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Our Team

Staff

The current Spark Ventures staff works out of our Chicago office located on the 5th Floor of 134 North LaSalle Street. Coming from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, we are united in our commitment to Spark’s unique mission to help vulnerable children achieve their potential through grassroots partnerships around the world.

Richard Johnson
Chief Executive Officer

Richard Johnson
Chief Executive Officer

With a business background in marketing, Rich Johnson cofounded Spark Ventures after a 2006 trip with two friends to Zambia. Through his leadership, the organization has raised over $4M to-date to fund partners and projects in Sub-Saharan Africa and Central America, piloting a unique business driven philanthropy model. Rich’s vision for impact travel has led to national coverage and more than 350 trip participants. He has spoken at SXSW’s entrepreneur’s conference, Chicago Ideas Week, Technori and other events. In his free time you’ll find him hiking, reading or running with his dog, Zambezi.

Arnold Duijzer
Program Manager

Arnold Duijzer
Program Manager

Arnold Duijzer serves as Program Manager for Spark Ventures. He was born in the Netherlands, where he lived until he graduated from Tilburg University as a Master of Science in Leisure Studies with a specialization in Marketing Management in 2007. Before moving to Chicago with his wife Arnold lived and worked in New Delhi, India for five and a half years. He is experienced on a managerial level in travel management, event management, marketing communication, product management, sales and project management.

Stephanie Denzer
Marketing Manager

Stephanie Denzer
Marketing Manager

Stephanie serves as Marketing Manager for Spark Ventures. She is passionate about innovative, sustainable poverty alleviation. She previously worked supporting microfinance institutions with the Grameen Foundation’s Human Capital Center. As an undergraduate, while living and studying in Buenos Aires, Argentina she worked for a social development organization called HelpArgentina. She has also worked supporting the international hub of Pro Mujer, a women’s development and microfinance organization. Stephanie received her BA in Hispanic Studies with a Specialization in Economics from Columbia University in New York City, a masters degree from the University of Chicago’s Committee on International Relations and is fluent in Spanish.

Volunteers, Interns and Pro-Bono Support

Spark Ventures is thankful to have the support of a number of talented individuals who dedicate their skills and time to help us move our organization forward.

Amanda Diiulis Marketing & Communications Associate

Amanda Diiulis
Marketing & Communications Associate

Amanda Diiulis is the marketing and communications intern for Spark Ventures. She has served at a variety of nonprofits focused in animal welfare, disaster relief, and mental health. Originally from Massachusetts, Amanda moved to Illinois in July of 2015 to complete an AmeriCorps Volunteer year. In addition, Amanda is currently pursuing a Master’s in Nonprofit Management at DePaul University, and works as a Service Learning Coordinator for the Steans Center at DePaul.

Gwyneth Tacchi Program Management Associate

Gwyneth Tacchi
Program Management Associate

Gwyn serves as the Program Management Intern for Spark Ventures. She is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and moved to Chicago in 2013. Gwyn gained a passion for sustainable revenue through her studies of Non-Profit Management and her travels to Zambia in the Spring of 2016. Gwyn will receive a B.S. in Business & Economics with a concentration in Management from North Park University this coming May. Gwyn’s past-time hobbies include ultimate frisbee, drinking tea and being an active member of North Park Covenant Church.

Board of Directors

The Board of Directors provides broad oversight of the financial and organizational health of Spark Ventures. Specifically, the Board is involved in fundraising, setting policy and ensuring continued alignment to Spark’s mission, vision and goals. The Board meets quarterly and works closely with the CEO to accomplish these objectives.

Scott Barbeau

Scott Barbeau
Board of Directors

Scott Barbeau is co-founder of Spark Ventures and has served on the board since its inception. He attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he received a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration. He spent the first 15 years of his professional career working at Lucent Technologies, Parson Group, and Hyperion Solutions in sales and management roles. He has been  actively involved with Mercy Home, Chicago for Boys & Girls, FFHM  Orphanage, and Songs of Love Foundation. He is currently employed as a professional musician.

Kathy Campbell Wolf

Kathy Campbell Wolf
Board of Directors

Kathy Campbell Wolf joined the Spark Ventures Board of Directors in 2014. She brings over 20 years of experience in fashion photography where she worked both as a producer and an agent. She began her career at Elite, before successfully launching her own business. Kathy is the proud mother of two and has previously served on the Board of Directors for her daughter’s adoption agency – the Adoption Center of Illinois (formerly the Family Resource Center). She holds a BA in International Studies from Miami University in Oxford, OH. Kathy traveled to Zambia with Spark Ventures in January of 2014 and looks forward to returning with her family.

