One Spark’s April Event Will See Major Revisions, Focus More On Creators Than ‘Festival’

By Drew Dixon The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville. WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Women in Business, If you are in the Jacksonville area this April, check out the "One Spark Festival" which focuses on entrepreneurs or "creators" who will showcase their business and artistic concepts. (April 6 and 7th) Step into the "Spark Tank"...if you dare.

Jacksonville

Substantial changes are coming to One Spark this year, organizers of the Jacksonville crowdfunding event announced Monday

The festival already has been undergoing a shake-up with a staff reduction and the departure of One Spark co-founder and CEO Elton Rivas.

One Spark and city officials gathered Monday for a news conference at Hemming Park and clarified the event will take place on April 6 and 7 -- a Wednesday and Thursday -- in downtown, but it will be limited primarily to the Laura Street corridor, essentially from Hemming Park to the Jacksonville Landing. Adams Street on both sides of Laura will also host some of the artist and creator projects.

One Spark Ventures, the new entity created by officials with the organization, is sharing management of the event this year.

Also collaborating on management are Downtown Vision Inc., the Downtown Investment Authority, the City of Jacksonville and Jax Community of Entrepreneurs.

"This is an interesting time," said Peter Rummell, One Spark board chairman. "Change is important and I've learned the hard way that if you're not willing to change, you're going to be stuck in a rut. We're not going to let that happen to One Spark."

The event has been whittled down to two days from the five-day and six-day extravaganza of past years. Organizers had said they wanted it to be three days but said they had to reduce running time.

Financial shortcomings forced most of the changes. Rummell himself has funded most of the One Spark festivities since its inaugural year of 2013. One Spark cost more than $6 million combined in its first three years. But Rummell picked up $3.5 million of the tab for operational costs.

"The lessons we've learned in two years are enormous," Rummell said. "This idea of a partnership is a huge, huge piece of this. One Spark before that was pretty insular. Now, it's very much an outreach and we're proud of that.

"It's not a make-or-break year. We have changed direction," Rummell said. "But we're in it for the long term, everybody behind me is in it for the long term and we need to make it work."

Rummell added there will be a 2017 One Spark event of some kind, though he acknowledged he wasn't sure what form it would take.

The event this year will have entertainment but the primary focus will be the entrepreneurs or "creators" who will showcase their business and artistic concepts.

One Spark will kick off Wed., April 6 running from 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. and will be highlighted by a new event called "Spark Walk," which is similar to Art Walk events that take place downtown on a monthly basis. Spark Walk will allow the audience to walk down Laura Street and view each of the creator projects taking part in the event.

Downtown Vision Inc. CEO Jake Gordon said the festival is designed to keep a One Spark presence in the city's core during the spring.

"One Spark has been an amenity for Jacksonville for a number of years now and has created amazing cultural energy downtown," Gordon said. "Spark Walk comes out of the downtown community's desire to keep this energy going and is a way to celebrate the innovation of our artists and entrepreneurs."

The number of participants is also being reduced. About 120 creators will be selected to be part of the creator showcase. Those creators have to pay $50 in registration fees.

Organizers had originally said they wanted to have about 300 creators this year and registration continues until Feb. 29. The creator participants will be capped at 120 instead.

Creators who registered prior to Monday must reapply to take part in this year's event. One Spark spokeswoman Kristen Sell said creators who have previously registered for this year's event have been contacted to inform them that they must apply again.

Following the Spark Walk on Thursday, April 7, there will be the Creator Innovation Day at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront hotel downtown where winners of competitions will be announced.

There still will be two entertainment stages and a food truck village near Forsyth Street and Laura Street on Wednesday April 6. A music stage will be located outside the Landing and a beer tent will accompany the food village. A music stage will also be set up within Hemming Park.

As One Spark progresses into April 7, creators taking part in One Spark will advance to finals competition and ultimately the top creator projects will advance to what's called a "Spark Tank," which is similar to the television business competition show called "Shark Tank."

At the Spark Tank, top creators will pitch their ideas in front of capital and angel investors for feedback. Basically it's a shot at getting some capital investment or at least support toward startup funding, such as the angel investors provide.

The day-long program on April 7 will include speeches, presentations, panels and sessions to offer entrepreneurs advice on how to make their concepts successful after the event.

"The vision for the creator innovation program is to provide entrepreneurs with the tools, frameworks and resources they will need to take the next step in launching their idea into a business and to learn from experts in each discipline," said Chris Carter, president of One Spark Ventures.

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