Business Brief: One Spark Grows Up

Apr 4, 2016

Visitors crowd downtown's Hemming Park during a previous One Spark festival.
Credit One Spark / Facebook

The annual One Spark crowdfunding festival is returning to downtown Jacksonville Wednesday.

However, this year’s event will feature only one day of partying instead of five. A workshop dedicated to the inventors will be held Thursday.

In this week’s” Business Brief” analyst John Burr tells News Director Jessica Palombo the festival’s transformation gets back to the root of One Spark, which is to help entrepreneurs showcase and expand their small business.

For the past few years, One Spark has been a five-day celebration that turned out large crowds. However, the event has become more known for its party atmosphere than an event to help entrepreneurs network. After losing revenue last year, creators of One Spark decided there needed to be a change.

Kate Stewart, a coordinator for One Spark, told Burr the second day is pivotal because it’s going to be completely focused helping inventors improve their small business.

"You’ll get to sample all different kinds of things," she said. "Everything related to four tracks: innovating your business, protecting your business, funding your business and running your business.”

She added: “Folks who are from Jacksonville, who wanted to create high growth companies here were unable to, had to go to California. ... They have created branches here, their families are here, they spend as much time here as they can but they are unable to actually launch their companies here.

"So, they’re going to be talking about what they wished had been in place and what they hope will be in place so that people like them don’t have to go to California.”

While some might be disappointed for the party vibe being cut short, Stewart said it’s time for evolving and focusing on what’s most important.

“Fun is great," she said. "We have a lot of fun things in this city; we need to grow up — we really do. It’s hard work to create an innovation ecosystem; it's hard work to be an entrepreneur.

"It’s the hardest job in the world, other than parenting. And in order to do that, we have to buckle up and put our noses to the grindstone and do this properly.”

The event begins noon Wednesday.