Michelle Gallardo

Michelle Gallardo
Board of Directors

Michelle Gallardo is an Emmy-nominated general assignment reporter for ABC7 Chicago. She joined Chicago’s No. 1 news station in May 2004.

Before coming to ABC 7, Michelle spent three years as weather anchor/reporter at Univision Chicago. She is one of only three reporters in the city to cross over from Spanish-language television. In all, Michelle has 17 years of producing and reporting experience that includes local, national, and international news.

Born in Mexico City, Michelle is a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico and is fully bilingual and bicultural. She was raised spending school years in Mexico City and summers with her American family in New York. Michelle received her undergraduate degree in international relations from the Universidad de las Americas-Puebla, in Mexico. She also holds a Master’s Degree in Broadcast Journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Michelle currently lives in downtown Chicago. She’s a marathon runner and Ironman triathlete. She also enjoys scuba diving, theater, film, art, reading, cooking and travel.

Kathleen Jackson, Secretary

Kathleen Jackson
Secretary 

Since 2008, Kathleen Jackson has provided independent financial advice to businesses, senior executives, business owners and private clients. She earned her MBA from the Harvard Business School and her undergraduate degree in education from Portland State University. Prior to forming her private practice, she held senior management positions in banking, trust and investment management firms in and around the Chicago area. She is actively involved in the Harvard Business School Club of Chicago Charitable Fund which she founded in 2004. The Fund focuses on “improving leadership skills of non profit managers in the Chicago area” and has provided scholarships to 40+ local not-for-profit executive directors to attend a week long course at the Harvard Business School for leadership and business training. Kathleen is an adjunct professor at DePaul University where she teaches a sales leadership course in financial services.

Richard Johnson, CEO

Richard Johnson
CEO

Rich Johnson is Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Spark Ventures. He was born and spent his early childhood in Japan and California, prior to moving to northern Illinois. Rich received a BA in Communications and MA both from Trinity International University. His work experience has included business marketing and consulting, leadership and management for several nonprofits, and higher education administration. Rich is currently serving as an advisor and board member with several Chicago-area nonprofits and social enterprises.

Jennifer Kim

Jennifer Kim
Board of Directors

Bio coming soon.

Daniel Marcus

Daniel Marcus
Board of Directors

Daniel Marcus is co-founder of Spark Ventures and has served on the board since its inception. He was born in Santiago, Chile and immigrated to the United States at the age of 8 years old with his parents and two brothers. Dan attended the University of Wisconsin, Madison where he  received a BA in Economics.  He has worked in finance most of his career. He  worked at Bear Stearns and currently is an Investment Advisor at Marcus  Capital, LLC. Dan has been involved with various charities including 10 years as a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago and two years at The Night Ministry, working to serve homeless and runaway youth.

Nancy O'Leary, Treasurer

Nancy O’Leary
Treasurer

Nancy was born and raised in Chicago. She attended Bradley University where she received a BS in Psychology. Nancy has worked in finance and accounting throughout her career. She has spent the last 17 years in the venture capital industry, and currently is the CFO of JK&B Capital, a $ 1 billion venture capital firm located in Chicago. Nancy has been involved with various charities, including over 14 years as a volunteer at Children’s Memorial Hospital. Nancy first traveled to Zambia in 2008 and 2009 on Spark Ventures Partnership Trips, and has returned in the years after to assist with the organizational audit process.

Patti O'Neil, Chair

Patti O’Neil
Chair

Patti was born and raised outside Boston, Massachusetts and made Chicago her home in 1989. She has a BA in Mathematics and Economics and a Master’s in Applied Economics from The University of Michigan. She is currently the Treasurer and an Assistant Professor at Rush University Medical Center. Previous to joining Rush, she worked as a banker at both Bank of America and First National Bank of Chicago. She is raising her three children in Chicago. Patti is involved in volunteer activities at church, Misericordia, and her children’s schools, and is on the Investment Committee of Saint Ignatius College Prep. She traveled to Zambia for the first time in 2013, and returned in 2014 with her daughter.

