As I sat at CoWork Jax late yesterday afternoon writing this post for today, I was inspired. There’s a sense of focus. There’s a community. There’s a visible passion demonstrated by the people at CoWork working on their business.
I can’t help but to take a moment and be nostalgic while thinking back to the days just a few short years ago when One Spark was coming to life as sticky notes on the windows in this space. Things were relatively simple then… there was an idea in its infancy with an overly ambitious group of people that wanted to bring it to life.
Fast forward a bit and here we are, one month after the close of One Spark 2015. Most of the street banners have come down. Ads are no longer running on radio, online, on TV or at the airport. Creators have returned home and are back to work on their Projects. Speakers that shared such great insight with so many at One Spark are now speaking in other cities around the country and our core team at One Spark is moved back from our temporary space during the festival to our offices on Bay Street again.
There’s an unmistakeable “peak and trough” cycle that happens at One Spark. It’s palatable. You can feel it in the air the days and weeks after the festival ends its Closing Ceremony. It carries through for a few weeks where even those at one of the most amazing Players Championships to date were still talking about what they experienced at One Spark, how it can be made better next year and what’s next for our team.
Since the festival has ended, we have had the chance to sit down with our core team and dive into our debrief. We’ve spent the past two weeks organizing the anecdotes we heard, talking about perceived and real strengths and weaknesses, compiling wins and misses, and getting surveys out for key stakeholder groups. We have also spent time being grateful for our community of Creators, supporters, and critics. Yes, we’re thankful for the critics we have as well - without them it’s tough to continue to improve.
“So, what now?” I get asked that question at least two to three times a week in a pointed manner and even a few times a day in passing. It rings again, “What now?” What does One Spark do in order to “beat last year’s festival?” Or, “How does One Spark get bigger?”
In essence, it’s the question that we ask after anything major happens in our lives … what now?
Well, here is what we know. Rather, here’s what I think that we know based on the past few years’ experience:
- Data helps us make better decisions. Though, many times intuition and gut are nearly spot-on. To this point, our surveys are still the leading indicator of where we’ll head (those are open until this Friday by the way and you can click here to take an attendee survey). Yet, there are many items that are on our minds based on what we’ve learned through the past few years (see below).
- By focusing on ease of use and adding rewards-based crowdfunding, we were able to increase the amount of contributions to Creators this year - from $10k in the first year to over $100k in the third year. That’s a great foundation. The question we are wrestling with now is “How do we exponentially increase value and efficiency for those Creators that are utilizing crowdfunding to achieve their funding goals?”
- Attendance has grown in a staggering way over the past few years. From over 100k in the first year to over 300k this past festival. That’s a lot of people! But, is it the most important metric? I’d argue that it’s not.
- As a company, we can lead more within the community by being open about our challenges/opportunities and the process by which we are making decisions. We won’t always be (and haven’t always been) right, but as a team that has found themselves in a position of influence within the creative and startup community in Jacksonville, we can do better to share our own story so that others can learn from our mistakes and wins alike.
- Creators have shared that they get burnt out after a few days of such intense showcasing at One Spark. Perhaps this means we should have shorter hours or a shorter number of days. Perhaps we should organize Creator categories into Venues/areas like we’ve done with the EdSpark Venue over the past two years for Education Projects.
- At this year’s event, more food and beverage was sold than ever before. The challenge though is how to ensure that adds value for Creators versus just the Attendee experience.
- We know there are many questions that deserve our focused attention to help improve for the future and that the bottom line matters to ensure we’re a sustainable organization for years to come. We know that without the support of Peter Rummell, One Spark would not be what it is today and we want to honor that support.
There are dozens of these points that we’re debating, sorting through and agreeing upon as part of our post-festival analysis. Once we receive final survey data back at the end of this week, we’ll move to the next phase(s) of proving or disproving our theories, organizing and hosting focus groups and then making changes for the future.
As an inside scoop, here are a couple of the tools we’re using to stay focused on our mission and hit our objectives for One Spark:
- Small Giants: a great book that our team is reading. One of my favorites from when it first came out and a good reminder that companies can chose to stay relatively small, focus on quality and have a tremendous impact in their community.
- PROACT decision making model: a great way to evaluate options and commit to a decision path. Learn more about the model here.
- Lean Canvas: a simple 1 page business plan. Helpful in looking at everything from a company strategy to a small business unit within an organization and more.
In order to progress with the right priorities and clear direction, we also need the feedback of this community.
In the weeks ahead, you’ll hear more about our challenges, opportunities, what we’re working on (and why). If there’s a particular topic you’d like for us to write about, just let us know. Your opinions, suggestions and thoughts are critical in creating an even better experience as we go forward.
Your thoughts, opinions and critiques matter to me and to our team. Coming from such a passionate community, I look forward to what I’m sure will be an engaging dialogue!
PS - it can be a challenge to potentially open up pandora's box for getting direct feedback, like what was written about cover bands in Folio Weekly, but I’ll tell you this - that’s very important to us. Personally, I’m more concerned about a potentially large volume of feedback that is hard for us to manage than critical discourse - that’s a good problem to have!
Originally posted at onespark.com