Holyoke received a three-year, $250,000 grant to implement an initiative named SPARK (Stimulating Potential, Accessing Resource Knowledge). The initiative developed a data-driven ecosystem that created and expanded a pipeline of Latino entrepreneurship and businesses within the city.
Holyoke is a relatively poor community with a large and growing Hispanic population that is primarily Puerto Rican. SPARK takes advantage of the talents and aspirations of residents, especially the Hispanic population, to increase entrepreneurship and business within the city.
SPARK first established a trio of programs that promoted entrepreneurship, trained existing and aspiring business owners, and prepared entrepreneurs to start a new business. But over time, SPARK shifted away from programs and began strengthening the overall business ecosystem and culture to support Latino and citywide entrepreneurs. This emphasis on the local business ecosystem led SPARK to work with more partners, better understand how their services could be coordinated and integrated, and address barriers to business start-up and growth – such as regulations, financing, and space. A strong partnership has emerged among the city, chamber of commerce, small business development organizations, education and workforce development institutions, and several Latino business leaders. Together, they collaborate to nurture and support entrepreneurs and tackle systemic barriers to business development.
The SPARK initiative seeks to develop a system that supports immigrant entrepreneurs by connecting them with economic development services. The initiative’s primary goal is to help start 300 new businesses. A secondary goal is to increase Latino business ownership in Holyoke to 20 percent by 2024.
- Greater Holyoke Chamber Centennial Foundation
- Holyoke Innovation District
- Holyoke Public Library
- City of Holyoke, Planning and Economic Development
- Holyoke Community College
- Nuestras Raices
- Other partners, including additional nonprofit organizations, workforce agencies, several Holyoke business owners, and representatives from the chamber of commerce.