300 businesses in 10 years in Holyoke - Tess Murphy-Romboletti

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Tessa Murphy-Romboletti said her goal is to establish 300 new businesses in Holyoke in 10 years as new program manager of the commercial catalyst known as Spark. She is ambitious but is confident that they are heading in the right direction towards achieving that goal. Working in the city she has learned a lot that has prepared her for her new position and she is very excited to get started. Her last day as developmental specialist with the Holyoke Department of Planning and Economic Development was Tuesday.

Spark stands for Stimulating, Potential, Accessing, Resource and Knowledge. This is a federal and state granted-funded program, which began in March 2015 to help entrepreneurs become business owners. Her salary will be $49,000 she participated in a question and answer session with the Republican newspaper.

Question; who decides on the appointment of Spark boss?
Her response: interviews for the program manager position were led by a committee made up of entrepreneurial partners.

Question: What is Sparks yearly budget and where does the money come from?
Her response: in 2014, the Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation received 250,000 to be spent over three years to create the Spark program to offer support and technical assistance for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Since then it has been awarded several additional grants.

Question: please explain what Spark is.
Her response: Spark is an initiative led by Kathleen Anderson and is further supported by a cross collaboration a public and private partners that create an entrepreneurial ecosystem of support for entrepreneurs by coordinating existing services, offering technical assistance and connecting participants with the community of business owners that offer mentorship and additional resources such as educational opportunities or networking events.

Question: please describe why Spark is helpful to Holyoke.
Her response: The goal of Spark is to strengthen and grow the Holyoke economy from within its own residence who have untapped potential to increase business and social ventures within the city. It also helps eliminate barriers within the community for the start of business. Right now, there is a major disparity in business ownership between white and Hispanic residents of Holyoke. Despite the fact that Holyoke's population is half Latino, only 9% of businesses are Latino owned.

Question: please detail the Spark education program for prospective business operators and how many entrepreneurs have completed the program.
Her response: Spark launch program is a 10-week, cohort driven business accelerator course. We use a licensed curriculum, which delivers a proven, one-of-a-kind business-modeling program. The Launch program is great for anyone who has ever had an idea of a business but isn't quite sure where to start or how to get their plans off the ground. Since 2015, 53 participants have graduated from the Launch program. 11 of these participants have since started a business in Holyoke and 23 participants are already operating a business for a total of 34 in Holyoke. 52% of participants have been female and 74% have been Latino.

Question: what are some Holyoke businesses whose owners participated in the Spark program?
Her response: Spark participants include new businesses like Hot Oven Cookies, Artesana, Kreaciones Jadhai Boutique, Holyoke Hummus, Vapors Edge and Eco Tints, etc. All these retailers are proud to be “Made in America” You can find more about them at handmadeinamerica.org

Question: what else do you feel is important for readers to know about Spark?
Her response: Sparks’s long-term goal is to create 300 businesses in the city within 10 years. It's ambitious but I'm confident were heading in the right direction towards achieving the goal. In addition to workforce development and education, the mission of the Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation centers around economic development and entrepreneurship. The Foundation oversees Spark and the ecosystem is committed to growing resources and opportunities in the community for entrepreneurs.

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