Since opening Silhouette Sneakers & Art in the Greenwood District about two weeks ago, owner Venita Cooper said she has been embraced by Tulsa.
On Wednesday night, the community gave her another hug.
Cooper’s pitch for a sneaker boutique won her the $15,000 grand prize at the Tulsa StartUp Series Demo Day at the McKeon Center for Creativity at Tulsa Community College. Presented by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation and the Oklahoma State University Riata Center for Entrepreneurship, the competition featured five participants and their start-up ventures.
“It’s stuff like this that makes Tulsa special — their support for entrepreneurs,” said Cooper, 35. “Really, from the genesis of this idea in April to now, the fact that I’m already up, brick-and-mortar, have gotten so much community support and now this, it has meant the world to me.
“I am head over heels in love with Tulsa. I’m so grateful to be able to create something from the community that I care about.”
In addition to the prize money, she received a yearlong desk membership at 36 Degrees North, a workspace for entrepreneurs, additional resources to launch her business and a dedicated yearlong mentor.
After accepting her award, she took time to recognize her father, Vertis Cooper, an Army veteran who she said last week was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
“My father is my favorite person in the world,” said Cooper, a former educator who grew up in Lawton. “He is just the best human being that I know. It meant a lot for me to win this for him.”
Taking home second place and $4,000 on Wednesday was Strides, a mental health care exercise program developed by Rachel Brown.
Receiving third place and $2,500 was Kind Human, a platform by Jennifer Mayor that matches charitable giving with needs.
The “Crowd Favorite” and $1,500 went to Felizsta, a shop by Jason and Lizette Corcoran that celebrates Latin American food, design and culture.
In addition to showcasing limited edition sneakers and streetwear, Silhouette Sneakers & Art, at 10 N. Greenwood Ave., will be home to an art gallery that houses a selection of street-inspired work from local creators. Cooper said her goal is to curate about 200 pairs of sneakers by the end of the year.
During her presentation Wednesday, she wore a pair that set her back about $300, a collaboration between Nike and Cactus Plant Flea Market.
“I’ve loved sneakers since I was in middle school,” Cooper said. “To me, sneakers and fashion have been an important means for expression identity and finding community.”