Ross Parr

Ross Parr
Board of Directors

Ross Parr knew little about Spark Ventures before coming across a Chicago Sun-Times article that lead him to join the 2011 Partnership Trip to Zambia. Shortly after returning from the trip he joined the Spark board, becoming a strong advocate for the impact of Spark’s work. As Vice President of Sales (for several companies) Ross has worked with start-ups and early stage companies for the last 20 years. Ross holds a Bachelor’s degree in Logistics, Materials, and Supply Chain Management from Michigan State University.

Christian Rath

Christian Rath
Board of Directors

Christian Rath is a multi-lingual, cross-cultural, cross-border leader who has done business in the United States, Europe, West Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Middle East, including Oman, Namibia, Egypt, Ukraine, Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Kenya, Nicaragua, Kazakhstan and Zambia. Originally from Europe, he possesses both the American ingenuity and the Old Continent sophistication of diplomacy and is passionate about enabling purpose-driven organizations become self-sustaining. He leverages his extensive experience working with Fortune 500 companies, NGOs, and government leaders around the globe to reach that objective.

Over the last 25+ years, he has been successful in mature and entrepreneurial enterprises. He has served as a CEO, COO, SVP of Global Business Development, and Head of Applied Engineering in addition to his entrepreneurial ventures. Mr. Rath earned a Masters Degree in engineering & international relations. He is passionate about his engagements and is a tireless global ambassador for their causes. He holds a private pilot license.

Bill Romans

Bill Romans
Board of Directors

Bill lives with his wife, Sue Barsamian, in Menlo Park, California and they have two daughters that now reside in Los Angeles. He brings to Spark more than 40 years of experience in marketing, sales, business development and executive management in fast growth, high technology companies. He has a solid record of planning, financing and building start-up companies and now provides his expertise primarily to non-profit organizations. Bill first traveled on a Spark Ventures Partnership Trip to Zambia in the summer of 2015 with his youngest daughter and to Nicaragua in 2016 with his older daughter. He enjoys skiing, cycling, hiking, sailing and experiencing all parts of the world.

Julie Tafel Klaus

Julie Tafel Klaus
Board of Directors

Julie, the proud mother of twin girls, lives in Rancho Santa Fe, California but was born in Pittsburg, PA and raised outside of Chicago. She attended the University of the Pacific where she received her BFA in Commercial Design and Business. She also did her post-graduate studies at The Art Institute of Chicago. After a successful sales career in high-technology publishing, Julie has spent the past 15 years focused on philanthropic efforts. In addition to being on several non-profit Boards, she has chaired numerous fund raising events for a variety of organizations. Julie has traveled extensively through Europe, Asia, the Middle East, India and South America. She and her daughter traveled to Nicaragua with Spark Ventures in early 2016 and now looks forward to a future trip to Hope Community School in Zambia.

Brian Wu

Brian Wu
Board of Directors

Brian Wu is the General Manager for College Park Athletic Clubs in the Chicago area. He manages a team of more than 50 sports professionals and support staff who treat their members like family and give back generously to the community. He is a lifelong student of leadership, a visionary and passionate about making the world a better place for his kids and future generations.

Brian was previously a board member for Spark Ventures from 2009-2015, during which time he launched the annual CPAC Serves event, which in 2016 raised $35,000 for Spark Ventures. Brian lives in Chicago with his wife Ali, who is an OB/GYN physician, and their three boys.

Advisory Council

In 2011 Spark Ventures established an Advisory Council consisting of individuals with proven experience in an array of sectors. As it grows, this group will represent talent and experience in sectors including: business, child advocacy, international development, non-profit management, public relations, social enterprise, social media, technology and more. Members of the Council will serve as individual advisors to the Spark Staff and Board, strengthening the organization’s programming, fundraising and operational initiatives. We are grateful for these advisors who volunteer their time and support to Spark.

Fred Cadena

Fred Cadena
Advisory Council

Fred Cadena is recognized as an innovative, strategic  thinker with over a dozen years of experience in  the financial services industry.  Currently Fred works as  Vice President of Margin for optionsXpress, a subsidiary of  Charles Schwab. Fred also serves on the board of Chicago  Scholars and oversees web strategy and non profit engagement for Chicago Non Profit, a community of Chicago based non profit organizations. Fred is excited to work with Spark in developing its ongoing leadership strategy and is looking forward to his first partner trip in 2013.

