In speaking with present and past Spirit Award participants, almost all of them declare the most valuable element of the competition is not the cash prize. It is the coaching they receive throughout the process.
“In the beginning, I thought, ‘What will they tell me about my company that I don’t already know?’” said Part-Time Pros co-founder Brett Baker. “And it’s been completely opposite of that. They bring fresh ideas and new concepts and really give us things to think about.”
Likewise, Rick Butefish, CEO of Filters4Me.com, said, “I thought the (coaches) gave our issues and our effort a lot of thought, because the things that came out of it were very helpful.”
“And I will say, I had doubts initially that this process would be as helpful as it was,” he said. “I was pleasantly surprised that it really did add value to our effort and (help us realize) we don’t have all the answers. The more people you get to look at you and provide constructive criticism and helpful suggestions, it really is beneficial.”
Garrett Blackwood, founder of Blue Label Bartending, said that while the coaching was beneficial, his favorite element of the process was the question-and-answer session that followed each pitch he gave. He said being put on the spot while his presentation and plan were fresh in the judges’ minds provided him the most useful feedback.
The judges and coaches who provide their expertise to Spirit Award contestants do so purely out of support for the entrepreneurs competing in the award and their businesses. They aren’t paid and often have to take time out of their busy schedules for the award.
Their guidance benefits not only the award participants, but the rest of the community as well. By offering their time and expertise to these few business owners, they are aiding and encouraging entrepreneurialism in Tulsa.
The 2009 Spirit Award judges are:
Ted Cundiff, president of Metro Markets for SpiritBank
Jim East, principal of Strategies for Oklahoma LLC
Greg D. Forrest, president and CEO of Xeta Technologies
Sean Griffin, founder of Vizalution LLC and chair of the Spirit Award
Jeff Horvath, vice president of Entrepreneurial Education Foundation
Bill Lohrey, partner at Lohrey & Associates PLLC
P. Vincent LoVoi, managing partner at Mimosa Tree Capital Partners LLC
Tamara J. Walden, president of Walden Energy and executive adviser at Yaka Energy
Victor Wandres, general counsel and director of leasing and marketing for Kanbar Properties
Rose Washington, executive director of Tulsa Economic Development Corporation
The 2009 Spirit Award coaches are:
Kristen Bergman, president of Atmos Strategic Communications
Darren Fuqua, co-owner of HRBusiness Links
Gavin Manes, president and CEO at Avansic
Cari Marshall, president of L&M Office Furniture
Mike Sharp, accountant
Greg Williams, CEO of Properties Plus
Kent Williams, co-owner of HRBusiness Links
Chris Zenthoefer, president of New Medio