SPARK Business Accelerator
Since August of 2011, 260 women have completed the program with skills needed to launch a small business. Over ninety businesses have been successfully launched thanks to our corporate and individual sponsors, facilitators, mentors, class coordinators, and especially SCORE and the North Central ISBDC (Indiana Small Business Development Center).
To cultivate the entrepreneurial capacity of women with a combination of personal education, business training, and ongoing professional mentoring to sustainably advance beyond socio-economic boundaries and achieve self-sufficiency.
You can make your dream a reality. SPARK provides intensive business training and personal development inside a supportive cohort model. The program includes training in financial accounting and management, planning, marketing and other business skills that will give you the tools necessary to start or expand your own business. You will experience interactive activities which will help you develop your entrepreneurial mindset, identify new opportunities, and understand and connect with your target customers. Best of all you will complete this intensive training program with other women business owners who will become part of your ongoing support system along with our mentors and subject-area experts.
Will SPARK 2023 classes be held in person or virtually?
We intend to conduct the SPARK 2023 program in person on the campus of Saint Mary’s College. Participants will be informed should there be any changes.
What are the dates and length of the program?
SPARK is an 8-week course that meets in person weekly beginning in Mid-September and ending in early November. Class meets on Monday evenings from 6pm-8:30pm. Homework assignments will require 4-6 hours of work per week.
How do I apply?
We will open applications in Summer 2023. If you are interested in SPARK or our new Pre-SPARK program, please click the “Learn More About SPARK” button. We would love to help you advance your business now and also make sure you receive an invitation to apply to our programs when they open again.
What happens after I apply?
After you apply and pay your application fee, you will receive an invitation to participate in an interview process to share your business idea and what you hope to accomplish in the program. Members of our SPARK Action Committee will then review all applications and select the incoming participants.
How much does SPARK cost?
The full value of the SPARK program is $3,000. Thanks to the generosity of our philanthropic partners we are able to offer every incoming participant a $2,350 scholarship and an additional $300 scholarship for anyone in the greater South Bend-Elkhart area needing financial assistance. Tuition is non-refundable and due upon acceptance. These fees are subject to change.
- $650 with standard scholarship available to all participants
- $350 with standard + needs-based scholarship for South Bend-Elkhart area entrepreneurs
What do graduates say about SPARK?
I really appreciated hearing from people who have lived through what I was/am going through as a business
owner...This experience was so much more than I could have imagined. I really appreciate that it’s designed
for women and run by women. -- Sasha Venis, Heavyweight Toys
I really appreciated having a place where I could take a longtime dream and see if it would be possible to turn
into reality. Life is busy, and I really needed this class to have time carved out in my schedule to focus on my
dream. Also, the women in the program are great. It has been great to witness all of the growth among us. --
Jamila Thomas, Dancing Lotus Studio
I have more questions now than when I started, but I have all the resources to figure out the answers! --
Maricela Navarro, OxFox Carriers
Becoming like a family with the others in the cohort was wonderful. The last day of class was bittersweet. I
enjoyed watching these beautiful ladies blossom and grow over the course of the class. -- Marlyce Klopping-
Davis, The Stork’s Nest
It was a great experience - I learned a lot, especially about myself, and where I am in my journey. SPARK is
the reason that I carved out 10 hours a week and dedicated them to working on my BP. I met amazing people
who are invaluable connections to building a successful business. I faced my challenges-I completed the
program through staffing issues in my business, grief/loss of a loved one, loss of 2 pets, and 3 respiratory
viruses. I’m grateful for the opportunity to finish, and finish strong! -- Jetta Cruse, Michiana Adaptive Performing Arts