Coffee, hot yoga venture takes grand prize in Tulsa StartUp Series

By Rhett Morgan Tulsa World Nov 16, 2017


Claire Spears and Brady Ballew already have a name and location for their new business. On Wednesday night, they added a five-figure windfall.

Their hot yoga and coffee shop creation, Press Cafe x Yoga, took home the $15,000 top prize in the Tulsa StartUp Series Demo Day finale before an estimated crowd of 100 at the Cox Business Center. For capturing the culmination of the yearlong live pitch series, the couple also won a yearlong desk membership at 36 Degrees North, an advertising package from Cox Media Group and a dedicated mentor for the year.

Press Cafe x Yoga is scheduled to open later this month in the Archer Building, a $17 million mixed-retail project renovation led by the George Kaiser Family Foundation.

“One of the most important things that all of us were looking for was how much of a dent could that money make, and we thought they could do the most with that money,” said one of the judges, Wes Bergmann, a lead investor in Betablox, a for-equity business incubator and accelerator within The Oklahoma Innovation Institute.

”They had all their ducks in a row. They were very articulate. They were borderline overqualified for what they are setting out to do. They were just impressive. Great adjectives are oozing out of every orifice of their opportunity.”

EcoClean Baby (Aisha and D.J. Patterson) placed second and won $4,000, and ToyVac (Gabe Doughtery) and ReLiveIt (Ben Campbell, Michael Thomas and Clark Fisher) both came in third, each winning $2,500.

Leading up to Wednesday were five StartUp Series pitch competitions over the course of the year. The series is powered by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, with support from Cox Business, Cox Media and Riata Center for Entrepreneurship at OSU. This is the 20th anniversary of the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, which was designed to deliver resources and mentoring opportunities to entrepreneurs.

Wednesday also featured the official launch of Kiva Tulsa, a new platform that connects entrepreneurs and small businesses with crowd-funded loans of up to $10,000. A total of $20,575 was lent Wednesday night, leading to the full funding of four businesses.

Earlier this year, Press Cafe x Yoga won the Tulsa StartUp Series’ food/retail/physical product segment.

“This is monumental for everything that we plan to do in the community,” Ballew said of the victory. “This is extremely a community-drive cash prize for us.”

Ballew moved from Seattle to Tulsa three years ago to play for the Tulsa Roughnecks soccer team. He met native Tulsan Spears, a yoga instructor, and the two began dating.

“It means that we can grow faster in what we offer,” Spears said. “It’s a good jump-start, a good spark for our business. We just really hope that more people get to experience it.