When Naturally Smart founder Mark Patterson brought his gluten-free frozen dessert product to One Spark last year, he expected money to be the No. 1 benefit for him, but that changed half way through the festival.

One of the biggest misconceptions of One Spark is that creators should participate just to gain funding. But many have found that, more importantly, it also is a way for creators to gain validation, feedback and awareness for their ideas.

Patterson was one of the creators last year who experienced this. Prior to One Spark, he had his first round of seed financing. One Spark did not award money to Naturally Smart, but the company’s marketing strategy gave it the publicity needed to gain attention from media. Today, Naturally Smart’s product is available in over 45 stores in Northeast Florida.


“What really helped me was working with so many people,” Patterson said. “We had over 11,000 people at our table, so we really got a good idea of who our customers were.”

One Spark’s Community and Public Relations Director Meredith O’Malley Johnson said that the No. 1 thing that creators said they got out of One Spark in the past was not financial help, but rather the feedback and validation for their idea.

“Creators get the chance to present their idea in front of tens of thousands of people and get all that feedback to either perfect their project or maybe get the validation they need to move forward if it’s already at a place where everyone’s like, ‘this is really cool,’” Johnson said.

Publicity typically comes from a great marketing plan, which Naturally Smart Foods had. At their booth, the staff handed out 10,000 free samples of their healthy dessert at One Spark last year. Naturally Smart’s idea was for people to sample their product, enjoy it and then buy it.

“99.9 percent of people were telling us how amazing our product is at One Spark,” Patterson said. “It really helped with the validation of the product and helped with our confidence. We knew we had something great going forward.”


Photo Credits: Tyler Brunner

For creators who do not have as strong of a plan, One Spark offers multiple Creator Academies during the weeks leading up to the event. The Creator Academy is a resource for One Spark creators to better identify how to leverage the festival to achieve success. It focuses on the key areas of performance and helps creators to identify the tools to have a better experience and ultimately reach their goals.

Al Emerick, director of the Creator Academy, said many creators might need to focus more of their energy on aspects other than money at One Spark.

“You might not be ready for funding at One Spark,” Emerick said. “It may be more that you are trying to figure out if your product or idea could gain traction.”

With social media being the best way to reach the millennial generation, One Spark also gives creators publicity on all social mediums.

“Giving us their all, creating buzz on social media about them, and having a good marketing plan will ultimately help creators,” Johnson said. “We definitely encourage news media to look through our creators and point out ones that they like and we contact them for interviews.”

This year, One Spark staff is talking about encouraging creators to give updates on their projects throughout the festival, and finding a way to provide that to news media immediately. This will better help creators gain instant publicity.

Publicity at One Spark doesn’t just happen for creators; it can happen for the whole team behind the creation. Nico Suave, a local Jacksonville artist, partnered with InstaRamp last year. She painted a mural next to the ramp to bring more attention to the creation.


Photo Credits: Tyler Brunner

Although Suave wasn’t technically registered as a creator at One Spark, her mural was featured in the Florida Times-Union. Being a part of the Instaramp team gave her the inspiration to officially register as a creator this year. This time around, she’s planning an even bigger project.

“This year, I’ll be set up in the same location, painting a bigger and longer wall for the entire time of One Spark, from day to night,” said Suave.


Photo Credits: Tyler Brunner

The audience at One Spark is looking for something to grab their attention; something to excite them and make them want more. Past success stories give hope for future creators to not only raise funds, but also to have a chance to catch the right people’s attention.

“Crowdfunding is a huge segment of One Spark,” Emerick said, “but it’s the connection you can make with resources and people that ultimately move your idea forward.”