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Our History

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The Origin of Spark – From Africa to Chicago

In the summer of 2006, Scott Barbeau, Rich Johnson and Dan Marcus took a life-changing trip to Zambia. Upon their return, they founded Spark Ventures (in 2007) with a mission to strengthen and sustain grassroots NGOs helping children living in extreme poverty.


We have grown exponentially since the initial launch of our organization. For a trip down memory lane, and to see the origin story of our work, check out our “From Africa to Chicago Video.”

Our Growth: From 2007 Launch

  • International Partners: Zambia, 2007-present; Nicaragua, 2012-present
  • Children served: From 60 to 1,600
  • Individual Contributors: From 70 to over 700 investors
  • Budget: From $75,000 to over $750,000
  • Travelers: 250 Trip Participants & counting