For many of us, our heroes are athletes, politicians, rock stars, television personalities and movie stars. For a growing number of people, the entrepreneur — the risk taker, the dreamer and the person who believes in the impossible — is the new hero, held with high esteem.
Having grown up in Silicon Valley, Calif., my heroes have always been the entrepreneurs of our world. They are people like Nolan Bushnell, Steve Wozniak, Fred Hoar, Steve Jobs, Pierre Omidyar, Al Shugart and Jerry Sanders. I have even been fortunate to call some of them my friends.
As we head into the ceremony for the 2009 Mayor Kathy Taylor’s Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award, I am enthusiastic about the future of entrepreneurialism in Tulsa. This year’s collection of entrepreneurs represent all that is possible and showcase for us what can be done with hard work and persistence. They are truly the heroes of Tulsa.
As entrepreneur Victor Kiam has stated, “Entrepreneurs are risk takers, willing to roll the dice, with their money or reputation on the line, in support of an idea or enterprise. They willingly assume responsibility for the success or failure of a venture and are answerable for all its facets.”
The entrepreneurs who have made it to this year’s final round have proven their business models have potential, with the ability to be executed and successful.
For those who think the Spirit Award competition is a walk in the park, think again. The entrepreneurs have taken their business models through multiple modifications, three rounds of judging and a lot of coaching. They have refined their pitches to two minutes.
I congratulate each of them for their dedication to improve and the grace they have shown under fire. Although not everyone can win a Spirit Award, every entrepreneur is a winner. And the big winner is Tulsa. Our community has been rewarded with a new crop of entrepreneurs, all dedicated to growing their businesses and, in the process, seeing Tulsa benefit from their growth.
Thomas Edison said, “I never perfected an invention that I did not think about in terms of the service it might give others. I find out what the world needs, then I proceed to invent.”
If you would have asked me three years ago, when I first floated the idea of a business model competition, whether the Spirit Award would have taken on such a catalytic role in growing the entrepreneurial spirit in Tulsa, I would have not been so sure.
Now, in our third year and heading into our fourth, more than 300 entrepreneurs have submitted business models, 100-plus entrepreneurs have been coached, nine companies have won awards and, with the sponsorship of SpiritBank, more than $300,000 in cash, prizes and services have been distributed. We are just starting to create the kind of impact that will tip Tulsa into an entrepreneurial leadership position.
Celebrating Tulsa’s entrepreneurial heroes is a powerful way to build this spirit, and I want to encourage you to thank an entrepreneur for the risks he has taken to get his business where it is today.
Entrepreneurs are the backbone of our economy and the future of our community’s strength and wellness. Sounds a lot like a superhero to me.
Sean Griffin is a visual thinking entrepreneur and the chair of Mayor Kathy Taylor’s Tulsa Entrepreneurial Spirit Award.