SPARK and New SPARK-Art Entrepreneurial Programs Scheduled for Fall

Gwen O’Brien
Director of Media Relations
Saint Mary's College
(574) 284-4579

September 11, 2013 (Notre Dame, Ind.)—The Saint Mary’s College Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) is proud to announce that this fall it will host its fifth session of the SPARK entrepreneurship training program and a new SPARK-Art program for entrepreneurial artists. SPARK is intended to assist local under-resourced, high-potential entrepreneurs to “spark” or launch successful businesses. SPARK-Art is open to these women in addition to area college and graduate students. Candidates for either program must apply in person at a mandatory 2-hour orientation and screening session at 5 p.m., Thursday, September 19 in rooms 135 and 137 of Spes Unica Hall.

SPARK is an 11-week session that offers a morning or evening track. Classes meet twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. The cost of the session is $125.

SPARK-Art is 12-week session that will meet on Thursdays from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The cost of the session is $225.

Both SPARK and SPARK-Art are focused on helping women create a corporate identity and a business plan, implement marketing strategies and promotional materials, and learn skills in time management, bookkeeping, attaining a business loan, and general success strategies. Both programs will meet from the last week of September through mid-December.

 “We are very excited to introduce SPARK for Women Visual Arts, which we call SPARK-Art for short,” said Martha Smith, WEI’s project director. “We noticed that an increasing number of artists were enrolling in SPARK and had a unique set of questions and challenges in establishing their businesses. You could say SPARK sparked a new program for a niche audience. SPARK-Art is made possible through a generous donation from the Florence V. Carroll Charitable Trust administered by Wells Fargo Bank.”

Modeled after a San Francisco non-profit called the Women’s Initiative, SPARK’s mission is “to cultivate an entrepreneurial capacity in women... to advance them beyond socio-economic boundaries and achieve self-sufficiency.” This happens through education, business training, and ongoing professional mentoring. Established women and men business owners in the region lead the SPARK classes and, as mentors, teach best practices to the budding entrepreneurs (aka “SPARKlers”). South Bend SCORE Chapter 0266 offers ongoing professional mentoring.

So far SPARK has led to the creation of ten local micro businesses, including a dance studio, a health and wellness spa, an import/export business, a daycare, a gift basket company, a beauty shop, a concierge service, and a real estate development enterprise. Another four businesses are expected to take off soon.

Those interested in more information about being involved in SPARK as a participant, facilitator, mentor, or volunteer can email Smith at or call (574) 284-5262.

About the Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI): The Department of Business Administration and Economics and the Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership at Saint Mary’s College launched WEI in 2010 after the College received a $245,000 Small Business Administration grant to support women’s entrepreneurship in the region. Though the grant has expired, WEI is sustained through the generosity of Jack Ruhe, professor emeritus of business, alumnae, NIPSCO, The Pokagon Fund, and local banks including KeyBank, 1st Source, and PNC. WEI partners with community businesses, non-profits, and other organizations to provide financial and business education services to women entrepreneurs. WEI is pronounced "we."

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. The College’s single-gender environment has been proven, in study after study, to foster confidence, ethical leadership, and strong academic success. Saint Mary's College ranks 76 among the top 100 “Best National Liberal Arts Colleges” for 2014 published by U.S. News. Founded in 1844 by the Sisters of the Holy Cross, Saint Mary’s College’s mission is to educate women and prepare them for postgraduate success whether it’s a first job, graduate school, or postgraduate service.