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SULKES: One Spark spurs ideas, opportunities

This year, for the first time, I had to the opportunity to attend One Spark (www.onespark.com) just down the road in Jacksonville.

This marked the fourth year of One Spark, which exploded onto the entrepreneurial scene in 2013, attracting more than 130,000 attendees as well as national media attention from sources like Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.

Why the hubbub? One Spark is the world’s first crowdfunding festival. Its mission of “connecting ideas and the resources they need” is a perpetual struggle for entrepreneurs. It is this issue that crowdfunding, and One Spark, aim to solve.

Crowdfunding is “the practice of soliciting financial contributions from a large number of people especially from the online community.”

Platforms such as Kickstarter, established in 2009, Indiegogo, established in 2007, and GoFundMe, established in 2010 — as well as hundreds of others — serve as the medium to connect the “crowds” with the “creators.” One Spark brought these online worlds to life, providing $250,000 of funding in 2013 for which the 406 participating creator projects vied.

Like many startups, One Spark has pivoted a bit since its start. For one thing, it’s shorter with the creator showcase fitting into one day rather than several. For another, it was smaller, with an estimated 70,000 participating in Spark Walk which showcased 63 entrepreneurs and business startups.

Finally, it concluded with the addition of the One Spark Conference — where I spent my time — advertised as “a day for entrepreneurs and everyone who supports innovation in northeast Florida.”

As a first time attendee at One Spark, I thought my time well spent as I learned from the team that put the first 3D printer in space, met engaged entrepreneurs, and had the chance to learn more about Savannah’s neighbor to the south.

Made in Space, in particular, is up to some pretty exciting stuff. According to Space Daily, their 3D printer technology “means objects can actually be manufactured in space, meaning the need to launch components from Earth would be much reduced, making space exploration much cheaper and more efficient.”

I will certainly keep an eye on them and hope to be at One Spark 2017 as well.

With a regional metropolitan population nearing 1.5 million, Jacksonville’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is healthy and growing in the right direction.

So there should be good opportunities for Savannah’s local entrepreneurs to make connections down there as well. The Creative Coast, after all, doesn’t need to stop at the state borders to our north or our south.

Think about it. What if Amazon had decided to be Seattle’s delivery service rather than “earth’s most customer-centric company?” There’s no harm in thinking big and taking advantage of opportunities beyond our own backyard.

Many local entrepreneurs fully recognize this. A quick look on Kickstarter reveals more than 10 Savannah-based projects actively seeking funding and there’s another handful on Indiegogo as well.

In 2015 we saw a trio of successful Savannah crowdfunding projects: Paprika Southern and the Bicycle Wrap Skirt achieved full funding on Kickstarter, and Aetho, based out of our very own Creators’ Foundry, received 206 percent of the funding they sought on Indiegogo, for a total of a cool $142,962.

Engaging with local entrepreneurs by exploring, and perhaps supporting, their projects is a great way to see what the creative economy is bringing to the table. Attending something like One Spark is a great way to keep tabs on regional and global entrepreneurship trends. Both steps are fun and helpful, too.

That’s a win-win for everyone.

 

Emily McLeod Sulkes is the programs manager for The Creative Coast, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the creative and entrepreneurial community within the region. McLeod can be reached at 912-447-8457 or emily@thecreativecoast.org.

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In Case You Missed It