Would you move your company to Tulsa? This N.J. owner did — and she loves it

Whitney, co-founder of PUSH Beverages and self-proclaimed Jersey girl, is finding Oklahoma business climate more than A-OK

Laurel Whitney freely admits it — no debate, no discussion — the Italian food is not what she’s used to. Not even close. The pizza and bagels? Not so great, either. 

But those may be the only things New Jersey has on Oklahoma, she said.

At least, that is Whitney’s take approximately one year after the Jersey girl owner of PUSH Beverages moved her Rockaway-based business to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Whitney said she has found a willing workforce she couldn’t find in the Garden State, a lower cost of living, much lower taxes and a better business culture. All the things she expected.

What she didn’t expect to find was this: culture (there’s a vibrant arts district) and a lot of great food (Italian efforts aside).

“I had never been here, so, I was a little reluctant,” she said. “And I had all these images in my head of redneck, hillbilly oil people. But it’s not like that at all. 

“They have an arts district and culture and a lot of food other than barbecue. They have Mongolian food, Vietnamese food, Korean food — anything that you could possibly imagine.

Laurel Whitney, the Jersey girl owner of PUSH Beverages moved her Rockaway-based business to Tulsa, Oklahoma. ­— PHOTO COURTESY LAUREL WHITNEY

“So, I had all these preconceived notions, but, when I got here, I found it was a lot like Morristown.”

How she got here is a Jersey story, too.

Whitney, born and raised in West Milford and educated at what was then called Trenton State College (undergrad) and Rutgers University (grad), found her niche as female small business owner in the beverage industry.

But, after five years of trying to build a new headquarters in Rockaway — she said she was continually tied up by disputes with the town and the Department of Environmental Protection — she began to look around and found Tulsa.

She and her family moved there last April. The company officially moved there Jan. 1.

Neither is ever coming back.

“I’ve completed divested myself of New Jersey,” she said.


PUSH Beverages started as an outgrowth of the vending company Whitney started with her husband. The brand was launched in 2009 and spun off as its own company in 2013.

Created as a great-taste, low-cost alternative to the traditional beverage leaders, PUSH has found its niche in independently owned stores and large organizations concerned about price. (You’ll often see its products on shows detailing life inside correctional facilities — and it’s recently been getting a lot of government contracts.)

And, while Whitney doesn’t reveal revenues, it’s clear that the number is measured in multimillions.

“We’re in 40 states now,” Whitney said.

This 10-year growth has led to manufacturing facilities across the country, but Whitney also liked having her headquarters in New Jersey. 

In addition to being her home state, she took pride in the fact that — unlike all the major brands — she was headquartered here, despite the higher costs that came with it.

“We were proud to be in New Jersey — and that we didn’t just use it as a drop-off state,” she said.

That’s why, in 2010, she bought an 11-acre property in Rockaway, intending to build a state-of-the-art, two-story, 50,000-square-foot headquarters.

The challenges began shortly thereafter.

To be clear, this isn’t a story debating rules and regulations for New Jersey — but the fact remains that permitting problems, regardless of the reason, were why PUSH left the state.

There were issues with how close she could build to the Rockaway River — and concerns about the area being a nesting ground for Indiana bats and bald eagles (Whitney said there was no evidence of that taking place).

In the end, after spending more than $100,000 on engineers, environmentalists, architects and consultants — and seeing her plans reduced to a 30,000-square-foot facility and then a single-story, 15,000-square foot facility — Whitney said enough is enough.

“What was the biggest issue?” she asked, and then answered. “You can’t really point to one, because we always seemed like a moving target.

“People told me I should find a different site. But why? Why would it be any different?”


Different is Oklahoma. And not just for Whitney and PUSH, but for her family, too.

Her husband (and co-owner) immigrated to the U.S. from Israel when he was 21. The East Coast was all he knew. The same goes for her two boys, both of whom are in their 20s, but came along, too.

Both have found jobs — including a role as a physical therapist that came with a higher salary than the one in New Jersey, Whitney said.

To be fair, both have found a bit of culture shock, too, Whitney said. There is not a lot of diversity, as defined by people not originally from Oklahoma. Almost all of her neighbors were locals, with just a few transplants from California and Arizona, Whitney said.

“Most of them have never been to New Jersey or New York City,” she said.

And, while she said she chose Oklahoma over Texas because she felt it was less political, she said she has found the state comes with a much greater emphasis on religion.

