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The origin of Spark Ventures is rooted in a conversation with our Zambian partners about how they wanted to “stand on their own two feet.” This intrinsic mindset towards self-sufficiency has been at the heart of our mission over the past 15+ years, and the impetus for the many projects and initiatives we have had the privilege to support.


At Spark Ventures, we invest in the sustainability of our partner organizations and the communities they support. We define our sustainability efforts in terms of individual, organizational and environmental. In this year’s report, we are highlighting some ongoing sustainability initiatives and the impact they’re having on the lives of community members connected to our partners in Zambia, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chicago.

In 2022 we had the incredible opportunity to expand our impact on core programming thanks to the generous support of the Spark Ventures community – broadening and deepening many of the initiatives you will read about here. The generosity of our community will yield powerful dividends for decades to come thanks to our investments in the future.


It’s an honor to help guide this organization and our passionate community of supporters. I’m beyond grateful for all you do to make our work possible. I look forward to another incredible year of providing sustainable solutions to lift communities out of poverty and empower future leaders at our partner organizations around the world.

With gratitude,

2020 Annual Report - Design Content-02

Kristin Schrepferman

Executive Director, Spark Ventures



Funding priorities are budgeted for each year by collaborating with our partners, helping Spark Ventures plan and take action on the key initiatives we support and sustain. But the on-the-ground needs of our partners are not beholden to fixed budgetary calendars. Spark has always worked to respond to urgent and emerging needs at our partners, but this year, thanks to the overwhelming generosity of the Spark community, we were able to fund a record number of special projects. From investments in technology and vocational programs to microloans and facilities, this flexibility allowed us to expand and deepen our impact in areas that mattered most.

Supporting partner initiatives and programs with outcomes that increase the self-sufficiency of the individuals and families being served (i.e. education, job creation, healthcare, financial literacy, micro-lending, skills training)


The following initiatives are just a sampling of what we accomplished together in 2022.

Vocational Training Programs Build Job Skills



The vocational training programs at Las Tías cover a broad range of entrepreneurial skills from carpentry to baking, and cosmetology to piñata making. They also provide courses in fundamental literacy skills. Offered to adolescent community members and parents of Las Tias students, these initiatives build skill sets that allow individuals to begin their own business ventures to support themselves and their families.


In support of these training programs, Spark Ventures has funded educator salaries, along with critical educational supplies such as new sewing machines and carpentry equipment. With extra support from our community, we have also been able to purchase gifts for graduates of each program that will help them launch their own business (a drill set for the carpentry graduates, a mixer for the baking graduates, etc.).

Computer Lab Opens Access for a Whole Community



West Englewood is one of the most digitally disconnected communities in Chicago with more than 70% of residents lacking internet access. The Inspiration Computer Lab supported by Spark is being leveraged by young and old alike for digital literacy training, homework support, educational enrichment, resume support and job applications.

Sewing Initiative Diversifies Learning Opportunities



Students selected for the new Hope School sewing program are in 5th-8th grade and were chosen because they have struggled in an academic environment. Recognizing that every child has unique talents & skills, the Hope team invited these students to participate in the tailoring program which is opening a vocational pathway towards self-sufficiency. The sewing lessons offer a chance to learn a valuable skill set that can be directly leveraged in the future.

Supporting partner initiatives and programs that create long-term operational and financial health of their organizations (local income generation, capacity building, leadership training, succession planning)


The following initiatives are just a sampling of what we accomplished together in 2022.

Women’s Entrepreneur Program Sustains Community Initiatives



The women’s entrepreneur group at Entreamigos provides not only a source of critical income for the women enrolled, but also a sustainable revenue stream for Entreamigos itself. Entreamigos takes a portion of sales from items sold in the on-site gallery along with revenue from direct, custom-orders and re-invests those revenues into their programs. Thanks to a connection made by Spark Ventures, a local hotel has recently been added to the regular roster of custom-order clients – providing even more sustainable income to both the women artisans and Entreamigos.

Improved Water Infrastructure Increases Agricultural Productivity



With generous support from The Vallavbhai & Savitaben Patel Foundation, the Hope Community Farm has made significant investments in its water infrastructure. They installed three strategically placed 10,000 liter water storage tanks. The tanks and connected solar panels increase water access and reserves to irrigate multiple sections of the farm. The water tanks have been placed on solid, level, metal bases for protection and ease of long-term maintenance. The resulting higher yield of vegetables will help generate additional sustainable revenue for Hope Community School.

Revolving Fund Supports Entrepreneurial Endeavors and Salaries



The Las Tías Revolving Fund is a microlending initiative that supports small scale entrepreneurs with low interest loans as they look to bolster their enterprises, make bulk purchases, or grow their operations. Many of these entrepreneurs have stands in the very same market where Las Tías began. The entrepreneurs pay their loans back with interest, and that interest in-turn, helps support salaries for educators at Las Tías’ youth & teen centers.

Capacity Building with Technology



With the investments Spark Ventures has made into increasing technology access at Hope Community School, teachers and leadership now have regular access to chromebooks to support their work in the classrooms. Spark volunteers have been collaborating with the whole teaching team to digitize some of their internal processes. For example, attendance used to be taken on paper by each individual teacher, tallied by hand, and then reported by the head teacher. Now, teachers can use a custom-built Google document to report their attendance which syncs to a centralized tracking document. The regained time can now be spent focusing on the needs of their young learners rather than tabulating attendance sheets.

