SPARK From Home Builds Real Connections, Virtually
PPAI’s SPARK From Home conference, held on Thursday, July 16, ushered young industry professionals into a virtual space where networking, brainstorming and innovation was the focus. With numerous breakout sessions, an Innovation Bootcamp led by event speaker Julia Maddox, and interactive ice breakers and games that had participants running through their home offices, SPARK From Home kept the momentum going throughout the entire day while leaving time for periodic email check-ins.
Evan Gall, national sales manager for DPI, Inc., says, “I was having trouble feeling motivated this week and the [SPARK conference] was just the boost I needed to kick me back in to gear.”
At the start of the conference, SPARK recognized PPB’s 2020 Rising Star recipients, the magazine’s popular and coveted honor that spotlights the industry’s up-and-coming leaders. Twelve must-watch individuals were selected this year based on their accomplishments, leadership and involvement in the industry and in their communities.
This year’s Rising Stars are Jeff Franklin, CAS, of Headwear USA; Alyssa Inkrott, CAS, of Raining Rose; Sam Kabert of SwagWorx; Jason Loui of AnyPromo.com; William Lovelace of Diamondback Branding; Kate Masewich of commonsku; Rachel Minogue of Monarch & Company; Kate Plummer, MAS, of Clearmount Plastics Ltd.; Alicia Skipper, CPIM, of PromoPros/IncentPros; Justin Washburn of Full Throttle Marketing; Tiffany Wu of Bagworld and Colton Young of Storm Creek.
With 130 registered participants, the SPARK Work Group sought to reimagine this event for the 19- to 35-year-old members of the industry.
“Overall, the event was a huge success and our first PPAI virtual conference,” says Jody M. Shaw, CMP, PMP, PPAI’s manager of professional development. “I would like to give a huge shout out to our SPARK Work Group for their amazing work throughout the year-round program and moreover, for their fabulous help leading this event.” The SPARK workgroup includes Stephen McFadden, CAS; Taylor Borst; Meghan Kory; Alicia Skipper, CPIM; Kacie Brinner; Tosha Everhart and David Geiger, Esq., CIL, MAS.
The virtual conference gave participants the design-thinking toolkit to use towards innovating within their company to improve processes and products, and to think through not only the possibilities but also how to implement them. Harvard Business Review said in its article “Why Now Is The Time For Open Innovation” that, “A big crisis often alters the behavior of customers, employees, and partners…Having established new ways of doing open innovation during a crisis can then bring much-needed flexibility and, in the end, secure the company’s viability. Don’t waste those experiences by planning for how to get back to the old normal. Plan for a new normal.” This group of young professionals is now prepared to do just that while having fun with the creative process along the way.
The conference wound down with seven breakout rooms for small groups to discuss future opportunities for the promotional products industry. Participants talked through a variety of topics and ended the day with smiles and laugher during the SPARK social happy hour.
Plummer said after the event, “I wanted to send out a big congratulations for what SPARK From Home achieved. This was my first SPARK event outside of Expo and it was a lot of fun. I met a lot of new people while connecting with old friends. You had a great mix of education and networking.”