Katie Casey

Katie Casey
Advisory Council

With over 17 years of Chicago-based business experience with The Clara Abbott Foundation and KPMG, Katie Casey now works as an independent consultant to NGOs in developing countries. She most recently completed an eight-month project in Tanzania, and has worked in program development in Europe, Asia and Africa throughout her career. Katie holds a B.S. in Accounting and a B.A. in French from Indiana University, Bloomington, and completed an Executive MBA at ESCP Europe in June 2010. She is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Linda L. Darragh

Linda L. Darragh
Advisory Council

Linda Darragh’s professional and volunteer experience has focused on enhancing entrepreneurship in Chicago for three decades. Two key areas of interest have been early stage financing and teaching. She currently leads Kellogg’s Innovation and Entrepreneurial Initiative (KIEI), and most recently, Ms. Darragh has focused her efforts on early stage financing in the realm of for-profit social ventures – impact investing. In collaboration with Professor Jamie Jones of Kellogg, they organized an ‘Impact Investing’ conference in 2011 and then launched Impact Engine, an accelerator for for-profit social ventures. Ms. Darragh is an active member of the Chicago entrepreneurial community. She has been a long-time board member of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center/1871. She is also a member of the Illinois Science & Technology Coalition and a board member of the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

In her free time, Ms. Darragh will be on the golf course, tennis or paddle tennis court, skiing or in her garden.

Heather Duncan

Heather Duncan
Advisory Council

Heather Duncan is a Nurse Practitioner, educator, volunteer, investor and close friend of Spark. She is an Assistant Professor of Nursing at North Park University as well as the Faculty Liaison for North Park University’s annual Zambia trip and clinic. She has traveled to Zambia at least 5 times to facilitate the medical clinic, and has continued to develop innovative ways to share knowledge with Hope and the community they serve. In May of 2013 she led a team of local staff to launch our first Nutrition Training. Not only has she made friends with the children at Hope, but she also got to meet the first round of chickens at the poultry farm!

Darlene Fiske

Darlene Fiske
Advisory Council

Darlene is the owner of the award-winning national communications firm in Austin, Texas, The Fiske Group: Public Relations and Marketing Strategies. Prior to starting her own business, Fiske worked as the Director of Sales & Marketing for Lake Austin Spa Resort where she was responsible for sales and marketing efforts targeting the top 1% of affluent consumers in the United States. Her firm handles a small collection of very exclusive clientele delivering big agency results with highly personalized public relations programs. Fiske has presented at universities and conferences on social media strategies and consults with businesses on how to maximize engagement in the online world. She has a Bachelor of Journalism in public relations from the University of Texas in Austin and her writing has been published in several hospitality industry trade publications. Her introduction to and intrigue into Spark Ventures was ignited through a friend who shared a video of the chicken farm launch in Zambia.

Brady Josephson

Brady Josephson
Advisory Council

Brady is passionate about ending poverty and changing charity. He is currently the National Director, Marketing & Communications for Opportunity International – a nonprofit organization providing opportunities for people in chronic poverty to transform their lives in over 20 countries around the world. Previously, Brady worked as the Director of Resource Development at Spark Ventures. He attended North Park University in Chicago, Illinois where he received a B.S. in Business & Economics and a Masters of Nonprofit Administration and is an adjunct professor at the School of Business and Nonprofit Management. Brady is the founder and Principle of The Josephson Group, providing support and service to nonprofit organizations, and the creator and author of re: charity, a blog discussing ideas, improvements and innovations in the charity sector.  He serves on the Diamond Club Executive Committee at his alma mater and is an active member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) in Vancouver where he lives with his wife Liz.

Princess Kasune Zulu

Princess Kasune Zulu
Advisory Council

Princess (her given name) Zulu was born and raised in Zambia where she lost both of her parents to AIDS by the age of 15. She was left to care for her three younger siblings, and she herself tested positive for HIV in 1997. Princess moved to the United States in 2005 to work with organizations promoting HIV?AIDS awareness and prevention. She often travels back to Zambia to help with humanitarian efforts in her home country. Princess currently lives with her husband and two daughters in Chicago, where she serves as a national spokesperson and speaker for World vision on the global AIDS pandemic.

