One Spark venues welcome increased foot traffic during the festival


A business having increased traffic by hundreds of people sounds like a very profitable day. But what does mean when the increase is due to a crowd-funding festival?

Beginning April 9, One Spark will have more than 70 businesses and organizations hosting as venues for 600 plus creators.

Visitors will explore One Spark, hopping from one venue to another. They will track in dirt and possibly leave behind trash with their primary focus being on the creator projects, not the hosting establishment. Why would a venue subject itself to such abuse? What’s the draw?

A lot of venue representatives said they loved the traffic from last year.

Mike Miller, the business development manager of Jacksonville Transportation Authority, said his company has a venue at two different skyway stops. Last year, JTA participated and provided free skyway service for the entire event. It received 45,000 riders on the system.

“It was phenomenal,” said Miller. “It was the second busiest event next to the Super Bowl.”

Sylvia Zarou of Adam Street Deli and Grill said she is very excited for One Spark because she anticipates heavy traffic. This is Adam Street’s first time as a venue and last year’s turnout prompted the restaurant to open its doors for this year’s festival.

Many of the venue owners are entrepreneurs themselves and want to support others with similar mindsets.

Newly opened Downtown Cigar Lounge will be a venue for the first time. Co-owner Troy McNair said he wants to bring brilliant minds together and help young people create their dreams.

“We’re all entrepreneurs and it’s so important to help infuse entrepreneurs,” McNair said.

The owner of Icon Boutique, David Lofton, said, “It’s important to help others get their craft out, especially if that craft can become a business.”

Natural As I Wanna Be is a new spa and storefront with a unique story. The store sells and uses Sylvia Walker’s natural skincare products. She was a creator last year and with the exposure from One Spark she was able to open her business and become a venue. Walker said becoming a venue was a natural progression and she hopes to help others reach their goals.

There are also venues that are opening their doors to creator projects that share a common theme.

Nikole Helvey, senior vice president of operations at the Health Planning Council of Northeast Florida, said last year the company had two creators in the health field and this year will be no different. Helvey said they want to support health and vitalization in Jacksonville by hosting health-related creator projects.

The Times-Union Center for the Performing Arts, a venue from last year, primarily had creators in the arts.

“We want to continue helping artists create and invent themselves,” said the president, Deborah Reid. “It works. We are the arts.”

Most venue representatives who spoke did not have any worries about hosting creators. Lofton from Icon Boutique lightheartedly said he may “idiot proof” his store, but other than that he has no concerns. Helvey of the Health Planning Council said “last year we had no problems at all, we really enjoyed it.”

This story was reported by Ignite Media, an independent news bureau created by University of North Florida students.

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