IASP-logo@2x kopia
Inspiring Solutions
SPARK.ed Entrepreneur Book Club
By Ann Arbor SPARK, Year 2021 Finalist, located in United States
Keywords: knowledge sharing
Main users: Resident companies or institutions
Launch date: 
21 January 2021
Describe your solution in 50 words or less
A multi-week program to facilitate conversations and foster camaraderie similar to pre-COVID in-person events by leveraging the approachable book club structure, while also providing skills training for entrepreneurs.

Ann Arbor SPARK is a regional economic development organization, and part of its mission is to support the growth of a vibrant entrepreneurial ecosystem through the creation and management of services and resources. To this end, the organization manages two startup incubators and business accelerators. Before the pandemic, these locations served as regional hubs for entrepreneurs and provided desks, hands-on training, in-person networking events, one-on-one mentorship sessions, and more. Once COVID-19 closed the centers, SPARK pivoted all of its programs online with enormous success — program attendance increased as well as geographic reach. While these were positive outcomes, the SPARK entrepreneurial team wanted to help its clients recreate the personal connections cherished from in-person meetings but in a virtual environment. In early 2021, SPARK launched its new Entrepreneur Book Club. The multi-week program facilitated conversations and fostered camaraderie by adopting the very familiar format. While no virtual event can ever entirely replace the organic, in-person conversations that would have happened before the pandemic, it did break down some of the barriers of virtual events while helping SPARK's clients cultivate leadership skills. Due to its success, the next Entrepreneur Book Club is currently being planned.
What is innovative about it
The Entrepreneur Book Club is an innovative solution because it modified a familiar experience to replicate in-person interactions on a virtual platform. In a time when SPARK clients felt disconnected, the organization produced a new program that fostered camaraderie and peer-to-peer interactions, similar to those experienced before the pandemic. Additionally, Ann Arbor SPARK provided copies of the book to all registered attendees. Purchasing the books from a local minority-owned bookstore, the event was able to direct funds to a small business owner.
The book selection, "What Great Teams Do Great" provided a structured discussion for attendees, and actionable steps to building and leading great teams. In post-event surveys, attendees raved about the experience. Here are a few excerpts of that feedback: "The frameworks seem immediately applicable. I've shared anecdotes from the book with several family and friends." "The impact that the book has had on me is ongoing. I use the tools it teaches daily in both my work and personal life." "I am being a more proactive leader. I will share my new knowledge with my lead office person."

While the event was opened to anyone in the region, the primary audience was clients of Ann Arbor SPARK's entrepreneurial services and founders of early stage tech startups.

Ann Arbor SPARK's entrepreneurial services team.
For more solutions from IASP member Ann Arbor SPARK click here