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The city of Jacksonville is in full swing with preparations to make downtown the best possible venue for One Spark 2014.


With news that the world’s crowd-funding festival is going global with a second event in Berlin and more to follow, the city’s volunteer efforts to clean up downtown are ongoing to ensure the headquarters of One Spark remains presentable.


Recently more than 100 volunteers surfaced around Hemming Plaza -the heart of downtown Jacksonville and located directly across from City Hall – and planted new flowerbeds throughout Hemming Plaza.


“We’ve been planning this cleanup for some time and our deadline was to have it done before One Spark to help showcase the city and its beauty,” said Wayne Wood, the founder of Friends of Hemming Plaza, whose volunteers were on hand for the beautification. “We have a really good relationship with One Spark.”


While maintenance is always a challenge for public spaces, public and private investors have come together and donated thousands of dollars to help start the process. Wells Fargo provided a grant of $35,000 as part of the Neighborhood LIFT program.


Indeed downtown is improving, especially the 20 square blocks that will be showcased during One Spark. As the crowd-funding festival closes in on downtown Jacksonville, more efforts are underway to create the best possible venue for One Spark 2014.


Wood’s grand vision is to restore the plaza as one of the city’s top urban park areas. He would love to recreate Hemming Plaza as it appeared in the 1970s before it was paved.


And, there’s more he’d love to add. Wood wants Hemming Plaza to become a city attraction with food, art, beautiful landscaping, shows and events and 24-hour security.


“We want to show the city we care. We (Friends of Hemming Plaza) have a grand vision for the plaza,” …   More


The moment you turned down Forsyth Street and walked towards the Florida Theatre electricity was in the air as locals were buzzing with everything One Spark regarding the big reveal, the next location for One Spark 2014 — Berlin.

Food trucks lined the street and inside craft beer was served. The first to sell out was a local Intuition Ale Works brew called Smoke IPA, an exclusive beer only available in downtown Jacksonville.

Local business owners, creators, venues and One Spark staff were mixing and mingling, as everyone was excited to hear the big news.

“They aren’t just supporting us, they are supporting our creators,” said Joe Sampson, executive director of One Spark.

A local band, Canary in the Coal Mine, welcomed everyone into the Florida Theatre. As more and more people gathered One Spark’s public relations and volunteer services manager, Meredith O’Malley Johnson, made sure that everyone was being taken care of from the selling of merchandise to handling the media.

The lights dimmed down and Karen Feagins, news director from WJCT, took the stage to welcome everyone to the big reveal. One Spark’s executive director, Joe Sampson redefined how the funds for One Spark 2014 are going to be distributed and then teased the crowd before Elton Rivas, original One Spark co-founder, started the reveal.

Berlin– the next host city of One Spark 2014, set to begin mid-September.

The spark will grow across the pond. The layout of the following cities is not finalized however talk of Sydney, Seoul, Johannesburg and Rio de Janiero would make One Spark a worldwide phenomenon.

“We are launching One Spark Berlin this year and couldn’t be more excited,” Rivas said.

Sampson explained to the crowd how much One Spark means to Jacksonville and why the creators are the ones that are igniting the spark. Jacksonville is transforming into a start-up-hub. Places like Co-Work Jax are paving the way to the future of business in …   More

One Spark


The current rap scene in mainstream music glorifies scantily clad women, money and living a lavish lifestyle. Top rappers such as Kanye West, Jay-Z and Drake produce entire platinum albums filled with this content on their tracks. But not all up-and-coming artists feel the need to follow suit in the precedent persona of mainstream artists.

Jacksonville native Langston Brown exemplifies the positive side of hip-hop with his project, “The Bright Side,” which includes a clean, family-friendly and motivational platform for rappers and other local artists. Brown also promotes his collective production association, “Champ Life,” which is a platform for arts and entertainment as well as music production.

Brown clearly differentiates himself from other artists through the lifestyle he embodies. Being an uncle, Brown said he is very conscious about his lyrics and what he promotes. He does not want to be clustered into the stereotype of “just another rapper,” yet Brown still wants to be an influence for purpose and dedication to his young nephews.

Though Brown said that it is hard to differentiate him from any other rapper out there, he singles himself out due to his personal outlook on life.

“A lot of things people glorify that shouldn’t even be thought of as fun,” Brown said. “I am not big on small talk when there are uneducated and hungry people out here, especially in Jacksonville.”

Brown only made it to the last few hours of One Spark last year and was blown away by the amount of creativity that rests in the depths of Jacksonville.

“There’s no particular vibe to the One Spark project, my main focus is to promote a positive spirit, positive thought and no profanity,” Brown said.

