10 Ways Sparkyard Can Help Your Business

Sparkyard, you have heard of it, but do you know the man behind it? Meet Marco Johnson, the “Entrepreneurial Cat Herder” and main Spark Plan builder at Sparkyard. What you may not know is Marco has vast experience in entrepreneurship and economics. I sat down with Marco and wanted to share our conversation so you can learn more about the Spark-Man himself.

Tell us about your life prior to Sparkyard!

My first career was in international development where I lived in 8 countries over 15 years and worked in a variety of sectors, including humanitarian work with refugees, microfinance, private equity investment, agricultural development, and impact investing. While I lived overseas, I was a travel fanatic, visiting 55 countries and a couple of territories that aren’t internationally recognized. But now I’m happy to be settled in Fort Worth.

What is one thing you think every entrepreneur needs to know?

Validate, validate, validate! Don’t assume your great idea will grow into a successful company. Get data from real potential customers to make sure your assumptions are correct.

How can Sparkyard help entrepreneurs & startups in Fort Worth?

We are a no-cost platform that connects you to the right resource at the right time to help launch and grow your company. Our network of nearly 60 local resource partners – most of which provide free or low-cost services – area accessible on our Resource Navigator. If you aren’t sure where you are in the startup process or what resources available based on your current status, check out our Sparkyard Growth Circuit.

Where should an entrepreneur start with their idea or business?

Great companies don’t succeed because they have great ideas, they succeed because they solve problems. Find a pain point that lots of people have in common and come up with a solution to solve that problem in a new or better way than anyone else is doing it. That’s the recipe for success.

What kind of community support is there for entrepreneurs?

You can join a few organizations around entrepreneurship. I suggest attending 1 Million Cups. Every Wednesday at 9am, join other entrepreneurs and resource partners over coffee and watch entrepreneurs present their companies and what kind of help they need. In turn you get amazing feedback. There are two local chapters you can attend, Tarrant County and Fort Worth plus others in the Metroplex.

I also recommend Yard Party: a happy hour for entrepreneurs. Meet for drinks and meet other entrepreneurs in a casual, informal setting. Sign up for the Spark Plug Newsletter for the location of Yard Party each month.

TechNest is a weekly free series hosted by Tech Fort Worth where entrepreneurs can learn about different topics on various subjects for operating your startup.

Check out our digital resources, like our Sparkyard blog and the Innovate Fort Worth podcast.

SCORE Fort Worth is a national mentorship platform that connects entrepreneurs with industry experts for free. They also offer workshops to help business owners get up to speed on a wide variety of topics.

How is Sparkyard able to provide free resources to entrepreneurs?

Sparkyard is generously supported by UNT Health Science Center, the City of Fort Worth, and TCU. Our free services are thanks to the support of these institutions.

Why would entrepreneurs want to start their companies in Fort Worth?

There are advantages to starting up a company in the Fort Worth area. Though the startup community is small, it is very supportive. Thanks to Sparkyard, we make navigating the resource network a breeze.

What are the most frequent questions you get from entrepreneurs?

“Where do I find grant funding” and “how do I register my business/what entity type” are the most common questions. Luckily, the Sparkyard website has great web content to help answer the legal issues. The grant funding topic is a bit trickier because the answer depends on the type of business and what stage they are in. Luckily, there are plenty of resources in our partner network that provide alternative forms of financing for companies/entrepreneurs that don’t qualify for grants or traditional bank loans.

What advice do you wish to give to someone starting their business?

Get yourself a suitcase full of persistence and positive thinking. Starting and growing a company is one of the hardest things a person can do and there are usually many pitfalls along the way. Remaining positive and being open to pivoting are keys to success.

Which companies are some of your success stories?

Patturn is a platform for eCommerce sellers to manage and sell customer returns. Lots of companies have warehouses and often those warehouses are full of returned items, which usually don’t get repackaged and sold by the original seller. Instead they often take up valuable space. Patturn created an inventory management system to help companies large and small monetize these returns. We are happy to announce that Patturn was just accepted into the most recent Mass Challenge TX cohort!

Follow Marco Johnson on social media at @sparkyard and see what he is up to next!

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