Spark Fest is where budding entreps can pitch the next big business idea

March 18, 2019 – Vinz Lamorena

If you ask local entrepreneurs about Filipino talent, they seem to have one opinion about the matter: It remains untapped.

For The Spark Project founder Patch Dulay, a lot of talented creatives are just waiting for a platform to inspire learning and afford them the opportunity to pursue their passions. The CEO started his company when he turned 30, and said it’s all a matter of knowing how to start, and actually diving head first to take the plunge—but both can be a little too intimidating. 

“I have met a lot of entrepreneurs, creatives, and dreamers who want to put their work out there, but there are a lot of hurdles people have to jump through to get started,” Patch said. He mentioned the funding of projects remains to be a major bottleneck. A handful of aspiring entrepreneurs still lack the resources to start a business of their own, even with the abundance of ideas and products worth pursuing.

But this believer in crowdfunding wants to emphasize that anyone with a vision comes across their own series of doubts and challenges, but there are those who overcome it. These are precisely the individuals he wants a crowd of business hopefuls to meet.

This coming Mar. 23, The Spark Fest is coming back for its third year to help emerging entrepreneurs take their ideas to the next level. It features a mix of insights from creatives, cofounders, and directors of businesses and brands that are trying to do well and do good in their own perspective communities.

The lineup of speakers include Bianca Gonzales-Intal (TV host and author), RJ Ledesma (Mercato Central), Lester Cruz (Serious Studio), Lynn Pinugu (She Talks Asia), and Gina Romero (Connected Women) among many others. Spark Fest is a lot more interactive than your usual conference, where business ideas and startup models can be pitched and refined with the help of entrepreneurs from different industries.

The one-day event’s panel topics also range from sustainability, social media strategies, crowdfunding, self-branding, and being your own boss. It is scheduled from 8 AM to 6 PM at the Globe Tower, Bonifacio Global City.

In Patch’s immersion in the company of different entrepreneurial individuals, projects full of hope, critical insights and observations on production, and stories of artisanal communities have been shared in conversation. He said it would be a waste if the learning stopped with him and the idea of creating an avenue to put all these inspiring people in one room started to play in his head.

“I know people like exploring opportunities. But personally, what helped shaped my decision to go through an entrepreneurial path is being exposed to all these communities, meet-ups, and gatherings. So why not create a conference that gathers our favorite people who can share what they do and inspire aspiring entrepreneurs to start, to keep creating, and even reach their next milestones?” Patch shared.

And that’s how the idea of Spark Fest was born.

The first time the event was staged, it was actually crowdfunded to life. “True to what we are as a website, we wanted to use our own platform and use the power of the crowd to make Spark Fest happen the way people wanted it,” said the digital finance platform CEO.

“It was all our efforts combined,” he said. “For the first one, we only shared our vision and wanted the crowd to decide its course. But this year’s Spark Fest is special as we’ll be launching some of the things we’ve been cooking up. It is our sixth year in the industry after all.”

Patch says both The Spark Project and the Spark Fest gravitate mostly to individuals who wish to pursue social enterprises. He calls them creative entrepreneurs—those who would like to bring out new creations to the market. “It’s where entrepreneurial talent builds on talent already existing in local communities,” he said. It puts the focus on enabling local talent be tapped by sustainable business mindsets, helping skilled artisans on designs and introducing economic opportunities.
There is also a certain culture Patch and his crowdfunding website The Spark Project wish to cultivate. It is one where creative entrepreneurs provide a sense of security and support, and people don’t view each other as competitors, but as colleagues all trying to make a change in society. This is the kind of community his company is so keen in building, and the Spark Fest is one way to get them together.

“In our community, people see that they are more alike than different. They get to share their businesses and experiences, and they willingly connect them to their own networks. It’s something that happens organically—sharing tips, suggesting suppliers, giving insider insights on distributors and bazaars,” Patch shared.

“They tend to see more on how they can help each other than compete amongst themselves—even if they are in the same space, like retail, for example, since a lot of our projects aim to create products like bags and shoes. They could be competitors but they choose to see beyond that and see how the can help elevate each other instead,” he added.

alike sat down with this crowdfunding website founder and talked about his journey of establishing The Spark Project:

How did the idea of launching this type of website come to you?

Patch: I consider myself a builder. After studying in France, I felt more compelled to go back home—to create something bigger, and to create that "something" here. In 2011, the startup scene was rising, and so was social enterprising. These were two communities I was heavily immersed to because of my friends.

I met budding entrepreneurs who struggled to start because of the lack of funds. After discovering Kickstarter, we wanted to see if crowdfunding could somehow answer the problems these people faced. We’re fans of local creativity and talent so we thought, why not focus there? We started small, we made sure we built our reputation and credibility. We only had four projects, and in six years, we’re close to handling more than 80 crowdfunded initiatives.

Where do you usually get the ideas that inspire you?

Patch: When I travel or when I explore different places, may it be here or abroad, it allows me to discover new things that aren’t familiar. I get to use whatever I feel, whatever I see, and whatever I experience to create ideas that create new things. 

A lot of the inspiration also comes online. I like spending time on the internet, discovering things like new websites and concepts—that’s how I actually started Spark Project. It’s me exploring the web, exploring new things, that made me stumble upon crowdfunding and wanting to bring that same concept to the local scene. I know there were—and there still are—a lot of entreps and creatives that want to put themselves out there but have no means to do it.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?

That small things, when you add it all up, it makes a lot of difference. It’s very true with us when we were starting Spark Project—we started our small, we started out with a few projects. But we have grown our community to what it is now.

It also goes to show the power of small things, like having a small crowd working together with its acts of generosity and support. When you add all these things up, every little act and every person is significant enough to be able to get a business started or get a creative work out there. One should never underestimate the power of small things—the power of the crowd. 

Learn more about the Spark Project on their website. Tickets for the event are also available on the same platform.
Art by Pearl Antoinette Sevilla