Colleen Mitchell

Colleen Mitchell
Advisory Council

Colleen Mitchell serves as the Founder and President of VENTURE3Philanthropy. Her work has spanned nearly three decades throughout the public, private and non-profit sectors, leading donor engagement and stewardship, family foundation and corporate grant making strategy development, organizational effectiveness and operational change-management, as well as brand marketing and sales leadership. Colleen has led several Foundations within the non-profit sector, worked in the public sector on Capitol Hill in research, and served within the private sector as a marketing and sales executive. She has presented before the UN Conference on Women in Beijing and numerous other global institutions. Colleen earned a B.A. from the Ohio State University, cum laude.

Todd Schultz

Todd Schultz
Advisory Council

Todd Schultz is the Chief Operating Officer of Friends of the Orphans, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children through the support of the Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos (NPH, Spanish for “Our Little Brothers and Sisters”) network of homes in Latin America and the Caribbean. Before assuming the role of COO, Todd worked as the CFO of the organization, where he lead all non-revenue generating functions including finance, HR, IT, warehousing and sponsorship communications. Prior to joining Friends of the Orphans, Todd worked as a Finance Director for PepsiCo and has also held positions at FMC Corporation and Grant Thornton. Todd holds a BA in Accounting from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Business and an MBA in Economics and Strategy from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Pernille Spiers-Lopez

Pernille Spiers-Lopez
Advisory Council

Pernille Spiers-Lopez worked with IKEA for 21 years and held several top executive positions. Most recently, Pernille was the Global HR Manager for the IKEA Group and its 135,00 employees. With her extensive business experience, she developed and implemented a new business focused HR Strategy, empowering the organization, its leaders and co-workers to grow business and people together. Prior to that, Pernille was President of IKEA North America for 8 years (2001-2009). Under her leadership, IKEA was named to Working Mother magazine’s list of 100 Best Companies and FORTUNE’S “100 Best Companies to Work For”® List. In 2007, IKEA was voted by Ethisphere, one of the 100 Most Ethical companies.  A native of Denmark, Pernille has lived in the United States for 28 years. She lives with her husband in Chicago and has 2 children. Pernille serves on the boards of Save the Children US and on the Harvard Women’s Leadership Board of the John F Kennedy School of Government.

Associate Board

The Spark Associate Board was founded in 2013 to provide support to Spark’s initiatives and goals. The Associate Board is made up of professionals from around Chicago who are committed to creating awareness and growth for Spark. The Associate Board meets monthly and works with the Spark staff and the Board of Directors to assist in fundraising efforts and as well as various programs with our international partners.

Devlin Brannon

Devlin Brannon
Associate Board

Devlin originally hails from Dallas, Texas but has resided in the Chicago area since 2009. She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Economics and minor in Business Institutions, and currently works in Sales & Trading at J.P. Morgan. Devlin is a proponent of Spark’s business-driven philanthropy model and mission to support, sustain, and empower its partner organizations. She is looking forward to traveling to Zambia to see Spark’s impact first-hand.

Lesley Brindle

Lesley Brindle
Associate Board

Lesley Brindle graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and a concentration in Corporate Strategy. Lesley’s participation in Vanderbilt’s Initiative for Scholarship and Global Engagement – a yearlong program through which she spent a summer studying and volunteering in Cape Town, South Africa truly “Sparked” her interest in economic development and poverty alleviation. Lesley received a Master of Accountancy in 2011 from Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management and currently works at PepsiCo in their finance department. Lesley’s passions include good music, great conversations, delicious food, and spending as much time as possible outdoors.

Aaron Chaiken

Aaron Chaiken
Associate Board

Aaron was born and raised in Atlanta, GA. He attended the University of Chicago where he received his BA in Law, Letters, & Society, and later his MBA from the University’s Booth School of Business. Since receiving his MBA, Aaron has worked as a Consultant in Bain & Company’s Chicago office. Aaron has been involved with Spark since 2010, when he helped found Spark’s YPS Leadership Council, and he and his wife travelled to Zambia to volunteer with Spark in 2012.

Jessica Dangles

Jessica Dangles
Associate Board

Jessica is currently an Operations Coordinator for the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, a not-for-profit organization. She graduated with a B.A. in Women and Gender Studies from DePaul University in 2008 and completed her M.S. in Human Resources from Loyola University in 2009.  After graduation, she accepted a position managing an Age Management medical practice at Cenegenics Medical Institute. Jessica has a passion for travel and has studied abroad in Australia and spent time teaching English at an all girls school in Thailand. Jessica has worked with such organizations as Planned Parenthood of Illinois, Horizons for Youth, and Chinese Mutual Aid Association. In her free time she enjoys volunteering with seniors, dinner parties, traveling, and taking entirely too many photos of her cat.

