Local creators reflect on One Spark experience

Some of the 537 creators spent months in the planning, others were “sparked” by last-minute inspiration. Many were existing companies, yet struggling to break through while some saw the third annual World’s Largest Crowdfunding event as a chance to jumpstart new businesses.

Several local creators won awards, including Jessica Osborn (Pass That H.R.O.!, Social Good, 3rd place); Kenny and Kate Roux (Let’s Tile Hemming Park, Art, 3rd place); Keagan Anfuso (The Grey Area; Art Juried Award); Samantha Parton (B.O.L.D. City Summit Leadership Academy; Education; the Jax Award), Shai Tzabari (Olive My Pickle, Health & Science, 2nd place) and The Firewater Tent Revival (Music, 3rd place).

The Resident caught up with five local creators, who vied for their share of the 117,169 votes cast, and $93,324 in contributions.

Art for mental illness

With her multimedia art exhibit “Inside Out” at One Spark, Avondale resident Carmen Marino hoped to help minimize the stigma surrounding mental illness. Marino, who has a mental health background, a master’s degree in counseling and herself struggled with depression and anxiety disorder, said that two years ago she was in a bleak place. Her painting “Cognitive Dissonance” shows the face she presents to the world and her inside self which expresses, “I’m in this right now but I’ll come out.”

Carmen Marino and Sara Mae Simpson

Carmen Marino and Sara Mae Simpson

The display of paintings on canvas depicted various artists’ journeys with mental illness, accompanied by photographs and statements describing personal reflections and the reasoning behind the artwork, sharing with viewers that what a person presents on the outside is not always how they are feeling on the inside. Visitors to the exhibit helped create a community puzzle to express an emotion or feeling.

With her $15,000 goal, Marino hopes to establish a nonprofit organization and have free art programs all over the city for those diagnosed with mental illness. She said “One Spark was exhausting but we heard personal stories and had conversations with people who are struggling. I feel like we were able to give a lot of people hope.”

Annie Murphy

Annie Murphy

Trash picking to profitability

Annie Murphy of Repurpose Jax is no stranger to construction, deconstruction and do overs. She and husband Michael got to “this point in their lives through a long and convoluted story.” Owners of Eco Relics in Riverside, the Murphys hope to create a woodworking studio, have classes for kids and host field trips at their 50,000 sq. ft. warehouse (an old freight railroad depot in Riverside) to educate people at a young age about the importance of re-using and re-purposing salvaged items. She laughingly explained that she is “the original ‘green’ trash picker lady and Michael loves architecture so our passions took on a life of their own.” Annie and Michael want to help train the next generation “to see the beauty in objects instead of just throwing them in the trash.” Their motto is reuse, recycle and repurpose, and their One Spark goal was $100,000.

Turning disability into profitability

MarkBennett

Mark Bennett was inspired to create by losing his vision in one eye and making lots of messes in the kitchen while trying to fill the coffee maker. Bennett, of San Jose, said he would come home from work each day to design and build prototypes for what would eventually become “Magic Filler,” a device to deliver water to the coffee maker with the turn of a valve. A lot of late night research and interactions with his “old friend Google,” a whirlwind of activity, a last-minute application and he was on his way to One Spark with a $250,000 fundraising goal.

“I’m sure most people had been planning on doing this for months (or years). Our decision came in less than a week. Everything fell into place. Our goal was to see if people like the idea, if they felt comfortable installing it, and finding an investor,” said Bennett. “I’m working on other versions as well. I couldn’t count the times someone said, ‘You guys really need to be on Shark Tank.’ It’s good to hear from others that they think our product can make it.”

Alternative therapy to talk

BeckyLachutBecky Lachut of The Child Guidance Center in San Jose describes her One Spark experience as “energizing but exhausting.” With two projects in the Health and Science Category – Sand Tray Therapy and Children’s Mental Health Research, which were voted number 5 and 10 – she received over 400 votes and secured $700 each in donations and a possible community collaborator. Her goal was to raise over $40,000 in funding to provide 75 therapists with the sand tray tool and to help the 5,000 children they see every year overcome trauma, depression, anxiety and family conflicts.

According to Lachut, the sand trays provide “an evidence-based therapy tool to help nonverbal children.” By providing children with miniatures in different themes the children can to express their thoughts and feelings by constructing a story or world. She explained, “Children experience events and situations similarly but personally. The play therapy allows for a child guided experience and helps lower defenses. The sand trays give the therapists another tool for communication in their therapeutic service.”

Medical crisis sparks idea

Lakewood residents Charu and Ravi Raheja’s project, My Nurse Triage App, came about because of a personal medical crisis. After experiencing symptoms which included what she thought was just a headache, Charu’s husband suggested that she call and ask for a medical recommendation. She was advised to go to a hospital where she discovered that she had a stroke.

MyNurseTriage

With $35,000 in funding, production of My Nurse Triage mobile app can be completed. Then the company will hire, train and license new nurses so that individuals can connect directly with a registered nurse, even if they don’t have insurance or a primary care doctor. The app and website would help eliminate unnecessary, costly visits to the Emergency Room or, in some cases, could evaluate a dangerous condition which someone might ordinarily ignore.

Ravi said that One Spark helped them by pushing them to get the technology in place to showcase their new product. “It was a good way to make connections – having a deadline was helpful – and from an operational standpoint it was a success.” Charu remarked, “I really enjoyed the event. We met a lot of really good people, with lots of ideas. We made so many connections to move forward with our business and the feedback about our product was helpful.”

By Peggy Harrell Jennings

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