Strategy and Surprise: TBJ’s Partnership with the Spirit Award

We at the Tulsa Business Journal, in addition to providing business leaders with news and information that enable them to successfully manage their endeavors, also feel it is our responsibility to support and encourage our city’s small business owners and entrepreneurs. It is because of them that our economy thrives and our community embraces art, innovation and philanthropy.
It was out of a desire to actively encourage entrepreneurship in Tulsa — rather than just watch it happen and occasionally report on it — that we jumped at the opportunity to forge a strategic partnership with the 2009 Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.
Since April, we have participated in the award process, interviewing its participants, listening to them pitch their businesses to a room full of suit-clad executives, watching them sweat and squirm under the pressure. We’ve gotten to know them personally as well as professionally, and we’ve watched their businesses morph from big ideas to viable, operating companies.
We’ve spoken with the seasoned business leaders, executives and entrepreneurs who volunteer their time as either coaches or judges in the process. We’ve listened as they’ve criticized these novice entrepreneurs, questioning their goals and methods, offering ideas, suggestions and resources. It is with great care and concern for their success that the coaches and judges have made themselves and their experiences available to the participants.
Out of more than 80 applicants, 25 were chosen by Spirit Award judges to advance to the first round of the competition, where they developed business models, wrote out their plans and presented a seven-minute pitch.
Of those, 12 semi-finalists further advanced, receiving additional coaching and further refining their models, plans and pitches.
As you read through this commemorative issue of Tulsa Business Journal, dedicated to the Spirit Award competition, you will be introduced to the seven finalists from whom this year’s winners will be picked. You’ll read about how the award process impacted their businesses and how their businesses will impact Tulsa.
You’ll read about the Spirit Award’s other 18 participants, who, though they didn’t win the contest, learned from the process and are implementing what they learned in the development of their businesses. And, you’ll read about additional events and resources dedicated to ensuring the success of local businesses.
Our partnership with the Spirit Award has given us unprecedented access to the inner workings of this innovative competition. As we shared its secrets and progress with our readers, we hoped that others would be as inspired as we were by the process and its participants. We hope, by sharing the information we learned inside the belly of the competition, we can provide others with the information and resources they need to start their own businesses.
We thank Mayor Kathy Taylor, Kell Kelly and SpiritBank, which awards the winners cash prizes, and Spirit Award Chairman Sean Griffin for their unrelenting support of entrepreneurialism in Tulsa. We thank them and the judges, coaches and participants for allowing Tulsa Business Journal to be a part of the Spirit Award this year. And we look forward to continuing our partnership into next year’s competition.
If business owners and entrepreneurs know that their city supports local entrepreneurship, they are encouraged to develop new businesses and keep them in Tulsa.
Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma dominate the state’s economic landscape. The Spirit Award paves a way for prospective entrepreneurs, then helps get them behind the wheel to drive down the road of success.  

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