Local companies are the experts of making a business flourish under the special circumstances that Oklahoma State University creates in Stillwater.
“They are very unique in how they have to structure to accommodate students’ needs,” analyzes Jake Dyer, (a) senior at OSU.
How exactly do Stillwater businesses establish and maintain the symbiotic relationship with OSU?
Stillwater being a college town strongly affects its dynamic. The influence of OSU is undeniable and builds a special environment for local businesses. Regardless of some challenges, Stillwater firms and OSU benefit from each other on a daily basis.
Local companies, such as B&V Body Works Gym, recognize a big portion of their clients as OSU students. That is not a surprise considering there are 24,649 OSU students in a town of 49,527 residents, which means that roughly 50% of Stillwater population are OSU students. Local businesses have to create their business plan to fulfill the needs of a college town.
Body Works gym manager, Tyler Murrell, lists seasonal changes as one of their biggest challenges.
“When school is out, there is a dropdown of clients because not so many students are mixed up with the regulars,” Murrell says. “Beginning of the year and before summer are always busy because people are trying to get in shape.”
Dyer, however, offers a client's perspective for a simple solution to turn around the challenges created by a college town environment. He said that targeting students is simply what companies in Stillwater should bank on.
“Small businesses also need something different to attract customers from big businesses,” Dyer argues.
The fair share of students within Stillwater’s customer base indeed asks for creativity. Body Works, for example, offers flexibility for students’ hectic schedules to attract them.
“We are a 24/7 gym, which has been very beneficial for students during Covid-19 because Colvin isn’t open on regular hours,” Murrell explains.
Body Works’ flexible hours and special programs seem to suit OSU students well. According to Murrell, students participating in OSU powerlifting program as well as the Pom Squad are among their regular customers. In addition, Body Works offers various classes on different times throughout the week, to accommodate student’s needs and schedules. Murrell mentions Monday’s and Friday’s Zumba classes being popular among students.
Among Body Works, Stillwater extrudes great examples of “something different.” Unique environment requires unique products and services that are tailored for its customers.
Local specialities, such as Eskimo Joes’ famous cheese fries, tempt curious customers to try out products outside nationwide chain companies.
“I like trying new things,” Dyer says. “I prefer going to small places if I have time.”
When it comes to restaurants, Dyer’s opinion is fairly common.
Small places tend to have another quality that draws customers, great customer service. Body Works’ Facebook page, for example, is full of praises about the company and its staff. It is common for owners of small businesses to run the store by themselves. The smaller the business is, the more limited its resources. The staff is usually small.
In a college town, students are the desired workforce. They are quick learners, full of enthusiasm, don’t require a fat paycheck and tend to have flexible schedules. Body works, too, is a workplace for one lucky OSU student.
Dyer enlightens his experience in working for a small local bank. “I think that it’s much more personal for customers and employees. You’re not just a number.”
Mace Metcalf, an OSU alumnus, has worked in several Stillwater businesses, such as the Links golf course and the Quarters apartment complex, while studying at OSU. Metcalf said working at a smaller business level feels more personal, which makes work more enjoyable, too.
(The) OSU community benefits from job opportunities offered by local businesses. Work experience and salary are vital for the future of thousands (of) OSU students. Along with helping students, Stillwater firms lend a helping hand for other local companies as well.
“Stillwater business helped me every day at work,” says Metcalf. “Whether it was ordering parts from a company or helping out one another.”
Teamwork, instead of ruthless competition, is what happens when Southern hospitality meets small town friendliness.
“There were always opportunities to work with other businesses,” Metcalf concludes.
Stillwater functions to suit both, local students and businesses. Cooperation enables companies to make profit, students to learn and customers to receive first-class service. To maintain this great balance in Stillwater, Metcalf reminds everyone to support their small local businesses.