The Ones to Impress

The judges of Mayor Kathy Taylor’s Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, sponsored by SpiritBank and in a strategic partnership with Tulsa Business Journal, are all successful businessmen and women, a part of the award because they have a passion for entrepreneurship and a desire to help others start and grow strong, successful local businesses.
They also have plenty of experience to share with participants and a keen eye for what business models are mostly likely to succeed and which ones will need a little work before they’re ready to be put into action.
They’ve been chosen to judge the award because of their business savvy, and many of them double as coaches, lending their advice and expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders in the city.
Ted Cundiff, President of Metro Markets, SpiritBank
Ted Cundiff is the president of the metro markets for SpiritBank, sponsor of the Spirit Award and benefactor of its $30,000 grand prize. He’s been with SpiritBank for the past 10 years, and before that he held such titles as commercial lender and location lender and worked in the Business Resource Center, a free referral service housed in SpiritBank that offers entrepreneurs and business owners advice on and assistance with technology, human resources, marketing and legal matters.
In 2007, Cundiff was awarded the Financial Service Champion of the Year from the Tulsa Metro Chamber, and went on to win the award for the state in 2008.
He says what motivates him to be successful is “watching companies grow and thrive.”
Greg D. Forrest, President and CEO, XETA Technologies Inc.
“I have always been a self-starter with a strong desire to succeed and put into action my business philosophies, strategies and ideas,” said Greg Forrest, president and CEO of XETA Technologies Inc.
XETA is an Oklahoma-based telecommunications corporation that sells, installs and services communications solutions for small, medium and Fortune 1000 companies. Forrest has been the company’s president and COO since 2005 and was named CEO in 2007.
Before joining XETA, Forrest founded and operated several fast-growing companies in the clothing, commercial interior and telecommunications industries, including Bluejack Systems LLC. Following XETA’s acquisition of Bluejack in 2004, he served as director of sales for XETA’s Seattle branch. He attended the University of Washington.
Colleen J. Payne-Nabors, CEO, MCI Diagnostic Center
A self-described “serial entrepreneur,” Colleen J. Payne-Nabors is the owner of several successful businesses, including Mobile Cardiac Imaging LLC (dba) MCI Diagnostic Center.
A nuclear medicine technologist, Payne-Nabors first put her nuclear medicine lab on wheels and took it to patients living in rural Oklahoma in 1998. Since then, she’s grown her operation to include three mobile units and the largest outpatient diagnostic imaging center in the state.
Inc. Magazine named MCI Diagnostic Center one of the country’s fastest growing private companies in both 2007 and 2008.
Payne-Nabor’s autobiography/motivational tell-all is titled I Did It My Way and… It Worked. In it, she describes her experiences in entrepreneurship, which obstacles and challenges presented themselves and how she overcame them.
Rose Washington, Executive Director, Tulsa Economic Development Corporation
Rose Washington joined the Tulsa Economic Development Corporation in 2001, because, she said, she’s always been interested in community and in numbers.
“Economic development allows me to empower and impact people, businesses and places,” Washington said.
She became involved with the Spirit Award because it is another way for her to give back to her community, enabling and empowering people to explore their entrepreneurial spirit and grow local businesses.
“I’m an entrepreneur at heart, but don’t own a business. I do run a business – a not-for-profit business for public benefit,” said Washington.
When asked what advice she would offer Spirit Award contestants and/or entrepreneurs, Washington quoted the Kauffman Foundation’s FastTrac New Venture Manual: “You do not need a fantastic idea to start a business, you need a feasible one.”
Jim East, Principal, Strategies For Oklahoma LLC
A Renaissance man of sorts, Jim East is a Muskogee and a journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University. His first career as a reporter and editor ended in the early ‘90s when the Tulsa Tribune closed its doors.
He then began a second career in government, as chief of staff to the mayor of Tulsa for 10 years. A brief stint with an international architect and engineering firm led him into his fourth career as a vice president with the car rental companies Alamo and National, overseeing airport and government relations.