Supporting partner initiatives and programs that contribute to local and global environmental stewardship (recycling/upcycling, land welfare, awareness, advocacy)

Environmental Stewardship Today and Tomorrow



In Mexico, a mere 3% of waste gets recycled. The town of San Pancho did not have its own recycling program, so 14 years ago Entreamigos started one. They have distributed over 130 recycling bins throughout the town and operate and manage their collection (in part thanks to a truck purchased by the Spark community). This program not only benefits the environment, but also employs local members of the community as they create beautiful products out of some of the waste they collect.


Entreamigos’ environmental stewardship also extends beyond their recycling initiative – they are looking to nurture the next generation of environmental leaders by hosting 24 environmental education classes annually in the local elementary schools and partnering with 12 local public school teachers to provide resources to reduce the use of harmful disposable products in their classrooms, and so much more!


Inspired by the work that Entreamigos does in the area of environmental stewardship, we will be working with our other partners in 2023 to explore the ways in which they can expand their environmental sustainability.

Spark Stakeholders:

Providing Sustainability for Spark Ventures Programming


Inspired by our sustainability efforts? Excited to invest in the future of Spark Ventures’ initiatives around the globe? One of the most sustainable ways to support Spark Ventures is through our Spark Stakeholders initiative. Spark Stakeholders make a commitment to monthly donations and join a community of other givers who are like-minded in their dedication to our work. By giving in this way, you provide a steady stream of reliable support that enables us to plan and sustain the work we are doing together.

Become a Stakeholder Today

Donor Profile: Meet Tumsheen Qureshi

Recent Mexico Traveler & New Spark Ventures Board Member


In 2022 the Spark Ventures Board of Directors welcomed Tumsheen Qureshi. A Spark supporter since 2019, Tumsheen is a Chicago resident who has over 15 years of experience in auditing, process improvement, and accounting – she is lending some of her professional expertise to our Finance Committee. Tumsheen also joined our first exploratory trip back into Impact Travel to Entreamigos in Mexico (along with a small group of board members, staff and long-time supporters). We asked her a few questions about her experience.

What did you find most exciting about your trip to visit Entreamigos?


Meeting the Women Entrepreneurs and seeing the direct impact of Spark Ventures and Entreamigos on the local community was inspiring. There were so many wonderful experiences, including visiting the Entreamigos facility – it is such a remarkable visual representation of sustainability, local talent and creativity with their usage of recycled glass bottles for a delightful chandelier and reuse of discarded materials.


What part of our focus on sustainability inspires you the most?


It’s not just words on a page, Spark Ventures lives up to its commitment by partnering with communities around the world who are directly influencing and leading the way to sustainability. Each of Spark’s community partners have identified creative ways to support their local communities while providing opportunities to youth, adolescents, and broader community members to grow and learn. Spark is also unique in creating opportunities to directly visit these partner locations – inspiring our community with the importance of sustainability.

What are you most excited about Spark Ventures accomplishing in 2023?


I am thrilled that we are re-launching our Impact Travel program and that more people in the Spark Ventures community will have the chance to engage with our partners first-hand. I was an enthusiastic supporter before traveling, but now that I have personally met the dedicated leaders at Entreamigos and the community they serve, our work has taken on new meaning to me. I am so excited to be able to spark those connections for many others this year and visit other Spark partners to learn about their impact.

FY22 Board Member Listing


For the time period: July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022
Michael Campbell | Chair

CEO, Fusion Risk Management

Julie Tafel Klaus | Vice Chair

Community Volunteer


Doak Elliott | Treasurer

Sr. Manager, Revenue Accounting at CDW


Kathy Campbell Wolf | Secretary

Community Volunteer


Scott Barbeau
Spark Ventures Co-Founder, Founder & Executive Director of UpBeat Music, Professional Musician
Constance Benrud

Community Volunteer


Sue Bernstein

Community Volunteer


Julie Cook

Community Volunteer

Rich Johnson

Spark Ventures Co-Founder, VP Global Leadership Development, Spaulding Ridge

Jennifer Kim

Community Volunteer


Vicki Kraft

Business Consultant

Lisa Madonia

Real Estate Broker, @ Properties


Dan Marcus

Spark Ventures Co-Founder, Director Emeritus, Managing Member at Marcus Capital, LLC


Patti O’Neil
VP & Treasurer, Rush University Medical Center
Kristin Schrepferman

Executive Director,
Spark Ventures

Tumsheen Qureshi*

VP Internal Audit and Finance Continuous Improvement, Grainger

*New Board member in FY23

Spark Ventures Team

Kristin Schrepferman

Executive Director

Martha Vargas
Program Manager
Katie Gustafson
Event & Communications Manager
Michelle Morin
Finance & CRM Manager
Stephanie Denzer
Strategic Communications Consultant
Tobiah Agurkis
Freelance Marketing Consultant

FY22 Revenue & Other Support – $941,392


  • individuals

  • events

  • corporate and foundations

  • in-kind

Jump start your 2023 impact with Spark Ventures by making a contribution today!


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