A Perspective on Spark by the Amsterdam Mamas Spark Scholarship 2016 Attendee

Niina was the recipient of this year's Amsterdam Mamas Spark Scholarship. This is a  scholarship sponsored by Stichting Amsterdam Mamas based on nominations from their community. It is awarded to promote entrepreneurship amongst international mothers in Amsterdam. Congratulations Niina! Let's find out how she experienced her day at Spark...

My day at SPARK 2016 actually started the night before. Honestly, I felt quite intimidated at the prospect of being surrounded by successful female entrepreneurs. Would I be worthy of their time or attention? How will I be able to prove to myself, and to them, that I was a worthy recipient of the scholarship? I could feel the self-doubt creeping in. But I decided to face my fears with facts. I spent a little time brainstorming what I could offer the SPARK community and prepared an elevator pitch. At least now I felt armed with a potential contribution.

As soon as I walked in the door I was reassured by the warm welcome. While waiting for others to complete their registration I chatted to the people around me. Some I already knew from working together and others I recognised from the online communities but had never actually met in person. I made a conscious effort to introduce myself to people around me: to connect and gather business cards. These might be people I never meet again. Then again maybe someday I might need their help, maybe someday I can connect them to someone else who needs their products/services. You just never know.

Notebook and pen on standby I was ready for the opening remarks and keynote speaker. I was in full sponge mode, ready to absorb, digest and assimilate all the words, wisdom and inspiration. And boy was I inspired. Amongst others, I was inspired (admittedly almost moved to tears) by the unprompted clapping and celebration of Colleen Geske’s success with Stuff Dutch People Like. I was inspired by the powerful presentations by Nassira Boudhan (FFORE) and Kanak Hirani (KARIGAR), reminding us to think beyond our immediate community/city/country and foster female entrepreneurship globally.  I was inspired by the collective knowledge, compassion and determination. I wish I could bottle that feeling for the days I need the comfort, support and encouragement.

I was disappointed that there were sessions I missed (will keep a keener eye on the program/clock next time); that there were breakouts I missed (wish I could have gone to them all!); that there were people I didn’t get a chance to meet. For those, I hope to meet you again somewhere, sometime, online or in person.

Even if we haven’t met I wish you success in your endeavours. May you bring inspiration to others, may you help others and may your actions/businesses/services bring value to your community. Thanks to SPARK 2016, my scholarship nomination and the opportunity to attend, I will strive to do the same.


 

Niina Nuottamo has been a writer for the last 14 years, specializing in clear, compelling and streamlined content. She has also provided writing guidance, designed writing workshops, and given tailored writing trainings. Niina is currently employed by the medical communications agency Excerpta Medica. She lives in Amsterdam with her husband and 2 kids. 

 

5 Inspiring TED Talks

I don't know about you but I am addicted to TED talks. So much knowledge and information packed into just 18 minutes and on every subject you could ever imagine.

The heartbeat of the Spark conference is our talented line-up of speakers. All successful female entrepreneurs in their own right they gather together to connect, inspire and help our attendees thrive.  

We want Spark to be the must-attend conference event for female entrepreneurs in the city. Which is why we were so delighted to welcome the lead coach of TEDx Amsterdam, Tara Phillips of Cause and Affect Speeches to work with our speakers and to help them put on the best show possible.

As a TED coach, Tara sees hundreds of pitches and talks every year. I had to ask her, "what are your favourites?" This is what she told me:

Arianne Huffington – How to succeed? Get more sleep

Ultimate proof of how strong a message can land while making people laugh.

Elizabeth Gilbert - Your elusive creative genius

My heroine. This talk is smart, personal, funny. The way she uses language is beautiful and thought-provoking.

Chimamanda Adichie – The danger of a single story

Such an important message. Especially relevant now with the so-called refugee ‘crisis’.

Jessica Shortall – The US needs paid family leave -- for the sake of its future

A vital, moving talk for any working mother, anywhere.

Siyanda Mohutsiwa – Is Africa's Future Online?

I had to squeeze in one ‘my’ speakers. I am so proud of Siyanda. This talk is intelligent, sassy and eye-opening. How a 22 year old can be so eloquent and provocative with such a strong ‘ idea worth spreading’ is incredible.

We cannot wait to see the impact that Tara has made on this year's Spark Speakers. Don't miss out, get your ticket before they're gone.

Mooi gratis is niet lelijk – an ode to the goodie bag

Ah, goodie bags - in some cases the highlight of a conference. Not only do goodie bags capture the feel of an event, the contents serve as a reminder for all those who attended how special the event actually was (or was not). Therefore, the quality of the contents is essential for making a lasting impression.

Contents vary anywhere from the excess of the Oscars’ contents, which includes boob jobs and other plastic surgery to the all-to-easy pencil with a company logo. Let’s not forget the actual bag itself is a chance to make a statement. This year’s Spark canvas bag with our new logo are not only practical but also stylish.

In my own circles, I’ve actually heard people reminiscing about conferences they’ve attending in the past where they received a free massage or mini bottle of champagne in their goodie bag. Items like a digital camera or 1 hour free trial of a particular service someone could really benefit from are nice take-aways. Such highlights stick out and remain in peoples’ memories.

There are two camps of goodie bag receivers, those who throw most contents away and those who carefully inspect each item and actually make use of them. I fall into the second camp. I’m one of those women who actually rip out the free sample of face cream in a magazine or is delighted when a cosmetic shop puts a free sample of perfume in my bag after I’ve purchased something small in the shop.

