Spirit Award: What It Is, How It Works

For three years, Mayor Kathy Taylor’s Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, sponsored by SpiritBank and in a strategic partnership with Tulsa Business Journal, has encouraged and awarded the city’s most innovative entrepreneurs.
The competition is the brain child of Spirit Award Chairman Sean Griffin, who hoped to replicate the entrepreneurial energy in his native Silicon Valley in California.
Since its inception, the Spirit Award has recognized six entrepreneurs, awarding four of them with cash prizes, and three more winners will be announced Nov. 17.
But those nine aren’t the only ones who have benefited from the contest. Every year, 25 applicants are chosen by Spirit Award judges to hand over their business plans and present a seven-minute pitch. That experience alone is enough to propel an entrepreneur to the next level of his business. Even if they don’t move past that round, they are given insight into their business and are encouraged to go forward and succeed.
Following the business plan submission and seven-minute pitch, 12 semi-finalists are selected to receive one-on-one (or sometimes two-on-one) coaching from Spirit Award judges, local business owners and executives who volunteer their time for the betterment of Tulsa’s entrepreneurial community.
During the coaching process, the coaches, whose expertise varies from legal to financial to administrative, thoroughly examine the entrepreneur’s business, questioning every aspect of the plan, suggesting alternate ideas and providing leads and resources that may be helpful to the entrepreneur.
The entrepreneurs use what they learn in the coaching sessions to update and amend their business plans and prepare to present five-minute pitches to the coaches.
After reviewing their revised plans and listening to and questioning their pitches, the judges narrow the pool of contestants down again, this time to seven finalists.
Those seven, featured on pages 14 through 17 of this issue, participated in one last coaching session, updated their business plans again and presented their final pitches to the judges. They were allowed only two minutes.
The competition, by requiring three revisions of the business plan, helps the entrepreneur fully think through and understand his business. The multiple pitching rounds help prepare the entrepreneur to pitch his business to venture capitalists, angel investors and anyone else who might take an interest or be able to help.
By awarding three entrepreneurs per year, the Spirit Award encourages countless others, helping to create a culture of entrepreneurship in Tulsa.
If business owners and entrepreneurs know their city supports local entrepreneurship, they feel encouraged to start developing new businesses and to keep them in Tulsa, contributing to the local economy.
This year, Tulsa Business Journal engaged in a strategic partnership with the Spirit Award, providing continual coverage of the event in every issue. We support and applaud all of the entrepreneurs who participated in this year’s competition, as well as others who start and maintain businesses, small and large, in Tulsa.  



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