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Woman- and Native American-owned Tiger Natural Gas has earned stripes in Tulsa
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Woman- and Native American-owned Tiger Natural Gas has earned stripes in Tulsa

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Tulsa-based Tiger Natural Gas recently landed an $8 million-plus federal contract and is in the middle of moving to a new building.

But with her company soaring, owner and president Lori Johnson remains grounded.

It’s just her way.

“I’m a big tither. I corporately tithe to a lot of organizations here in Tulsa,” she said. “I’m a strong believer in helping do things for other people, and I think that is the key to my success.

“There is no other reason why we have survived when so many other companies have not. Thirty years. That’s a long time, especially in our industry when companies get bought and sold and go out of business.”

Headed by a woman and Native American — Johnson is a Muscogee citizen — Tiger is a rare corporate animal.

Only about 18.3% (1 million) of all U.S. businesses are minority-owned and just 19.9% (1.1 million) of all businesses are owned by women, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2019 Annual Business Survey (ABS), covering reference year 2018.

But Johnson hasn’t just carved a niche; she has owned it.

Three times since 2012, Tiger Natural Gas has been ranked by Diversitybusiness.com as the top woman-owned business in the state. In 2012 and 2013, Johnson was named Native American Woman-Owned Business of the Year by National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development.

“I started back in ‘91 working in an extra bedroom of my house,” Johnson said. “I had someone who did my accounting. We just are blessed.”

A third-party supplier, Tiger moves more than 50 million cubic feet of natural gas annually, feeding such clients as IHOP, McDonald’s, Oklahoma City Public Schools and Department of Defense facilities in Oklahoma, Texas, California and New Mexico. With 44 employees, it has field offices in Boulder, Colorado, and Pittsburgh.

Tiger recently won a $8.67 million contract to supply natural gas to Department of Defense facilities in Oklahoma. Delivery starts in December.

“Being a small company, you don’t have a lot of hoops you have to go through,” Johnson said. “But our customers are very important to us. We try to treat them the way we would want to be treated.

“We all have to make money, right? But we try to be open and honest with them. It seems to have worked for us.”

Tiger is customizing roughly a 12,000-square-foot building it bought for its new headquarters at 7812 E. 108th St.

Workers are scheduled to relocate in early July.

“It’s a really big move,” Johnson said. “I should have done it about 20 years ago. We have always just rented. Finally, our lease was up and I just said, `it’s time.’”

Featured video:

Tulsa Day Center's William Bellamy reflects about his 35 years of work. Ian Maule/Tulsa World

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