By Thad Ayers
Thad Ayers firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2012, Tulsa Business Journal,
Roger Shollmier buried his face in his hands and smiled wide after hearing former Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor announce he’d just won $30,000. When he walked on stage and received his giant check as the 2012 winner of the TCC StartUp Cup, his voice cracked when he said “Wow” to the crowd at Tulsa Community College’s Center for Creativity Nov. 13.
Shollmier, the charismatic owner of Tulsa’s Kitchen Ideas who is rarely at a loss for words, according to most accounts, said only that he was in shock.
His kitchen creation, The Galley — an all-in-one work station that consolidates food prep, cooking and cleaning into one space — was identified as the top innovation among a pool of 76 businesses that applied to the StartUp Cup in April.
Those were paired down to 25 in June, 12 in July and seven in September. Shollmier and his six fellow finalists made their last pitches Nov. 1 before the StartUp Cup judges.
Contestants were coached throughout the competition to re-tool their approaches and business models.
The StartUp Cup, now in its sixth year, is sponsored by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation.
“The coaching is unbelievable,” Shollmier said. “To be the finalist in a product that came from your kitchen only… they loved it. Now it’ll go nationwide.”`
Shollmier said he’s taking that $30,000 payday and putting it to a social media campaign that will help grow his product. So far the sink innovation is in about 300 homes in Oklahoma, but is expanding nationally with about 60 dealers, he added.
Elizabeth Frame Ellison, chairwoman of the competition and executive director of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, spoke at the event and said entrepreneurial and small business ventures account for about 82 percent of business in Tulsa and generate about $3.1 billion to the area’s economy annually.
“Economic development depends on entrepreneurs,” Ellison said.
Ellison, who has also competed in the cup, was a judge in this year’s competition and said she wishes she could help all the competitors.
“The hardest thing was picking three when I’d like everyone to go on,” she said.
Also presented was the $5,000 second place prize to Brian Carpenter, Mike Ishmael and Doug Tatum of 4D Sales — an iPad application designed so professionals can present products and solutions in a visually appealing, interactive and engaging way.
Paula Sloan, owner of Cheerful Athletics, received $2,500 as a third place prize for the Fly Right, an innovation that provides a safe method of practicing cheerleading stunts.
Sloan also got another $2,000 from William E. Lobeck Jr. as the recipient of the Spirit of Innovation Award, given to a competitor that best exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit through innovation, adaptability, passion and persistence.
That award was given independently of the other three prizes. He said he was inspired after observing the contestants’ enthusiasm in each round of judging.
“I don’t care how they finish in the overall process, I think they should benefit some still in addition to the coaching and learning,” Lobeck said.
The owners of the four companies that didn’t win said they were grateful for the coaching and indicated they would continue with their products.