As a member of the first cohort of founders in the Polsky Incubator in 2015, John Stoops was a definite outlier: Rather than a nanotech or biomed company, his startup, The Revival, is a training and education company and performance space offering improv classes, camps, workshops, and shows. “What I hoped — and what proved to be the case — was that Polsky could connect me to the community, to the University, and to contacts who could help me get this off the ground,” Stoops says.
The mentorship and workshops offered at Polsky were a major help to Stoops in figuring out how The Revival would run. “Entrepreneurial finance is its own animal,” he explains, so connecting with experts who could help him work through his financing and revenue plan was key.
Polsky’s co-working space, where an entrepreneurial community flourishes, was also essential for Stoops. And Polsky connections were instrumental in helping him find theater space that’s sacred ground for improv: the northeast corner of 55th and University in Hyde Park, formerly home to 1950s improv pioneers the Compass Players. “Polsky introduced me to the University’s commercial real estate office,” he says, “and after I told them about the history, they said that they had a space right there. It was perfect.”
“I’m not sure that when I started at Polsky my intention was to locate The Revival in Hyde Park — but as I immersed myself in the community, a light bulb went off. One of the first decisions I made at Polsky was to start the business here.”
Stoops expected that The Revival would be primarily a theater that also offered classes, but the opposite turned out to be true. Most of its revenue comes from training people — from kids to college students to corporate employees — in the tenets of improv. “The building blocks of improv are listening and collaborating,” he says, “and it’s a transferable, teachable skill that’s endlessly applicable to academics, research, corporate spaces, and more settings.”