A goodie bag is simply a win-win situation where the receiver is being offered a gift, whether that be a service or item and the giver of that service or item is getting more exposure and potential clients.

Which brings me to my top recommendations for the SPARK goodie bag and favorites from last year’s bag;

1.     Who doesn’t love a bottle of bubbles? Or something nice to drink?

2.     Chocolate – need I say more?

3.     A service that can help a business get off the ground, whether that be a 1-hour free consultation on marketing or a free trial for a bookkeeping software.

4.     Reading material that can benefit your business

5.     Bookmark with marketing tips

6.     Something you can use like a pencil/pen case, flashlight or keychain, iphone cover

7.     Something you can wear like a scarf, hat, bracelet

As they say in Dutch - ‘mooi gratis is niet lelijk’, translation: beautiful and free is not ugly. Spark has 3 sponsorship packages, all include the opportunity to provide something for our goodie bag that approximately 100 people will receive; again, great exposure for your business!

Inspire Package – EUR 500

·       Post about your business on Spark facebook page (currently 300 followers & growing daily)

·       Opportunity to include your business brochure and/or give-away item in Spark goodie bag for attendees

·       Logo placement in the Spark program, Spark website with link to your business page, and on ticket Table space to display business brochures and/or in-person representation during coffee breaks & reception (also available & visible to 300+ WeWork members)

·       2 tickets to Spark (EUR 75 value each)

 

Connect Package – EUR 250

·       Post about your business on Spark facebook page (currently 300 followers & growing daily)

·       Opportunity to include your business brochure and/or give-away in Spark goodie bag for attendees

·       Logo placement in Spark program and on Spark website with link to your business page Table space to display business brochures and/or in-person representation during coffee breaks & reception (also available & visible to 300+ WeWork members)

 

Thrive Package – EUR 40

·       Post about your business on Spark facebook page (currently 300 followers & growing daily)

·       Opportunity to include your business brochure and/or give-away item in Spark goodie bag for attendees

·       Logo placement in the Spark program & on the Spark website with link to your business page

 

*Sponsorship package prices include VAT

**Goodie bag items must be shipped/delivered to The Academy, Nieuwe Kerkstraat 11-hs, 1018 DW, Amsterdam by June 6, 2016

Interested in being a sponsor? Please fill out the sponsor inquiry form on the Spark website.

 

The Story of Spark

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Spark began, as great stories often do, with a chance meeting. Hannah had organized a panel discussion featuring two female entrepreneurs to showcase her newly launched knowledge sharing platform, Amsterdam Academy and Kirsty was in the audience ready to learn more.

Discovering at the event that not only did they share a common interest in women’s issues and particularly in entrepreneurship, Kirsty and Hannah also discovered that they lived just a couple of doors away from each other. Such is life in the city.

Which is how neighbours became co-conspirators.

Alongside growing their respective businesses Hannah, with Amsterdam Academy and Kirsty with her co-working space for entrepreneurs Jam Workspace they would often find themselves musing about how they could better serve and connect the female entrepreneur community in the city. It seemed to them that so many women were doing incredibly interesting things with their businesses, but for the most part they were operating in isolation from each other. Wouldn’t it be better, they wondered, if there was a place for these women to come together, something like the panel discussion at which Kirsty and Hannah had met but bigger, with multiple workshops and speakers to inspire the attendees?

Which is how a great idea is born.

After Spark 2015 I was curious as to when Hannah realised that Spark had taken on a life of its own, and become something more than just another conference:

“I knew we got Spark right last year”, she told me “when so many attendees showed up at the optional feedback session. They were already invested in seeing Spark continue and wanted to let us know what they needed from it. They wanted to be part of it continuing. And our Facebook community was raving about the conference online, they still are.

The feedback I loved the most was from an attendee who told me; 

‘I’ve been to many conferences before and NEVER have I witnessed and experienced such a special and supportive atmosphere as there was here at Spark today.’

That for me was the best feeling.  The fact that even to this day the attendees are still talking about it just shows what an impression the day made on everyone, from the attendees to the speakers to the organisers.”

When I asked Hannah what her hopes and dreams were for Spark in the future, she told me:

“My hopes and dreams for the future of Spark and the Spark community are that it grows into the central hub for female entrepreneurs in the Netherlands and beyond. I want everyone to associate Spark with high quality speakers and groundbreaking sessions that really help attendees make more of their businesses. I want them to experience an atmosphere that simply cannot be found at any other conference.

My dream is to see collaborative projects flourish throughout the Spark community. To witness our community spread knowledge-sharing, non-judgmental vibes to each other with nothing but support and encouragement.

Mostly, though, I want women to leave our events already looking forward to the next one and planning to bring a friend along.

And for Spark to be recognized as exclusive when it comes to quality but inclusive when it comes to community.”

Which is how a spark, becomes a movement.

With new co-organisers Emmy (Amsterdam Mamas & McCarthy Consulting) and Saron (Total Self) joining the Spark team for 2016 & 2017, Spark is bigger than ever before with an exciting future ahead.

All it takes is one spark to start a chain reaction. That chain reaction began at the first Spark Conference in 2015 and continues to burn brightly as our community of female entrepreneurs blazes their way across the city.

The third Spark conference will be held on March 27-28, 2017 at WeWork Metropool (27th) & De Balie (28th) in Amsterdam.

Spark is more than a conference, it’s a movement.

Will you join us?