If you know anything about Marc Sparks, you know that the man is a serial entrepreneur who has created dozens of startups and as a result, has a lot of great inventive ideas. Spark Tank is Marc’s latest venture and is a social innovation challenge that offers grants for social entrepreneurs who are on a mission to change the world.
Ambitious? Yes. Empowering? Absolutely. Marc created Spark Tank because he was curious about how he could give back to the entrepreneur community. Marc was not a stranger to the non-profit world and crated a small homeless shelter with a friend, Lynne Sipiora. That small homeless shelter grew to a large organization that runs on a $3,000,000 annual budget and can feed well over 200 people every single day. Lynne suggested that Marc think about giving back to social entrepreneurs.
What is a social entrepreneur? A social entrepreneur is someone who has an entrepreneurial or “super creative and unique” idea that has the possibility to create a social impact. According to Crunchbase, Funding these types of social entrepreneurs would help Marc Sparks help entrepreneurs and help spark social change in powerful ways. It seemed like a win-win opportunity and Marc jumped on the idea with Lynne. Thus, Spark Tank was born.
The aim of Spark Tank is to offer grants that help social entrepreneurs get their projects off the ground. In other words, to find ways to make those ideas a reality. The program started with a simple question to social entrepreneurs, “What could you do with $5,000 that would impact lives?” This question was supposed to inspire people and see what they could come up with that was both creative and helpful. Read more: Marc Sparks – AngelList
The results were amazing. In the first round the winner of the grant was a company called “Dogs Matter.” Dogs Matter is a powerful idea. The organization provides dog foster care & services for alcoholics and addicts in recovery.
The group noticed that addiction takes away everything from a person and many people are left alone except for one sole being: the person’s dog. Dogs are loyal creatures and offer unconditional love even to those battling the throes of addiction, but what happens when someone battling addiction decides it’s time to get help?
Dogs Matter found that many alcoholics and addicts who wanted to go seek in-patient treatment had difficulty finding somewhere to house their pet. Sometimes they had to give them away to a shelter or place them into an environment that was unhealthy for the dog. Dogs Matter takes these dogs and places them into supportive, healthy, and loving foster care homes until the person has fully recovered and completed their in-patient treatment program. Spark Tanks was overjoyed to give out their award to this group.
After such a successful run, Mark decided to expand the program. Every year there will be multiple rounds of the Spark Tank program so that new organizations have a chance to win $5,000 to grow their organization and help “spark” social change.