The Creative Spark
Chamber names Kennesaw State student’s project a ‘Startup to Watch’ KENNESAW, Ga…
Georgia (Jun 16, 2015) —
Chamber names Kennesaw State student’s project a ‘Startup to Watch’
KENNESAW, Ga. (June 16, 2015) — Within nine months, Dwayne Walker saw his idea go from a pitch to a product. Now it is an award winner.
Walker, a computer science major at Kennesaw State University, and his partners have created Sparketh, an online learning platform for art, dance, music and other activities. For their efforts, Sparketh has been selected a “Startup to Watch” by the Metro Atlanta Chamber and the Atlanta Business Chronicle and was honored during the “Business Person of the Year” award ceremony June 12 at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead.
The award just adds to the success Walker’s project has earned over the past year. He, along with business partners and childhood friends Tim Samuel and Enkose Plummer, initially pitched Sparketh during Kennesaw State’s Concept-2-Reality, a semiannual business plan competition sponsored by the Michael J. Coles College of Business that showcases innovative products and services. It took second place.
Then Walker and Sparketh caught the eye of Chris Hanks, founder and executive director of the KSU Entrepreneurship Center during one of the center’s Mastering Entrepreneurship Series monthly meetings. It was Hanks who encouraged Walker to pursue the “Startup to Watch” competition.
“(Hanks) is the reason we have been able to come this far,” said Walker. “He believed in us and our idea and told us about the competition and advised us throughout the process.”
In his position, Hanks has seen his share of good ideas. What made Sparketh special was Walker.
“There are a lot of great ideas out there,” Hanks said. “But ultimately it’s the CEO behind the idea that makes it work, and Dwayne has the ability to be a great CEO.”
Walker, who has tinkered with small business ideas since middle school, said that the idea for Sparketh came from his experiences as a self-taught artist.
“When I was younger, I wanted to learn how to draw, but there weren’t any classes at school that I could take, and my parents couldn’t afford private lessons,” he said.
According to Walker, he did what most kids today do: he turned to the Internet.
“I wanted to teach myself how to draw and figured there had to be something online that would help me do that,” he said. “But I couldn’t really find anything that presented the material in a way that would help me teach myself.”
Enter Sparketh, a site that Walker says equips students with online access to a library of brief creativity courses taught by professional artists, musicians, and others in the creative field. It will launch initially with art lessons only.
“The idea is to have each course focus on a different aspect of the creative process,” Walker said. “Like in dancing, we will show the different movements in slow motion, or in drawing, we will show various techniques from different angles. There’s a lot of room for innovation in teaching creative courses online that haven’t been implemented before, and that’s what we are going to explore.”
So who does Walker see as the target market for Sparketh?
While Walker believes that Sparketh has wide appeal, he says the company’s initial focus is on the home-school market – Walker himself was home-schooled for a year as a fourth-grader.
“Often parents who home-school are handling academic instruction but may not have the experience to help with extracurricular activities, specifically the arts,” he said. “So we are designing our initial courses to speak directly to that market, specifically students between the ages of 10 and 18.”
And he’ll find out just how on target he is in July when the team attends the Southeast Homeschool Expo at Cobb Galleria Centre. Walker will present Sparketh to home-school parents during the Expo and will have a booth to promote the site.
— by Tim Turner
— photos by Anthony Stalcup
A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers more than 150 undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its approximately 38,000 students. With 13 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia and the third-largest university in the state. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the region and from 92 countries across the globe. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status, and one of the 50 largest public institutions in the country. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.