Having only pursued music for just over a year, Brown has a clear and direct vision for his music. Being a Jacksonville native, Brown hopes to change the perception of Jacksonville to the …   More


One way to bring together a city as diverse as Jacksonville is with a nice, cold beer. One Spark creator Tony Allegretti has been brewing up a new brand of craft beer that he hopes will be enjoyed by everyone old enough in the Jacksonville community.

Allegretti’s brand, Placemaking Lager, is currently being brewed at Intuition Ale Works, a brewery in Riverside. Placemaking Lager is an independent lager and is not part of Intuition Ale Works’ production, Allegretti said.

Allegretti’s motivation for participating in One Spark is to gain $20,000 from voters to begin producing his beer on a larger level. He will also use the proceeds to market the brand to restaurants and breweries, Allegretti said.

Placemaking Lager will also support non-profit organizations, Allegretti said. For each case brewed of the craft beer, a certain number of bottles will be set aside to donate to charity and non-profit events as a catering service, Allegretti said.

One Spark would offer all the exposure needed to let the community know about Placemaking Lager, Allegretti said. Samples of the craft beer will be offered to visitors who are 21 years old or older.

The idea of a community united together has been a longtime goal of Allegretti’s. He is the new executive director of the Cultural Council of Greater Jacksonville, having just accepted that position after serving as JAX Chamber’s director of downtown engagement. He was also one of the founders of the Riverside Arts Market and also works with the First Wednesday Downtown Art Walk.

Placemaking Lager is designed to be a lighter beer that’s not hop heavy and has a crisp, fresh flavor. The beer would be an affordable beverage that people could enjoy while on a picnic during a hot afternoon, Allegretti said.

“Beer brings people together historically,” Allegretti said.

Every purchase of a case of Placemaking Lager will donate a portion of the profits to a non-profit organization. It’s a beer with a …   More


Crowdfunding is a way of raising finances by asking a large number of people each individually for a small amount of money. Traditionally crowdfunding has involved people utilizing networks including their family, friends and work acquaintances.

In the modern era, fund seekers are able to establish profiles on a website such as Kickstarter or Rocket Hub. From this platform they can utilize social media to spread their messages and provide opportunities for individuals to donate.

One Spark brought those opportunities to Jacksonville in a big way last year with its first crowd-funded entrepreneurial festival. This year the festival organizers have raised $310,000 in crowd-funded donations to distribute to the creators rated most worthy by festival attendees, who will vote for their favorites using a special app.

In addition, festival attendees will be encouraged to personally add their own funds to any project they like. This type of crowd-based funding provides start-ups with not only the revenue creators need to realize their dreams, but also with the validation they need to realize their dreams are worthy.

“Great ideas can come from anywhere, and they need a few things to grow into a sustainable entity: someone ready to take them to action, funding and resources,” explained Joe Sampson, the executive director of One Spark. “Our goal is to provide the platform that connects those people of action who have great ideas with the funding and resources they need to move those ideas forward.”

But it’s not the first time crowdfunding has been used in Jacksonville.

“Crowd funding is a great resource for folks who might not be able to raise funds through conventional means,” said Tim Massett, who raised 20 percent of the money needed to start up his business, Sun-Ray Cinema in Jacksonville’s Five Points, from online crowdfunding.

While Massett’s own crowdfunding efforts took place a year before One Spark’s entrance on the …   More


The magical resurrection of an ancient tyrant and two mystical realms bridged by a worm-hole doesn’t sound like something the average insurance worker might imagine, but Ryan Mauldin is practically a game developer by birthright.

Mauldin’s project, Resurrection: The Tyrant King, is equal parts unique and supernatural.

The storyline begins with an ongoing battle between the war-torn realms of “The Watchers,” mystical creatures with intense magical powers, and “The Crux,” a mighty and destructive land of dragons.

The Watchers dart in and out of wormholes seeking a powerful challenger for The Crux to no avail—until one day, they finally stumble across the skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex on present-day Earth. After resurrecting the dinosaur and granting it intelligence and the ability to use magic, the T-Rex is charged with the task of fighting The Crux and saving all realms from destruction.

It was a fairly new idea for Mauldin, who graduated from Lee University with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems, but it certainly wasn’t the first time he’d experimented with programming.

“I’ve been a software developer since I was about 14, making websites starting out,” Mauldin said. “And I just got really good at it.”

Mauldin had moved several times in search of a job before finding work at an insurance company in Jacksonville with his best friend, Micah Osborne. Six years ago, the two of them toyed with the idea of making a game together, but didn’t have the money or time to put into a project.

“It got really overwhelming,” Mauldin said. “We were spending 90 to 100 hours a week working with not enough help. So we just decided to take a break.”

But Mauldin fell in love with the process again and decided to try to develop a game of his own. The idea to create a game with a dinosaur as the protagonist came to him after he realized that few titles of the genre existed.

“I’ve never played a …   More


A bin full of worms may sound like a prop in a hair-raising reality TV show challenge, but to Ed Hubbard it represents the future of the green movement.