Diksha Dehal

Diksha Dehal
Associate Board

Bio coming soon.

Grace Dickman

Grace Dickman
Associate Board

Bio coming soon.

Matt Freund

Matt Freund
Associate Board

Matt is an East Lansing, Michigan native who has been on the Associate Board since 2013. He moved to Chicago after graduating from Miami University with a degree in Finance and minor in International Business, and currently works in the Corporate Finance group at NXT Capital, a middle market leverage finance firm. Previously, he worked at EY in the company’s Advisory practice. Matt most recently returned from travelling with Spark to Nicaragua, and looks forward to continuing to support Spark’s model of empowering its partner organizations.

Roberto Icaza

Roberto Icaza
Associate Board

Roberto is an Ann Arbor, Michigan native who recently joined the Associate Board in September 2015. He moved to Chicago after graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in Political Science. Roberto works as a Strategy and Operations Manager for Coyote Logistics in their Mexico division, where he is focused on establishing a streamlined process and strategy to grow their Mexico business. Throughout his life he has traveled to Nicaragua to visit family and volunteer for Surgical Medical Mission trips. Roberto is passionate about giving back to his family’s native country and looks forward to visiting Nicaragua with Spark in the coming year.

Kelyse McKeon, Chair

Kelyse McKeon
Associate Board

Kelyse is an Elk Rapids, Michigan native who came to Chicago in 2009.  She graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Learning and Organization Change,  and currently works as a consultant in Deloitte’s Human Capital practice where she focuses on assisting global companies with improving the effectiveness and efficiency of their HR departments.  Additionally, she leads Deloitte Human Capital’s social impact program, People-to-People, which provides pro-bono consulting services to non-profit organizations in developing countries.  Kelyse is passionate about the business driven philanthropy model and loves seeing it in action on Spark trips.

Hannah Prevost-Schultz

Hannah Prevost-Schultz
Associate Board

Hannah is a Chicagoland native who graduated from North Park University. She is a life-long learner whose educational experience ranges from the fields of Psychology to Conflict Transformation. She is currently completing a Master’s degree in Organizational Leadership with a certificate in Non-Profit Board Governance. Her professional experience has been focused in the non-profit sector and most recently she returned to her alma mater, North Park University, to work as an Undergraduate Recruiter in the Office of Enrollment. Hannah traveled with Spark Ventures to work with our partners in Zambia in 2007 and 2008. Since her travels, she has been involved extensively as a volunteer, event attendee, and an investor. Currently, she is excited to bring her extensive experience and passion for Spark to contribute in a new capacity as an Associate Board member.

Young Professionals of Spark

The YPS Leadership Council exists to support Spark Ventures initiatives and spur on growth by connecting with young professionals primarily through Young Professionals of Spark (YPS). Meeting every month, members work closely with Spark staff to raise funds and awareness, put on events and provide strategic guidance.

“Our mission is to connect young professionals to the Spark Ventures community and encourage long-term and growing engagement.”

More information on joining YPS here.

CHICAGO
Griffin Abel

Griffin Abel
YPS – Chicago

Bio coming soon.

William Bartels

William Bartels
YPS – Chicago

William graduated from Notre Dame with degrees in Biology and Biotech Entrepreneurship in 2011. He currently works at PwC as a Financial Services consultant, in complete disregard for his college education. He has his parents to thank for a strong appreciation for volunteering and service, and has yet to find an organization as intriguing as Spark. When not near North Avenue Beach in Chicago, he can be found in a sand trap or the woods amazed at another errant tee shot.

Alex Braun

Alex Braun
YPS – Chicago

Alex is the marketing director for Imagination, a content marketing agency in Chicago’s River West neighborhood. In 2008, he graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor’s degree in news-editorial journalism and has since worked in Louisiana, California, and Illinois as a designer, copywriter, and marketing strategist. Alex enjoys photography, music, blogging, cycling, and deriving emotional satisfaction from other people’s dogs.

