises that train and employ autistic young adults.
In 2011, OTEF ran a program called “Roadmap to Launch” for startup companies that participated in StartupWeekendChandler, a joint program of the City of Chandler Economic Development Department and Gangplank, a non-profit collaborative workspace in downtown Chandler
2011 also marked the launch of the Student Discovery Zone at the AZBio Awards. As of 2021,over 1,000 students have had the opportunity to diplay their work, make connections with industry, find mentors and internship opportunities, and more.
In 2012, OTEF worked with SEEDS for Autism, providing entrepreneurial support to autistic adults. AZEC12 hosts its largest conference to date and featured presentations by successful Arizona entrepreneurs and national though leaders. The Student Discovery Zone Program brings together students and industry at the AZBio Expo and the AZBio Awards.
In 2013, AZEC shifts to the GangPlank facility hosting entrepreneurs and thought leaders in Chandler’s thriving co-working and incubation space.
In 2014, OTEF holds the final AZEC conference at GangPlank. Arizona has now developed a growing body of entrepreneurial education conferences and resources that can continue the work that OTEF began. The OTEF Board begins work to support Arizona’s nascent bioscience ecosystem and partners with AZBio to create D3Bio.
In 2015, OTEF Launched the Mesa Entrepreneurs Round Table supporting local small businesses with mentoring, training and support.
In 2016, OTEF continued to work with the City of Mesa CDC to host the Mesa Entrepreneurs Round Table. To support its bioscience initiative, OTEF enters into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Stetson Family office in New York City ad begins a multi year best practices study of life science innovation ecosystems.
In 2017, OTEF continued to work with the City of Mesa CDC to host the Mesa Entrepreneurs Round Table. Thank to a gift from the LaNelle Robson Foundation, OTEF launches a STEM education program with SySTEM School, a charter school in central Phoenix. OTEF continues work with the Stetson Family Office on the best practices study of life science innovation ecosystems.
In 2018, OTEF continued to work with the City of Mesa CDC to host the Mesa Entrepreneurs Round Table. Thanks to a gift from the LaNelle Robson Foundation, OTEF launches a STEM education program with SySTEM School, a charter school in central Phoenix. OTEF continues work with the Stetson Family Office on the best practices study of life science innovation ecosystems. D3Bio’s Student Discovery Zone program celebrates having served over 900 students at the AZBio Awards.
In 2019, OTEF’s collaboration with the Arizona Bioindustry Association (AZBio) expands to include the AZAdvances initiative following the conclusion of the MOU with Stetson Family Office. AZBio begins a multi year seed-fund development program for AZAdvances supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Agency (EDA). D3Bio’s Student Discovery Zone program celebrates having served over 1,000 students at the AZBio Awards.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic required OTEF programs to shift away from in-person programs and events. In the case of D3Bio’s Student Discovery Zone program students presented a video format and, for the first time, competed for scholarships based on public online voting. OTEF leadership worked with entrepreneurs and non profits to navigate a challenging pandemic world. Fundraising for the AZAdvances initiative is suspended so that our philanthropic partners could focus on the areas of greatest community need.
In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to impact in-person programs and events. In the case of D3Bio’s Student Discovery Zone program students presented a video format and, competed for scholarships based on technical merit and public online voting. OTEF leadership worked with entrepreneurs and non profits to navigate a challenging pandemic world. The AZBio and OTEF teams collaborated to launch a public awareness campaign focused on health innovation supported by funding from AZBio and the EDA grant. Based on data supplied by our media partners (ABC15, CW61, AZ Big Media, Frontdoors, and Trends), these messages were viewed over 2 million times. In the fourth quarter of 2021, the AZAdvances capital campaign re-launched. In addition to traditional fundraising channels. OTEF was accepted by The Giving Block and gained the ability to accept donations of crypto currency. This new channel resulted in the single largest donation OTEF has received in its history.