“A lot of the friends we’ve made are as religious as we are not,” she said. “People like to show their holiness.”

With the move, however, comes a sense of community Whitney said she didn’t have in New Jersey.

“When we moved in, everyone came over and brought us something, like cookie baskets or plants or orchids,” she said. “They really made us feel welcome.”

Recently, the husband of one of her neighbors died.

“And the whole neighborhood is helping,” she said.

That willingness to work and pitch in is evident in the workforce, too, Whitney said.

“There’s a lot of blue-collar workers who are eager to work,” she said. “In New Jersey, no one wanted to do physical labor. They all wanted to sit at a desk. 

Tax ‘incentives’

Laurel Whitney said she did not get any tax incentives from the state of Oklahoma when she moved PUSH Beverages from New Jersey to Tulsa. She didn’t need one, she said.

“The state tax here is capped at 5% — that’s as much of a tax incentive as I’ll ever need,” she said.

“I need people who can pack pallets and make deliveries, things like that. The workforce actually is a perfect match for us.”

PUSH has set up in temporary facilities, searching for the right location to build its headquarters. The willingness to work — and help — comes out there, too.

“The state is going to find us a place,” she said. “The Department of Commerce is doing that. It’s incredible.”

Executive Director Brent Kisling said he and his staff have been happy to help.

“I’m thrilled that PUSH Beverages has chosen to relocate and invest in Oklahoma,” he said. “They’ve discovered what other companies have realized — that Oklahoma is the most friendly state in the nation.”


Here’s the good news for New Jersey: PUSH’s relocation did not come with the loss of many existing jobs. Most of its 40 or so employees — full-time and contracted workers in sales, delivery and warehousing — were transferred to a nearby facility that PUSH is sharing with others to produce its product.

Yes, like the major competitors, PUSH now uses Jersey as a drop-off state.

New Jersey, however, may be missing out on adding jobs. Whitney said being in the Midwest figures to help the company make inroads in the Pacific Northwest. In addition, some recently added government contracts likely will lead to more hires, too. She feels the company could have 75-80 employees by the end of the year, when she hopes to have a facility of her own.

“I feel like it’s a missed opportunity for the state,” she said.

Whitney also feels the spirit of Oklahoma will help the business, too, as she feels it will be able to make more inroads into more stores.

“This is a really good area for beverage,” she said. “People are more price-conscious. They want value and quality, rather than name — which always been a battle in the Northeast, where nobody wanted to try anything new, even if it tastes better, even if it’s better priced, even if the packaging is better.”

Traffic times

Laurel Whitney said one of the best things about PUSH Beverages’ move from New Jersey to Oklahoma is the traffic. Or lack thereof.

“You actually beat your navigation, here,” she said. “In New Jersey, if it says you’re going to be there at 1 o’clock, you can count on that being like 1:15. Here, you always seem to beat your navigation. It’s amazing.”

And then, there’s this.

“We’re in the process of changing all the labeling,” she said. “People here think it’s so cool when they get a drink and they see it’s an Oklahoma beverage — they freak out because they are so excited.

“That never really mattered to anybody in New Jersey.”


Whitney is an Okie now. And proud to admit it.

“I don’t want any part of New Jersey,” she said. “Even when I go back to visit my grandmother and my sister, I just can’t take the traffic and the rudeness of people. It’s the whole mentality: I never realized how bad it was until I go back.

“It’s a totally different world here. Everybody helps everybody. Everybody is there for everybody.

“I have everything I could ever want.”

Except, of course, that one thing everyone who leaves New Jersey talks about: pizza and bagels.

No worries. Whitney has a plan for that, too.

Because PUSH has had a long history of working with independent shops in Jersey, her husband spent a lot of time before they left trying to learn the secrets of the trade. He’s now trying to recreate that Jersey pizza in their home.

“A lot of our clients over the years have been bagel stores and pizzerias,” she said. “We have a lot of friends in the industry, so my husband’s been trying to learn how to make bagels and pizza, because that’s our only option.

“And my husband doesn’t normally cook — these are the only two things he makes.”

Whitney admits, like everyone else outside of New Jersey, he hasn’t mastered the craft just yet.

Perhaps fitting for their adopted new state, she’ll call his efforts “OK.”

Everything else scores much higher.

Conversation Starter

Reach PUSH Beverages at: pushbeverages.com or call 855-787-4238.