COVER STORY: ONE SPARK 2014

SMALL SPACES, BIG IDEAS

Behind the scenes at One Spark’s headquarters, where claustrophobics need not apply

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Ufor grabs this year: more than $3 million. The mass appeal of the second annual One Spark Festival, which takes over Downtown Jacksonville from April 9-13, has gone international, with spectators and creators arriving from all over the globe to participate. It has quickly become Downtown’s signature event, the thing urban advocates so readily point to as evidence of Downtown’s resurgence — maybe, if they’re being grandiose, the city’s long-elusive silver bullet.

In other words, it’s a big damn deal.

Let’s do some numbers:

5 days

1,758 registered volunteers

20 city blocks

More than 150,000 voters

8 paid employees

900 square feet of office space

Wait, what? One Spark operates with only eight employees in a room the size of a large garage?

Eight people work every day in a 900-square-foot room at joined desks — and they’re kicking ass. They started planning One Spark 2014 during last year’s fest. And they’re busy year-round. Executive director Joe Sampson was once an avid professional golf-watcher. He ventured to all the major tourneys, up to six or eight a year. Now he tries to get six hours of sleep a night.

Vince Cavin, the finance guru, has a hand in many pots around town. Aside from One Spark, he’s also a founder of PB&J (Party Benefit and Jam), which hosts events throughout the year, and serves on the board of directors of Friends of Hemming Park. Meredith Johnson, the volunteer manager, has managed political campaigns all over the country — including serving as a consultant for Jesse Wilson’s current campaign for Jacksonville City Council — and was a public communications officer for the city of Jacksonville.

Then there’s Elton Rivas, Dennis Eusebio and Varick Rosete. These jet-setting co-founders and directors are busy as hell proselytizing about One Spark and the city that birthed it. It seems like they check in on Facebook from somewhere different every week. So how, in such a small space, with so few people working such insane hours, do they pull this off?

Collaboration is the key. Each believes in the movement. And Sampson truly hopes that any market One Spark enters — they’ve already announced One Spark Berlin — will eventually turn into a booming tech and creative hub with numerous startup teams, incubators and co-work spaces. 

To get there, he says, they need those markets to become centers for tech and creative talent to live, work and play.

“Quality of life is everything,” Sampson says. “I think One Spark leads out there, collaboratively with numerous organizations and teams in each market.” Humor is important, too. “With a small team producing something as big as One Spark, it’s good to have a couple of team members to help keep everyone loose in otherwise stressful situations.”

So what happens April 14, the day after One Spark ends? “Media interviews and planning the 2015 festival,” Sampson says.

They. Never. Stop.

One last question: “How much coffee do you guys go through?”

“We don’t track this data.”

Tags: one spark, elton rivas, jacksonville, downtown
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