Join the Revolution

by ERIN THURSBY
In 2011, three friends gathered in a coffee shop and began to talk about the problem of connecting amazing creators and their ideas with the resources to execute those ideas. From that conversation, Elton Rivas, Dennis Eusbio and Varick Rosete began to think about a way to solve that problem. This past April a festival was born: One Spark.
The most innovative solution already in practice was crowdfunding, wherein a project or venture is funded by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people, typically via the internet. But getting people excited and making it more than just an online thing was the next step. Rivas, Eusbio and Rosete brought it into the real world. During the April 2013 One Spark, people could walk the fest and vote for their favorites.
They funded the fest using the more traditional, virtual crowdfunding, then used the money as a way to signal legitimacy and community support to local companies. Exposure to private investors was one of the perks of the fest. Jaguar owner Shad Khan set up the million dollar Stache Investment Fund. Creators looking to set up in Jacksonville could apply to the fund looking for investment dollars. Khan’s backing caused even more exposure for the festival.
The founders of One Spark were hoping it would have an impact, but they didn’t know how big it would be. Luckily, Kennetic Productions made sure there was a record of One Spark’s inaugural event with a documentary. Director Tony Sarte says that capturing the sprawling festival was a challenge, and since it was the first year, they “really had no idea what to expect.” They had about 50 people getting footage all around the fest, (dubbed “media moguls”), which Sarte says “really helped in capturing the breadth of the festival.” The difficult part, he says, was in “trying to pick which creators would make the final documentary.”
Over 400 creators were competing for the votes of the crowd. One Spark had $250,000 to give, based on the percentage of votes. Over and above the votes, which were free to cast, the crowd also could chose to directly fund. The Kona School came in second in their category with $3,137 in free vote money, but attendees chose to directly fund Kona to the tune of $2,320. The percentage vote winners for each category were: Al Letson’s The Wall, Fathom Sphere: a creative collective, Tiger Trails by the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, and the largest winner, Rethreaded from Kristen Keen.
Even though funding for creative ideas is the point of One Spark, the most memorable moment for co-founder Elton Rivas wasn’t handing over checks to the winning creators. Instead, it was the night before One Spark was to launch. It was 11 pm, with about three dozen creators setting up their concepts. In the quiet before the crowds, says Rivas, “it was just this real magical moment to see what was about to come to light.”
It’s telling that Rivas chose this moment as the most impactful for him, because while funding is the brass tacks of One Spark, it’s about how changing attitudes can change economics. Unlike events that come and go, One Spark has started a small revolution in our city. It has inspired.
The Downtown Investment Authority is now looking for more festivals to come to the Downtown space, since outdoor events inject money into Downtown, making it more sustainable for new and existing businesses. The Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville now has a “Spark Grant” program that will award $60,000 in grants to artists who put their studios in a specific area of the Northbank. They’re calling the area “The Spark District.” The Cultural Council plans to put over $300,000 into the Spark District.
For Joe Sampson, who has taken over the Executive Director job for the 2014 One Spark, his memorable moment came later in the 2013 fest. “It was Saturday morning,” says Sampson, “there was rain falling from the sky and creators weren’t setting up, but there were people coming out to walk the One Spark footprint.” He saw families pushing strollers, people with umbrellas, wearing rain ponchos and trying to get into venues that were locked up because of the weather.
They learned something about One Spark that rainy Saturday: the pull of the festival was enough that folks would come out, rain or shine. And it wasn’t just the festival-goers who showed up. That morning, volunteer coordinator Meredith O’Malley Johnson was nervous because of the rain. “I was worried, but then volunteers started streaming through the door, so dedicated to making this festival a reality. It was just amazing to see,” she says.
The first One Spark, though a clear success, was a learning experience. Feedback from fest-goers, creators and sponsors has shaped what will be different about One Spark 2014. The 2013 inaugural had a crowd of 130,000, despite rainy weather. They expect about 150,000 for the 2014 fest. Geographically, the first One Spark covered a ridiculous amount of ground (26 city blocks) with some blocks a bit sparse in activities. But in 2014 the fest will be a bit more concentrated and more walkable. It will be 20 blocks and will probably draw more creators, for better density, something both the creators and the public want. There will also be more food trucks, so fest-goers will have more edible options.
Higher cash prizes will also go to the top winners of the various categories. The amount each winner received for 2013 was based entirely on the percentage of votes. The fest founders expected there to be clear winners, who would take home far more cash than the others. But that isn’t how it turned out. “The vote distribution was more even than we thought it would be,” says Rivas.
The highest award last year, not counting private investments, was just over $6,700, but the stakes are higher for the 2014 fest. There will be more money to spread around and $10 grand will go to the top voted in each category. There will also be a $10,000 jury award for each category. Art, Music, Science, Technology and Innovation are the five fabulous categories for 2014. Innovation is the new category.
The great challenge for 2014, says Executive Director Joe Sampson, “is absolutely money. There were a lot of people saying they really wanted to see this happen again, but not a lot of money falling from the sky. We’re working really hard to make sure we have the resources so that people can experience it next year on a bigger scale.” (If you want to give One Spark a few dollars through crowd funding, see below on how to help!)
One Spark might also hold more than yearly events. Since they have a year-round staff, they could hold smaller, quarterly events, bringing together more ideas and investors. As to the further future, in five to 10 years, co-founder Rivas says that there are a number of possibilities to scale One Spark. We could “have a One Spark on every continent…or have 10,000 One Spark chapters Worldwide.” But whatever One Spark’s future, says Rivas, we can always say that it started here.