Hubbard is a software guru turned earthworm wrangler. He launched Nature’s Little Recyclers almost a year and a half ago. NLR is a vermiculture composting company where earthworms turn municipal level waste into organic top soil and fertilizer.

Hubbard is traveling from Chicago to Jacksonville for One Spark 2014. He has entered NLR as a creator project in the festival.

Hubbard developed NLR after coming to the realization that he wanted to do something disruptive that would make a difference and affect a lot of people.

He said that clean air, water and energy are all areas that are already being addressed but soil quality was being neglected.

“This was the fourth important piece,” Hubbard said, “and I decided this was a business worth getting into.”

Dr. Courtey Hackney, the director of the coastal biology department at the University of North Florida, said there is a huge market in verimculture composting.

“What he’s doing is really important as far as plant nutrition,” Hackney said. “People have found ways to create the organic part of the soil. It’s an old concept that has been resurrected.”

So Hubbard purchased earthworms and started feeding them organic materials and in return they excreted “vermicast,” a natural fertilizer that forms the basis of most soil.

“If we eat it, they’ll eat it and if we wear it and it’s cotton, they’ll eat it,” Hubbard said, “we’ve even fed them T-shirts, they’ve eaten right through them.”

In particular Hubbard is interested in coffee – it’s the most compostable thing he’s found that earthworms love to eat. NLR is partnered with different coffee companies for materials.

“Ninety-eight percent of the material that’s left over from coffee is all compostable and in most cases it’s in a …   More


In late January, Chris Markl, a former Florida State College economics professor, walked into an entrepreneurial event at the University of North Florida where all interested professionals were welcome to pitch business ideas and hear feedback from their peers.

He pitched his plan, the people voted, and his business idea placed in the top three out of over 40 original pitches.

He got what he came for—confirmation that his idea, ReStartUp, really did have the potential he imagined it to have.

Now Markl’s idea will be making its global debut at One Spark 2014, where he is registered as a creator seeking $50,000 toward building awareness and demand for his startup business.

AnyInc, the new name of ReStartUp, is an online platform for failing startups that have enough potential to be taken over by a new owner.

“I wanted to create a marketplace for what was originally called failed businesses, but now we’re not going to call it that,” Markl said. “We want to redefine what success is to the entrepreneur.”

The failure rate in startups is 80 to 95 percent. Markl and his team aim to corner that market and provide interested entrepreneurs with a jump in the competition.

In essence, AnyInc will be a digital space for entrepreneurs to hand off their struggling business to someone who has the resources and passion to continue it. The entrepreneur will post the failing startup on the website for a flat fee, and then searching entrepreneurs can bid on it.

Think of it as a matchmaking or dating site, but for struggling businesses.

When a bidder gets chosen, stakes are discussed and a deal is set. Ultimately, the goal is to make it in the entrepreneur’s best interest to mentor the bidder through the process of taking on the business.

If the new owner succeeds, then the old owner will benefit, too. If all goes as planned, the value created by the original entrepreneur will be enhanced, not lost.

“We’re really focused on creating …   More


'Velvet Road'


Zombies are in — very in. So “Velvet Road,” a feature film project that follows a zombie disease quietly taking over a small, racially divided community in Florida in the summer of 1964, is one creation that should get some nibbles.

In 2011, filmmakers Jon Shepard and Gustavo Cooper teamed up to create a short film of the same name.

“We have been working on this concept for many years now,” Cooper said. “I came up with the story and Jon assembled a team. We found some visionary investors, pulled a lot of favors and managed to make a 12-minute film.”

The short "Velvet Road" has been screened at more than two dozen festivals around the world.

“We have been very excited about the response everyone has had for the film, which was conceived, written, filmed and first screened right here in Jacksonville and North Florida,” Cooper said.

“Florida has a bloody history of Klan violence that rivals Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia,” Cooper said. “We took real stories of racial violence from Florida’s past to create a lyrical narrative that takes very realistic characters from the period and pits them against a disease none of them understand.”

Aside from Cooper (writer/director) and Shepard (producer), “Velvet Road” features the work of Brian Jerin (composer/producer) and Jon Bosworth (writer).

“We need a lot of money and favors to make this film, but we would also like this community to own part of it,” Cooper said. “This is a Jacksonville story in so many ways. We want Jacksonville to help us tell it.”


Velvet Road (2012) from L. Gustavo Cooper on Vimeo.   More


Need a Reason to Go to One Spark?

One Spark, an unprecedented crowdfunded celebration of all kinds of innovation, launches April 17.

If you haven't made plans to go at some point over the five days, read a few of my reasons to go here, with help from local artist Dolf James and One Spark Executive Director Elton Rivas.

I hope to see you there. Keep an eye on this blog for coverage of the event April 17-21.   More