By DANIEL C. CAMERON
Courtesy of the Griffin Family
Sean Griffin is one of Tulsa’s greatest supporters. He was involved in many of Mayor Kathy Taylor’s efforts during her recent tenure. Griffin helped create the Tulseys, the Mayor’s Entrepreneurial Spirit Awards (which will be run by Spirit Bank in the future), Sustainable Tulsa, the Collaboratorium and more. However, he was born and raised in San Jose, Calif. So how did he become such a proponent of our fair town? It turns out, his love for Tulsa comes from a deep appreciation for the people here, and a story of a leap of faith and stepping out into the great unknown.
The story begins with Griffin running an internet-based company in Silicon Valley in 2000. His wife, Kristen Bergman was a global advertising sales director for Cisco Systems, Inc. Griffin’s company had enormous growth with 120 employees and was going public with a stock offering. Essentially, they had ‘made it.’
Suddenly, about two weeks before the funding was to come, investors began pulling out. (This was June 2000.) Company officials immediately tried to do anything to save the company. Time ran out and the famous internet bubble had crashed.
All of the sudden, Griffin had time on his hands, which was something he had never experienced. He and Bergman had only been married about a year before the crash and one of the things they wanted to do was take a Route 66 road trip from L.A. to Chicago. They decided to take the trip and try to clear their heads.
Along the route, the two had acquaintances on Grand Lake in Grove, Okla., so they decided to make it one of their stops. Griffin and Bergman arrived in Grove only to fall in love with the area upon first sight.
Their hosts took them on a boat ride and toured them around the lake. They discussed housing prices and Bergman and Griffin were surprised at how affordable the homes were listed as compared to California. Fascinated by the place and thinking they might want to invest, they were shown a local spot. When they arrived at the property, Griffin and Bergman grabbed hands and said, “uh oh.” They got out of the car and explored. “There were so many humming birds they were like flies,” Griffin adds. They decided to put an offer that day and it was accepted.
They were no longer going to Chicago. They needed to get back home to regroup. On the return trip, they pulled over at a vista point in Utah. Up to now, Griffin and Bergman figured the Oklahoma land would be an investment and a getaway. At the overlook, they sat and discussed their new wares when they decided to just drop everything in California and move to Grand Lake. A month later, the two were residents.
While living at Grand Lake, Griffin was able to regroup himself. He spent almost five years there reestablishing himself as an artist and finding ways to synthesize those skills with his entrepreneurial skills. He commuted to New York city as a marketing research consultant, honed his unique trade and enjoyed his new life among the wonderful and unique people of Oklahoma.
Griffin picked up a hobby of collecting salvageable logs from log cabins and barns during this time. The hobby led him to Ted Cundiff, a Spirit Bank executive who also had a place at the lake and who also shared similar collecting interests. They got to know one another and Cundiff identified Griffin’s capabilities as a business consultant. Cundiff had an idea of building a small business center at Spirit Bank and invited Griffin to become part of the team. Griffin initially declined the offer, but Cundiff insisted. Griffin buckled and became instrumental in the development of Spirit Bank’s Business Resource Center in Tulsa.
The new work opened other doors and Griffin and Bergman eventually moved to Tulsa where they again fell in love with a fantastic town filled with amazing people. His new life got him connected with then Secretary of Commerce Kathy Taylor, where he created deep and rich partnerships.
Griffin’s new life as a Tulsan has enriched him through meeting people who have become some of his best friends and supporters. He recognizes he gets to be part of and witness to a complete transformation of downtown Tulsa into a relevant, extraordinary place for people to live, work and play. “Something’s missing from our world right now and Tulsa has it,” says Griffin. “You want to talk about hot spots? This is it. Tulsa is the next hot spot. There is something going on here, it is such an oddity.”
This is the answer Sean Griffin gives when he is asked why does a Californian care so much for Tulsa to devote so much effort, time and emotion to it. Some of it was cosmic spirituality and some of it was being in the right place at the right time. Tulsa has benefitted and will for many years to come from this special man’s journey.
Today Griffin continues his work in Tulsa and is finishing and promoting his book ‘The Seeker Discovering and Living Your Life’s Purpose.’ He is also rebranding himself as a person who helps people and organizations reach their full potential by leveraging his unique method of visual thinking and sharing these tools with people so they can reach their full potential.