After four years of successful implementation and thousands of entrepreneurs served, HSC Next is handing over operations of the Sparkyard platform to Tamara Payne, CEO and cofounder of Ensemble Coworking, a trusted partner in the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and a Sparkyard resource partner since 2019.
Ensemble Coworking is a mission-driven collaborative business community and coworking space located in Fort Worth’s Near Southside. SourceLink will continue to support the platform from a technical standpoint. HSC Next is not selling Sparkyard, but rather, Ensemble will contract with Sourcelink, license HSC intellectual property related to Sparkyard and assume operating costs for the program. In addition, HSC Next will transfer critical know-how so Tamara can successfully grow Sparkyard into its next stage.
We have invested a lot of time and funding into Sparkyard over the last four years and we believe it can achieve even greater success if it is run by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. And few local entrepreneurs understand the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as Tamara Payne.
Tamara has worked to develop the local entrepreneurial ecosystem for years. She boasts the twin advantages of being an entrepreneur herself and a resource provider to other entrepreneurs and business owners, giving her a holistic perspective in understanding their needs. She shared these thoughts on her new role, “Connecting entrepreneurs to the resources they need to build a thriving and sustainable business is at the core of who I am and is part of the mission of Ensemble. It’s a privilege to usher Sparkyard into its next phase.” She will continue to be involved with Ensemble Coworking as she manages Sparkyard.
Sparkyard will remain a free service that connects entrepreneurs and business owners to the right resource at the right time to launch and grow their companies. Payne will continue Sparkyard’s role of meeting entrepreneurs where they are and breaking down the barriers between entrepreneurial resource providers.
We will work one-on-one with Payne to get her up to speed on the platform’s operations, with Payne taking over more responsibility as the handover progresses. Cameron Cushman and I will maintain a presence on Sparkyard’s advisory council going forward to help ensure continuity of service and to provide support on matters both strategic and practical; our presence on the advisory council will gradually reduce over the next 2-3 years.
Ensemble competed against other applicants that were interested in taking over Sparkyard, but ultimately her entrepreneurial experience and standing in the community made her the optimal choice. HSC Next will begin the handover in November 2023, expected to be completed in Spring 2024.
When we launched Sparkyard in November 2019, we had an ambitious goal to spur economic growth by connecting companies to the right resources promised to fill a much-needed gap in Fort Worth’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since its launch, we have added and refined tools (including our ecosystem dashboard, Growth Circuit maps, Interactive Growth Circuit, and cofounder resources) and helped countless local visionary founders achieve their goals, including through provision of hundreds of customized Spark Plans, which provide a tailored list of resources based on an entrepreneur’s current needs. We are very proud that we have served a very diverse cross-section of local entrepreneurs, including by launching services in Spanish and Vietnamese.
HSC Next, the City of Fort Worth’s Economic Development Department, and TCU’s Neeley School have supported Sparkyard since its inception four years ago, as the initiative’s founding sponsors. Tamara also recruited Better Business Bureau as a sponsor and is acting as a fiscal sponsor to support Sparkyard in its next phase. She will continue to fundraise to help cover Sparkyard’s operating costs. Other efforts include continued recruitment of local entrepreneurial resource partners to the platform and developing new services to expand Sparkyard’s reach.
I have thoroughly enjoyed running the platform over the last few years. Helping guide local entrepreneurs to resources has really helped me understand the joys and challenges of being a business owner. I will miss the daily interactions with entrepreneurs, but I will use what I’ve learned in my next endeavor at HSC Next. Stay tuned for more on that coming in 2024.
In the meantime, congratulations to Tamara and Ensemble Coworking and good luck ushering Sparkyard to the next stage.