Wednesday, July 20, 2022
When The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth received a $562,500 grant, managers of the Sparkyard platform that supports local entrepreneurs and startups set out to expand its services. One of the key initiatives of that expansion was to translate Sparkyard into Spanish and embark on a significant outreach to Fort Worth’s Spanish-speaking entrepreneurial community.
Sparkyard (www.sparkyard.co) and its vast array of resources, is now available in Spanish on a separate site. The free platform helps both new and existing companies in Tarrant County connect to the right resource at the right time to launch and grow.
The goal of the translation is to engage a community where the entrepreneurship rates already are high. Spanish-speaking communities have long been a hub for upstarts and self-made business owners, particularly in Fort Worth. According to a recent report by Forbes, Hispanics create businesses at 15 times the national rate, and Fort Worth was recently ranked as the 14th largest city in the country for Hispanic entrepreneurs. Spanish-speaking people make up more than 36% of the city’s population.
Even with the growth and rising economic power of the Latinx population, the community still faces significant barriers, including language, in starting and growing small businesses. Sparkyard — which is operated through the university’s HSC Next program with support from the City of Fort Worth Office of Economic Development and Texas Christian University’s Neeley School of Business — works to remove some of those barriers.
“Sparkyard aims to help level the playing field for entrepreneurs and business owners of all types, regardless of who they are, where they live or what type of company they are operating,” said HSC Next’s Marco Johnson, who is the Sparkyard network builder. “Making the Sparkyard site accessible in Spanish is crucial to ensuring more equitable access to resources. We know there is a need for help in this community, and it is our job to make these resources accessible. In the future, we hope to work with a native Spanish speaker to help Sparkyard meet entrepreneurs where they are.”
Johnson said he and his team are planning a series of “road shows” in the community to help promote the newly translated website and raise awareness about Sparkyard throughout predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods. Sparkyard already partners with the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and refers many Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs to that organization. That partnership is expected to strengthen and grow as Sparkyard encounters more Hispanic business owners.
“As a business owner and former Fort Worth City Council representative for District 2, I’m excited that HSC’s Sparkyard program is engaging the Hispanic community in such a meaningful way,” said Sal Espino, attorney, community leader and former city council member for the district that includes the city’s largely Spanish-speaking North Side. “Small businesses are the beating heart of a community, and I look forward to watching Hispanic-owned businesses flourish with the help of Sparkyard and HSC.”
Numerous studies have shown entrepreneurship to be one of the fastest, most equitable and sustainable ways to rebuild the economy after a downturn. After the full brunt of COVID-19 was brought to bear on the local economy, the Sparkyard staff was determined to do its part to reignite commerce in every neighborhood. The team received a grant through the Economic Development Administration’s CARES Act Recovery Assistance, which is covering a portion of the team’s current outreach.
Sparkyard frequently collaborates with community partners to make inroads to the Spanish-speaking community.
“As someone who views everything through the lens of equity, it brings me much joy to be part of the Fort Worth Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s collaboration with Sparkyard to bring equity through Spanish context to the Spanish-speaking community of entrepreneurs in Fort Worth,” said Natalia M. Dominguez, a business leader with North Texas-based Carcon Industries.
Sparkyard provides a variety of free services to entrepreneurs in the Fort Worth area, including customized Spark Plans to help businesses overcome current obstacles, a comprehensive regional events calendar, a directory of free business-building resources, local economic research, ways to identify resource gaps and more.
“I’m excited that the City of Fort Worth, HSC and TCU partnered to launch the Spanish version of Sparkyard, a free platform that connects entrepreneurs with resources and information about Fort Worth’s local startup community,” said Carlos Flores, city council representative for District 2.
“Sparkyard’s data analysis, guest blog posts and other informational sources will help our community’s entrepreneurs find the right resources to grow their business ideas.”
The HSC team behind Sparkyard also is working to translate the site into Vietnamese, the third-most commonly spoken language in Tarrant County after English and Spanish. Entrepreneurship rates in the Vietnamese American community — and the Asian American community in general — are higher than the national average, yet an estimated 44% of Vietnamese Americans are not proficient in English. This means that like in the Spanish-speaking community, many entrepreneurs don’t have access to resources, and that equates to a lack of realized business potential. HSC intends to launch the Sparkyard site in Vietnamese later this summer.