Startup Spotlight: The Revival

In October 2014, a 34,000 square foot coworking space and facility opened up to not only serve all students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University of Chicago, but also to be a dedicated resource for innovators and entrepreneurs in the surrounding South Side community without a formal affiliation to the University. Operated by the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago, the Polsky Exchange has hosted thousands of workshops, multiple cohorts of startups, and a variety of high profile speakers since opening its doors five years ago. 

To celebrate the many innovators who have been supported over the past five years, the Polsky Center will host a special entrepreneurship showcase on Wednesday, October 16 from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. One company that will be featured at the event is The Revival, an improvisational theater in Hyde Park. With an impressive background, from working at advertising giant, Leo Burnett, to earning an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, John Stoops came to the Polsky Incubator with an entrepreneurial mission. To open an improv theater on 55th Street and University Ave. Improvisational theater began with University of Chicago students in Hyde Park and Stoops thought it only fitting to bring it back to its beginning. The Revival now hosts regular shows and offers workshops for kids and UChicago Law students and everyone in between. The Revival has become profitable at the intersection of business and theater, of improv history and comedy revolution.

Polsky had the opportunity to speak with John Stoops about his journey up to this point in building The Revival and his hopes for its future.

Polsky: How did you first get involved in the Polsky Center?
John Stoops: I learned about the Polsky Exchange as it was being constructed. I joined as one of the first community members and then progressed into the incubator.

Polsky: What challenges were you able to overcome as a result of Polsky resources?
John Stoops:
First and foremost, Polsky was a conduit the vast resources of the University. Through a sequence of introductions, Polsky was able to point me to the right people at the right time for each phase of my start-up’s journey toward launch.

Polsky: How has the Polsky Center impacted your success?
John Stoops: Simply put, The Revival would not exist without the Polsky Exchange.

Polsky: What would you say to early-stage companies considering becoming a Polsky member or applying to a Polsky program?
John Stoops: It’s an invaluable resource to consider and rocket fuel for the growth of your startup.

Polsky: What do the next five years look like for The Revival?
John Stoops: Our first 2-3 years were spent solidifying our model and clarifying our mid to long range objectives. Now that those things are firmly in place, we intend to execute along that vision.


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