Tizzie Nuss of The Spark Project on carving her own path, and her mission to create a safer space for kids with the SPARK™ Shield
Describe your business in a few words?
One school shooting is too many and exactly why I created the Spark Project. We’re on a mission to protect our kids and future against school shootings with our patent pending SPARK™ Shield. The SPARK™ Shield is a bullet resistant, lightweight, customizable folder that kids can easily carry and transport to and from school.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
As a mom, I continued to see these heartbreaking events happen and felt helpless. God placed this issue on my heart. But the thought of trying to create something to protect kids felt too complex for me to tackle. That was until 2017, when I got my last sign – the day I lost my eyesight. That day and the two days that followed were the scariest days of my life. I promised God that I would never question my calling again. So, when my vision came back, I got to work and have been on a mission to protect our kids ever since.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I was a HR Business Partner for over 10 years. I loved working with people and loved helping them solve their problems!
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always had a very strong entrepreneurial spirit and loved the idea of creating my own path. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do until my purpose became clear in 2017.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
In 2020, we launched a crowdfunding campaign and within 2 weeks the pandemic took over. While that wasn’t part of the plan, we still had a successful campaign and because of that we were able to make the very first SPARK™ Shields last year.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
When we launched our crowdfunding campaign I didn’t think about sales tax. That was until I called the Department of Tax and realized I had to absorb that cost and pay sales tax for every product that was pre-ordered. Lesson learned!
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Bringing the SPARK™ Shield to life. I didn’t have any experience with bringing a product to market and definitely didn’t know anything about the ballistics industry. But throughout this process I think my faith has helped me overcome every challenge along the way.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We launched during the pandemic which was tough, but we made it happen!
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
We are super focused on engaging parents and developing a nationwide community around our cause. A community that has had enough, that wants more for our kids, and that stands together to spark positive change.
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
I’ve learned that no plan will ever go the way you intend it to, but despite setbacks you can choose how to respond. I have to give my feelings space/time, but I’ll always find the silver lining and take that next step forward!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
Social media takes a lot of time, but it is a great way to connect…send that DM you’ve been thinking about sending!
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
I lean on my husband a lot and his constant support and encouragement has helped me during the really tough times.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
I think so many of us strive for some sort of balance and I’ve struggled with work/life balance throughout my entire career. Being an entrepreneur has allowed me to truly flex and not carry around that feeling of guilt that I’ve felt in the past – which I’m so grateful for! One piece of advice – make sure you find a culture and leader that aligns with what you’re looking for – be clear about what’s important to you and make time to disconnect.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
My real name is Elizabeth!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
1.) Make a list of your to do’s. 2.) Assign a level of priority to each task: high/medium/low. 3.) Tackle that list & take breaks.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means carving your own path that’s fueled by passion and purpose. Showing up every day to take that next step forward and celebrating all the little wins along the way.