by Lindsay Cuomo
The vibrancy of any city rests heavily on the people and businesses that inhabit its streets and neighborhoods. Local businesses are the heartbeat that keeps a city alive, both figuratively and literally.
“Cities live and die by the sales tax,” Sara Kaplan, the retail marketing coordinator for the City of Norman, shared.
Strong businesses are important for the economy of a city and a healthy business environment is part of that, which is why Kaplan works to strengthen relationships between the city and the businesses that call Norman home.
It is Kaplan’s background that gives her insight few others have. Kaplan moved to Norman in 1989 when her family came to town to operate Subway restaurants. She grew up working in her family’s businesses, gaining valuable insights she uses today.
“My family used to own all the Subways in Norman,” she said. “I like to joke that I am the youngest person with 30 years of small business experience in Norman.”
After graduating Norman High School in 1999, she took to a bit of a rebellious path and majored in geology at the University of Oklahoma.
“I joke with my dad about my degree, that it was a bit of a rebellion,” Kaplan explained. “I was always into science. I went to OU even though that wasn’t my intention but it just fell in place. I got both a bachelors and masters in geology.”
But, she didn’t stay on her rebellious path for long and soon after graduating, she helped open a business locally with her husband, Matt, and her parents in downtown Norman. Over time, Kaplan got more involved with organizations that helped other small businesses, one of which being the Oklahoma Small Business Development Center, an organization that offers business management advising at no charge.
With the connections made through her business relationships, Kaplan made the transition into her current role with Norman’s city government. Today, Kaplan’s position has her often in the role of liaison, assisting business owners and developers from various walks.
“I work with lots of people as the point person within city hall, helping coordinate efforts, offering local insights,” she explained. “I deal with everything from large corporations to a small mom and pop shop.”
Kaplan’s work with these businesses focuses on both current endeavors and the future of Norman. Kaplan sees that the landscape of Norman is changing, which means businesses are changing as well.
“Norman is a growing community. We are in a different position than we have been historically,” Kaplan said. “We hit a population milestone in 2003 and now we are transiting into a small city.”
While change can be difficult at times, Kaplan sees plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
“Norman has a lot of decisions to make about our future but I see a lot of positivity.”
Kaplan is currently working on preparations for Norman’s annual National Small Business Week. This May, potential Norman business can take advantage of classes and other resources aimed directly at helping people get their small business up and running.
“I am really excited about this event,” Kaplan said. “We add new things every year and I am looking forward to growing the week’s events.”
When Kaplan is not working, she enjoys traveling, rock collecting and spending time with her husband and daughter Stella. Despite being quite busy with her career and hobbies, including planning an annual music festival called Norman Porch Fest, she also likes to carve out time to be at home.
“I am a bit of a home body. I like to be at home, spending time with my dogs and reading.” – BSM