It all began in 2019, when Dr. Meghna Mahambrey gave a TEDx Columbus talk on “the birds and the bees.” From there, she created SPARK out of a desire to continue to share valuable insight on relationships and sexual wellness with the public. Initially just hosting workshops, SPARK has evolved through listening to the community’s needs and requests. These days, Meghna’s multi-faceted business offers one-on-one coaching, singles’ events, a podcast, and more!
Give us a summary of your business in 200 words or less.
SPARK helps modern singles, couples, and polyamorous partners custom-design healthy, happy love lives. We offer psycho-educational workshops, one-on-one coaching, bachelor/ette parties, divorce & break-up parties, employee wellness seminars, a podcast, a blog, and more.
SPARK is the only minority-owned, women-led small business that offers protective, preventative services of this kind. Rooted in academic literature, SPARK provides inclusive, evidence-based information in a safe, comfortable environment free from clinical, religious, or political affiliations. Everyone is welcome, always.
How did the idea for your business come about?
I had been teaching college courses on romantic relationships, sexuality, and human development for a decade and knew this information would be helpful to the general community beyond the students in my classes.
I decided to pursue a doctoral degree from Ohio State University with a focus on romantic relationships, sexual satisfaction, and the evolution of marriage. I also trained with The Gottman Institute, Esther Perel, and Gary Chapman. In 2019, I was invited to give a TEDxColumbus talk on the birds and the bees which ultimately led to the birth of SPARK in 2020.
What was the turning point for your business? Was there a moment you knew you had something special?
I like to call SPARK my COVID-baby; we launched in early 2020 and hosted our first workshop on Valentine’s Day weekend in February, then everything shut down the following month due to COVID. In spite of that, the business continued to flourish.
Originally, we just offered public workshops and transitioned to virtual workshops during the shutdown. Not only did our workshops continue to draw people, but I started getting requests to do all sorts of different things, which is how we fleshed out other SPARK services such as one-on-one relationship coaching, employee wellness events, bachelor/ette parties, a blog, a podcast, and beyond. So the business sort of built itself based on listening to the community and helping them in the ways they wanted to be helped.
How exactly do you “listen to your community?”
Feedback forms, Google Reviews, talking to clients, and gathering data through social media.
What does it mean to you to be an entrepreneur and business owner?
I follow in the footsteps of my parents, who were both self-employed business owners. In some ways, it comes naturally, because I learned quite a bit through observing and working with them. But it takes on a whole new meaning now that I have my own business. It is an enormous undertaking, but so worth it. I love what I do.
What does the city of Columbus mean to your business?
I was born and raised in Dayton, then attended undergrad and grad school at Ohio State here in Columbus. I eventually met my partner here and we got married and moved into a beautiful home in Clintonville. I am also a musician and have played many shows around town.
SPARK was born out of the education, experiences, and creative ideas nurtured here in the heart of the city. I can’t imagine anywhere else I would want to base my business.
What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to anyone wanting to start a business?
Talk to as many people as humanly possible. Ask questions, learn about the inner workings of a business, seek out as many mentors as you can, request help from skilled friends and colleagues. The people who have stood by me are single-handedly the greatest gifts I could have asked for as a fledgling business owner.
How do you find people who are aligned with your values and goals?
You know how they say, when the student is ready, the teacher shows up? It’s true. I would just talk about my questions/concerns to people in my network, and they would point me in the direction of someone who could help me.
What do you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before starting your business?
Like many business owners, I just dove right in. That’s sometimes the best way, learn as you go. However, developing a strong business plan and securing a business loan probably would have made my life a little easier, so I’d probably recommend getting your ducks in a row before you dive in.
What’s the most challenging part of your business?
Time management! As a business owner, you wear many hats. Trying to keep track of everything, and trying to do all of it well, is the biggest challenge.
Any insight on how to better juggle the many roles of being a business owner?
I’m still trying to figure it out myself! Sometimes it helps to categorize things according to urgency and importance. Our attention tends to go to the urgent tasks which have hard deadlines (responding to emails, paying bills, social media schedules, etc.) but don’t necessarily help propel the business forward.
I recommend setting time aside each day for important, long-term goals, even if they don’t have a looming deadline.
Every business owner has a flaw. What’s yours?
Perfectionism. I’m working on delegating tasks to my amazing team members and interns and trusting that everything will work out okay.
Why do you think most business owners fail? What has made you different?
I didn’t know that statistic. But I can understand it. I think people fall in love with the idea of owning a business, but don’t actually understand what all goes into it. It’s romantic to think about opening a restaurant or boutique or whatever, but a passion for food or fashion is not what keeps the business running.
Strong work ethic, business skills, marketing knowledge, time management, persistence, leadership skills, and emotional stability are all required (among a million other things) to actually keep the business sustainable.
What was your biggest mistake and what did it cost you?
I can’t recall any detrimental mistakes. I’m a pretty careful and calculated person, so I run ideas by 100 people before actually executing them every step of the way. But for the times I did slip, I tried not to beat myself up too much; sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
What tool has helped you the most for your business?
Designing my website on Wix.
When did you know it was time to expand your business, make your first hire, etc.?
When I could no longer do everything myself! I’m only able to devote about 25% of my time to the actual services we offer, the work I’m passionate about… 75% of my time goes to running the business: administrative responsibilities, bookkeeping, marketing, social media, managing the team and interns, etc.
What is something that you did that was a game-changer for your business?
Asking for help. There are so many talented and skilled people out there willing to lend a hand if only you ask.
How do you measure success?
Success is enjoying what I do, making a difference in people’s lives, and being able to live comfortably and support not only myself but those around me.
What is something that your business spends a lot of money on that’s worth it?
We pay for nice venues to host our workshops because atmosphere is everything. For example, we love the event room at Seventh Son Brewing Co., and even though it takes the majority of our workshop revenue, it helps establish our brand by communicating a certain vibe and that we support other local businesses.
What is something you’re working on now that you’re very excited about?
We are currently fleshing out several exciting opportunities exclusively for singles. I originally anticipated mostly couples taking advantage of SPARK, but the number of singles that came to me for help with the dating scene made me realize there is so much we can do to help singles find their person, too. Lots of exciting things in the works, and we plan to unveil them soon!
What form of marketing is the most valuable for you?
Who is your best Columbus resource?
Jim Barnett, CPA
Who do you vent to when you have a business problem?
One of my most trusted teammates, Anna Olsavsky.
Where do you see your business in the next 10 years?
Honestly, I try to avoid predicting where I’ll be in the future. So many incredible opportunities have led me to where I am right now, that it’s hard to know what twists and turns will come my way in the next 10 years. All I know is I’m here for the ride.
When you’re stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to overcome this feeling?
Deep breathing, peaceful music, call my mom.
What’s one component of entrepreneurship that’s much different than what most people think?
Everything is your responsibility. Everything. Including all the menial, mundane tasks that no one really wants to do.
What’s your end goal with the business?
You’ll have to ask me down the road! I’m just living in the present moment.
What other entrepreneur do you look up to most?
My mom, Asha Mahambrey. She has been successfully running a small Montessori preschool/kindergarten program in Dayton, Ohio since 1988. I model my business and practices after hers.