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SPARK Publications

How to EnterCompany: SPARK Publications, Matthews, NC
Company Division/Group: Professional Communications
Company Description: Founded in 1998, SPARK Publications is a full service graphic design firm, based in Matthews, NC. SPARK specializes in magazine and self- published book design, and in the production of corporate identity pieces, marketing brochures and catalogs for local, regional and national clients.
Nomination Category: Company/Organization Categories
Nomination Sub Category: Best Turnaround of the Year

Nomination Title: Re-Igniting SPARK Publications

Describe for the judges the financial or operational turnaround achieved by the nominated company during the eligibility period (up to 500 words):

SPARK Considers Closing Its Doors:

SPARK Enterprises began as a home-based, freelance design business in 1998;
six years later, it became a bricks-and-mortar firm. In 2005, SPARK’s founder and
president, Fabi Preslar, expanded the company and hired her first employee. 2006
ushered in new clients and services, translating into a 14% increase in revenue.

Then, in 2007 – a year of projected financial growth – SPARK suddenly
encountered new challenges.  A series of setbacks necessitated Preslar going
without a paycheck for five months. On SPARK’s 9th year anniversary, she made
her final loan payment.  Should she close the firm’s doors for good?  SPARK’s
lease was up; it would be easy to quit.

Instead, Preslar made a personal commitment to revitalize SPARK. She realized
that to become profitable, SPARK needed to change its product focus and current

A Strategy for Success:

Preslar repositioned SPARK with a new dba – SPARK Publications – to focus on
publication design.  She led product and revenue diversification, and broadened the
breadth of clients to create a growing, more stable base of business for her

Preslar streamlined her small firm’s operation for efficiency, tactically replacing
two mid-level design and production staff with Mindy Kuhn, a seasoned art
director.  She brought her husband, Larry Preslar, into the firm as its new
creative director, thereby boosting design capacity to an all-time high. Preslar also forged
new strategic partnerships to provide value-added services to SPARK clients and
produce higher quality work – faster and on budget. 

The result?  The following year, SPARK Publications realized a 118% increase in
revenue and a 200+ percent increase in profit.

Changing with the Times:

As changing technologies drive people beyond print, SPARK strives to marry its
design capabilities with available technology.  While staying true to the printed,
turned page, SPARK enhances its clients’ messages through publications that
have online links to motion video, advertising and digital promotion.

SPARK has also varied its cash stream by creating a niche market that's more
resistant to economic decline – self-published books.  Authors use these
publications for marketing and building credibility in their areas of expertise.
This strategy increased SPARK’s revenue 31% for 2008.

The Best is Yet to Come:

SPARK projects a 10% growth in top line numbers to $300,000 in 2009.  Even
during this tough economic year, the firm expects to maintain its profit margin
from 2008.  Business Leader Magazine recently named SPARK among the Top 100 NC
Small Businesses.

SPARK maintains a slower pace of new client growth to focus on existing
contracts. The firm prides itself on over-the-top customer service, which
facilitates long-term relationships based on collaboration and support.  SPARK retains
clients, on average, for at least seven years.

Award-Winning Designs:

In 2008 SPARK’s work was recognized with these national and regional awards:
Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals MarCom Creative
Awards (2 Platinum, 3 Gold, 2 Honorable Mentions); Business Marketing
Association of the Carolinas ProAd Awards (1 Gold, 2 Silver); and the National
APEX Grande Award and two APEX Awards for Publication Excellence.

List the URLs (web addresses) of any online news stories, press releases, or other documents that you would like the judges to see that support your entry. IMPORTANT: List each URL on a separate line, begin each URL with http://, and enclose each URL in square brackets. For example, []:

2009 NAWBO Woman Business Owner of the Year Finalist

Business Leader Magazine:  Leader Issue

Business Leader Media:  2009 Book of Leaders (page 76)

Business Leader Charlotte: SPARK Publications Wins Ballantyne Magazine
Account (4/13/09)

Business Leader Charlotte: SPARK Publications Wins Seven National MarCom
Awards (1/21/09)

Business Leader Charlotte: SPARK Publications Names New Creative Director

Business Leader Charlotte: SPARK Publications Wins Three ProAd Awards

Business Leader Charlotte: SPARK Publications Designs & Produces Cookbook

Business Leader Charlotte: SPARK Publications Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary

Provide a brief biography of the person or persons who lead the nominated company (up to 100 words):

Fabi Preslar is an energetic entrepreneur and the president of SPARK
Publications. She founded SPARK eleven years ago as a home-based business
and built it into a thriving marketing-design powerhouse. Her award-winning graphic
design firm specializes in the design and production of custom magazines, self-
published books, catalogs and marketing brochures.

The Charlotte Chapter of NAWBO named Preslar a finalist for the 2009 Charlotte
Woman Business Owner of the Year.  She was also this year’s recipient of the
prestigious Richard H. Hagemeyer Educational Advancement Award, which
recognized her valuable contributions to the community.