Today, East is the principal of Strategies For Oklahoma LLC, a business consulting enterprise that works with large manufacturers, foundations, construction firms and airport development financiers.
He has served on several governmental boards and commissions for area non-profits, including almost four years as president of Community Action Project of Tulsa County.
Bill Lohrey, Partner, Lohrey & Associates, PLLC
Bill Lohrey, CPA and partner at Lohrey & Associates, PLLC, holds a degree in accounting from Oklahoma State University and a Juris doctorate from the University of Texas.
His professional expertise includes manufacturing, oil and gas and tax-exempt organizations. He is a member of AICPA and OSCPA, and is a Certified Financial Planner.
He concentrates his energies on the Fast Trac program, which educates entrepreneurs on the running of small businesses
Under Bill’s guidance, Lohrey & Associates, was recognized by Oklahoma Governor David Walters as the Small Business Financial Advocate of the year and was selected by Small Business Administration as regional Small Business Financial Advocate of the year for the Southwestern United States.
P. Vincent LoVoi, Managing Partner, Mimosa Tree Capital Partners LLC
Vince LoVoi, managing partner at Mimosa Tree Capital, a venture capital firm focused on startup and turnaround businesses, said he first became interested in entrepreneurship when he realized that the most interesting clients at his law firm were startup entrepreneurs.
LoVoi was a managing partner of the European Union policy practice at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP in Brussels and has also worked for Oklahoma Congressman Mike Synar and the Warner-Lambert Company.
He completed his undergraduate education at Notre Dame University and received his law degree from George Washington University.
LoVoi said he became interested in participating in the Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award as a judge because “Tulsa has a very low tipping point, and a small handful of successful innovators could fundamentally change the city for the better.”
Tamara J. Walden, President/Executive Advisor, Walden Energy/Yaka Energy
Tamara Walden boasts a 26-year career in the energy industry, having held numerous jobs in the exploration, production and marketing sides of the business.
Her company’s niche is “providing energy commodities, alternative energy, risk management and energy consulting services as a women-owned business (Walden Energy) and a tribally-owned business (Yaka Energy),” she said.
“I am very proud of being a women-owned business in energy as well as being a partner to one of the first tribally owned businesses offering our services in energy,” Walden said. “Our niche opens doors for our companies, but we still have to provide competitive priced energy and reliable delivery of our commodities to be a competitor in this arena.”
A first-time judge for the Spirit Award, Walden said she became involved because of the avenue it provides for entrepreneurs to validate their ideas.
Victor Wandres, General
Counsel/Director of Leasing and Marketing, Kanbar Properties
Victor Wandres is a business and real estate attorney from Tulsa who has formed numerous business entities and is involved with all aspects of business representation, including the copyright and trademark issues.
Victor has experience with real estate transfers and was involved with the formation of the Collaboratorium, at 111 W. Fifth St., and sits on its founding board of directors. Victor serves as general counsel and director of leasing and marketing for Kanbar Properties.
Sean Griffin, Founder, Vizalution LLC
Sean Griffin, chair of the Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, is nationally recognized as a leading visual facilitator, working with clients in a variety of industries, focusing on the development of a purpose-driven performance culture.
As a vizpreneur and Internet pioneer, Sean founded one of the first interactive agencies and Web site development companies broadcasting original television content.
He is a motivational speaker and author of the What Box? series of books: Out of The Box Thinking for Career and Life, The Creativity Challenge, Arrows of Wisdom and The Seeker: Discovering and Living Your Life’s Purpose.
Jeff Horvath, Vice President, Entrepreneurial Education Foundation
Jeff Horvath, vice chair for the Spirit Award, works both nationally and internationally assisting people achieve their entrepreneurial dreams.
With more than two decades of entrepreneurial experience, Horvath is the vice president of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation’s Entrepreneurial Education Foundation, FastTrac.
He has helped organizations across America and around the world develop their entrepreneurial communities through organic growth and leveraging of their community resources.
Horvath serves on several local and national boards as well as a judge for national, state and local business plan competitions.
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