Robert Cirillo

Robert Cirillo
YPS – Chicago

Robert graduated from The Ohio State University in 2013 with a Bachelor of Science in Economics and then from Loyola University Chicago in 2015 with a Master of Science in Applied Statistics.  He is currently a consultant at Nielsen, where he uses advanced analytics to optimize CPG clients’ marketing activity. He enjoys playing ice hockey, caring more than what is considered healthy about OSU football, and exploring the best food that Chicago has to offer.

Jan Jaro

Jan Jaro
YPS – Chicago

Bio coming soon.

Samantha Loeffler

Samantha Loeffler
YPS – Chicago

Samantha Loeffler graduated from the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in 2013 with a B.S. in Marketing and International Business and a minor in Spanish. During her time at IU she was a member of Compass Fellows- a two-year program focusing on social entrepreneurship across several college campuses- which inspired her to produce a fashion and music event for Operation Smile. In addition, Samantha has worked with organizations such as the American Red Cross, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Dreams for Kids and Meals on Wheels. She now works in Chicago for Hitachi Consulting, a global technology and management consulting firm, and enjoys traveling, trying new cuisines and staying active.

Aparna Mehra

Aparna Mehra
YPS – Chicago

Aparna is currently a Senior Associate Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers within the Finance, Strategy & Ops Management Consulting practice where she has had the opportunity to work with clients across the retail, healthcare, technology and nonprofit sectors. Aparna graduated with a B.A. in Economics & Spanish from Emory University where she was involved in starting a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit and held the position of Philanthropy Chair for her sorority. Aparna enjoys tennis, traveling and dancing.

Tyler Michael

Tyler Michael
YPS – Chicago

Tyler Michael was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and has been involved with the YPS since February 2016. He moved to Chicago after graduating from Miami University with a degree in Finance, and currently is an Associate in BMO Capital Market’s Mergers & Acquisitions advisory group. Since graduating, Tyler has been involved with a number of non-profit organizations but has found the business-driven philanthropy approach employed by Spark to be uniquely exciting. In his free time Tyler enjoys traveling, live music, and having his heart broken by Cincinnati Bengals playoff losses.

Linsday Weickert

Lindsay Weickert
YPS – Chicago

Bio coming soon.

NEW YORK CITY
Ayan Kinger

Ayan Kinger
YPS – New York City

Ayan graduated from The Ohio State University with a B.S. in Accounting & Finance. Post graduation, he moved to New York City as an Associate at PwC and currently works at Credit Suisse within their Valuation Risk Group, covering Leveraged Finance Trading. Ayan is also a mentor in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and is a member on the board of the Next Generation Network at Credit Suisse.

Blake McKay

Blake McKay
YPS – New York City

Bio coming soon.

WASHINGTON DC
SAN FRANCISCO
Ethan Steinberg

Ethan Steinberg
YPS – San Francisco

Ethan is a startup veteran who is focused on growing ideas into reality. He has helped scale ventures both domestically and internationally in industries such as the sharing economy, consumer packaged goods, and B Corp businesses. He works at in/PACT, a tech platform for social good that activates purpose for people, brands and causes.
Ethan holds a B.A. in Social Justice & Sustainability from Miami University. He is passionate about building purpose-driven businesses and enjoys living at the intersection of sustainability and technology.

Open Positions

Spark Ventures is always looking for talented interns to support our team. We accept intern applications on a rolling basis. When applying, please specify the time period during which you are looking to work with us (minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred).

 

Please see the listings below for specific position descriptions and for detailed information on how to apply.

Marketing and Communications Intern
Marketing and Communications Intern

 

Description of the Internship

The Spark Ventures Marketing and Communications Intern will work with a small team and gain valuable insight into the marketing and communications and PR needs at a small and growing nonprofit. The majority of his/her responsibilities will include writing for print and web, managing Spark Ventures’ social media presence, identifying and pursuing new digital influencer/PR opportunities, and updating Spark Ventures’ website and blog.

 

Spark Ventures is a small team and values interns who are self-starters and can identify creative and achievable marketing opportunities for the organization. Interns are given guidance and training, but also entrusted with a fair amount of independence to take ownership over specific projects of interest during their time at Spark.

 

Responsibilities May Include

 

Creative Content Creation

  • Draft creative storytelling pieces to assist in sharing the impact of our work with our community – in the past this has included video projects, PPT slide decks, photo journals, blog articles, etc. Projects will vary based on intern skill sets.

