SPARK Program Celebrates 5th Year


December 12, 2016 (Notre Dame, Ind.) — The Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) at Saint Mary’s College is proud to celebrate 20 graduates of the ninth session of the SPARK Program Friday, December 16 at 6 p.m. in Rice Commons. This past October, the entrepreneurship program for women celebrated its fifth year as an organization. Media is invited to cover.

SPARK is intended to assist local high-potential, under-resourced female entrepreneurs to “spark” or launch successful businesses. Since the program began in 2011, 148 women have gone through the program and the over 50 of them of them have launched their businesses.

Those who participate are fondly called “SPARKlers.” Some local businesses owned by SPARKlers include Kim’s Café, a coffee shop, The Ragamuffin, a wholesome bakery, Eve of Eden, natural skin care products, and The Wholesome Package, health coaching.

Other SPARKler owned businesses spotlighted in the past include Beyond Zen Studio, Opus Photo/Film, Little House Montessori, D&D services, and more.

Project director of the SPARK program Joan McClendon said women learn practical skills they can implement in launching their business, plus they gain a community of supportive women.

“The primary goal of attending the SPARK program is to complete a business plan, but there are multiple other benefits for the women including building self-esteem and sisterhood. This is what we call the ‘Secret Sauce.’”

While the program serves women in the local community, it also benefits the education of Saint Mary’s students. Emerald Blankenship ’17 has served as an intern with the SPARK program and found the experience to be extremely beneficial to her education as a business major.

“Since I study marketing as one of my concentrations, I get to help with media plans, market research and just answering general questions about the business process,” Blankenship said. “I also facilitate one or two classes depending on where there is a need. When I started the interning with SPARK program, I did not know it would end up being one of the most influential experiences of my college career.”

Some alumnae of Saint Mary’s College have also gone through the program including Amy Wall Surma ’03, owner of MADE DESIGNS and Emily Sandock ’03, owner of Little House Montessori.

“Absolutely life changing and game changing! I feel honored and very thankful to forever be a SPARKler. I loved the program,” said Amy Wall Surma ’03.

About Saint Mary's College: Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Ind., is a four-year, Catholic, residential, women’s liberal arts college offering five bachelor’s degrees and more than 30 major areas of study, such as business, nursing, art, chemistry, and social work. Saint Mary’s College also offers two graduate degrees: a Master of Science and a Doctorate. All programs that fall under these degrees are co-educational and include a Master of Science in Data Science, a Master of Science in Speech Language Pathology, and a Doctorate of Nursing Practice. Founded in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Saint Mary’s College seeks, according to its mission statement, to educate students, develop their talents, and prepare them to make a difference in the world. Saint Mary’s College ranks among the top 100 Best National Liberal Arts Colleges for 2016 published by U.S. News & World Report. Follow Saint Mary's College on Twitter @saintmarys and @saintmarysnews.

Contact for News Media: Haleigh Ehmsen, Media Relations Associate, Saint Mary’s College, (574) 284-5343