Stache Fund Companies
The announced Stache Fund 2013 recipients are Pure Treats, Original Fuzz, Hatchware, Floppy Entertainment and Heritage Farms.
Pure Treats is a food company whose mission is to slip vegetable servings and other healthy things into foods kids already love, along with a line of fruit slushes, purees and muffins. They seem geared to supply businesses that serve children and food providers. puretreats.us
Original Fuzz looks to provide musicians with all the best accessories, such as high quality guitar straps, bags and cables. They say: “It’s no secret that guitar players love their instruments, so it’s a shame the rest of their gear doesn’t inspire that kind of devotion.” originalfuzz.com
Hatchware will supply a digital menu platform for restaurants. Online menus need to be better. Many restaurants use a PDF of their menu, making it difficult to change, but an interactive menu makes it easy for the customer, as well as for the restaurateur. www.hatchware.com
Floppy Entertainment is our local mobile gaming company. They develop the kind of games you play on larger screen mobile computers or devices. floppyent.com
Heritage Farms is a small, local farm located in Mandarin. They grow fresh veggies, plan to expand to aquaponics, to sell to restaurants, and to hold educational tours. www.heritagefarmsjacksonville.com

How to get involved One Spark 2014
“The thing that made this such a huge success was the community’s involvement, support and active participation.” –One Spark co-founder Elton Rivas
RocketHub: The initial funding for One Spark comes from you! The crowdfunding campaign runs September 1-October 15, 2013. “Goods,” or rewards for donating to One Spark’s campaign, include everything from a shout-out on Twitter for a $10 donation to One Spark VIP passes and Legends Series tickets for a $1,000 donation. One of the more unique rewards still up for grabs is One Spark’s digital media manager getting a tattoo of your choice on his left shin for an $800 donation. The full list of “Goods,” funders and the current crowdfunding total can be viewed on One Spark’s RocketHub page: www.beonespark.com/rockethub.
Vote: Voting is free and so is attendance to the fest (unless you get VIP tickets) but you can contribute a few dollars to a particular creator. $5 doesn’t sound like much, but it all adds up when a thousand people like your idea. It’s a way to be a part of something and to make your city better in a very direct way. Go to www.beonespark for more info.
Volunteer: One Spark runs on a volunteer army. During the first One Spark, they helped direct folks toward indoor and more secluded venues, helped fest-goers vote, took video of the fest, set up performance stages and much more. They’ll be just as important for the 2014 One Spark. If you’d like to be a volunteer go to the website and click on the Participate drop-down on www.beonespark.com.
Creators: Inventors can come back, but they must launch a new project, not the same one. Go to www.beonespark.com, click on the Participate drop-down and choose Creators. You can register between December 1, 2013-January 31, 2014.
Be a Sponsor: If you’re a business and you want exposure to a crowd of 150,000 that will be walking the fest, as well as the online exposure, check out all they have to offer on their website www.beonespark.com.
Be a Venue: Creators must be matched with venues. If you fit in the geographic footprint of One Spark, then you can be a venue. Registration goes through November 15, 2013. Click on the Participate drop-down on www.beonespark.com for more information.

About FOLIO

april, 2022

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