 

Website/Online Presence

  • Draft copy for online communications to include: email newsletter articles, blog posts, web page, etc.
  • Perform regular site updates including written content, images and other document uploads.

 

Social Media

  • Maintain and promote the Spark Ventures online presence via: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, blogs and other online marketing vehicles.
  • Identify social influencers operating in the Impact Travel space and actively reach out to these individuals/organizations to pursue partnership & PR opportunities

 

Office Management

  • Support ongoing operational needs of a growing non-profit, including some light administrative work (less than 10% of the job).

 

Qualifications

 

  • Previous work experience in a marketing or communications position is preferred but not required
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • The ability to work independently on projects
  • A high level of computer proficiency
  • A familiarity with non-profit usage of social networks (specifically Facebook, Twitter & Instagram)
  • Basic familiarity with graphic design or video software preferred but not required
Dates

Minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred

Compensation

This is an unpaid internship

Time Commitment

15 hours per week minimum

Reports to

Stephanie Denzer
Marketing Manager

To apply

Email resume, cover letter, and a writing sample (maximum 2 pages) to careers@sparkventures.org. Please put “Marketing and Communications Intern” in the subject of your email.

Program Management Intern
Program Management Intern

 

Description of the Internship

The Spark Ventures Program Management Intern will work with a small team and gain valuable non-profit management experience through direct involvement in the planning and coordination of Spark Ventures Trips to Zambia and Nicaragua, as well as engagement and fundraising events in Chicago. The majority of his/her responsibilities will include coordinating trip logistics, and events planning and coordination, event related PR, and donor cultivation. The Program Management Intern will also be responsible for trip promotion, process documentation and knowledge management.

 

Responsibilities May Include

 

Logistics Coordination & Promotion

  • Coordinate all in-country logistics with travel service providers
  • Maintain and update trip budgets based on anticipated expenses
  • Conduct research on alternative travel service providers as necessary
  • Assist in the design and content development of marketing and promotional materials

 

Event Planning

  • Implement event promotion schedule and expand reach of promotions
  • Manage volunteer recruitment and coordination for fundraising & education/awareness events
  • Manage tracking of tickets and correspondence with attendees for fundraising & education/awareness events
  • Coordinate event logistics with vendors (i.e. catering & AV)

 

Knowledge Management

  • Maintain and update relevant portions of the corresponding Program Management project plans
  • Expand existing organizational documentation

 

Qualifications

 

  • Exceptional organization skills and high attention to detail
  • The ability to work independently on projects
  • Strong writing and communication skills
  • Previous international travel experience preferred but not required
  • Spanish fluency preferred but not required

 

Start Date

Minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred

 

Compensation

This is an unpaid internship

 

Time Commitment

15 hours per week minimum

 

Reports to

Arnold Duijzer – Program Manager

 

To apply

Email resume and cover letter to careers@sparkventures.org. Please put “Program Management Intern – Fall 2015” in the subject of your email.

Philanthropy and Development Intern
Philanthropy and Development Intern

 

Description of the Internship

The Philanthropy and Development Intern will gain valuable insight into the environment at a small and growing nonprofit organization. The intern will be responsible for assisting the CEO with resource development research, fundraising events and donor database management.  On the same note, s/he will have opportunities to gain exposure to areas of nonprofit management and operations that s/he feels are of special interest.

 

Responsibilities May Include

 

Philanthropy and Development

  • Conduct prospect research for review by CEO, staff and board members
  • Assist with donor communications and drafting letters
  • Support team in executing solicitation and stewardship mailings
  • Assist with fundraising events and programs
  • Manage tracking of event ticket sales and correspondence with attendees
  • Perform donor analysis and research on giving behavior, insights and trends

 

Database Management

  • Learn basic functions of Salesforce, one of the most popular customer relationship management (CRM) platforms
  • Assist with entering donor information and tracking effective communication

 

 

Qualifications

 

  • Strong research, writing and communication skills
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Ability to complete projects independently
  • A high level of computer proficiency. Experience with Salesforce or other CRM database is a plus.

 

Dates

Minimum 3 month commitment, 4+ month commitment preferred

Compensation

This is an unpaid internship

Time Commitment

15 hours per week minimum

Reports to

Rich Johnson
CEO

To apply

Email resume, cover letter, and a writing sample (maximum 2 pages) to careers@sparkventures.org. Please put “Philanthropy and Development Intern” in the subject of your email.