Spark Lifecare - Bradley
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how Spark Lifecare came to be?
It’s tough to pinpoint an exact moment when spark came to be. People ask me this often but I think it was more of a culmination of many moments. First off, I have personally dealt with many of the struggles that our clients deal with every day. From living with severe anxiety, losing my father to mental illness and struggling to fit in the traditional schooling system. Secondly, I have been caring for people my whole life. Both personally and professionally. I started by babysitting cousins when I was old enough, was a peer mentor in high school, worked every summer at a summer camp for many at risk kids and finally worked as a respite worker throughout university. This job was the biggest eye opener for me. I never appreciated the strength of seeing many of the kids I worked with at camp come back year after year. It was different now in the respite position though, I was being introduced to these children who often had little to no positive male role models in their lives. I created this wonderful and healthy bond with them then was cut off after 12 weeks being told that I couldn’t communicate with them afterwards. I was studying psychology at the time and truly felt angry knowing that I was probably causing more harm than good by coming into their lives and going away like many of their previous parents and or family members. This created an internal fire. I needed to do this differently. I remember to this day the night I was so angry with the system that I registered the domain www.oursparknetwork.com not knowing what I was going to do with it or what I was going to do next. That next week (against my parents and families advice) I quit school determined that this was my calling. I took my last years 10k line of credit and used it to travel the world over the next 12 months meeting with and learning from the world’s leading experts in the field. I got back and started offering Spark’s first services and haven’t turned back since.
How does Spark match personal care workers such as PSWs and Nurses to clients?
This process is perhaps our most prized possession so we don’t share the details openly often. I can tell you though that there is so much that goes into the matching process at spark. It truly combines the best of technologies with the most important ingredient: real people. The process of matching one single client can involve more than 6 members of Spark’s leadership team, 6 or more members of the client’s family and as many members of their own treatment team as possible. It involves over 18 softwares and applications working in harmony going through thousands of applicants before we can present our clients with the top three.
So, Spark uses the power to technology to get the care people need to them in real time. What was it for you that brought technology and personal care together?
I have always been super passionate about technology. As a kid, I used to build out computer towers and systems from scratch along with an abundance of cheesy lighting and stickers…(I know I was super cool right?). One of my role models is the late great Steve Jobs and I have followed him very closely since the beginning of Apple. I have friends in Silicon Valley working for big companies like Pinterest and Google and make it a priority to be at the forefront of changes in the tech space. Things change here so fast that you can’t take your eye off the ball for a minute. As it relates to Spark, I have always said that technology will never replace the need for real people caring for real people but it will certainly change the way that we can do so. This holds true to the matching and administrative process as well. Many of our competitors have spent millions in developing one size fits all apps that remove the personal touch from the process. We prefer partnering with the many companies that focus on one thing and do it really well. We then modify these technologies so that they communicate and speak with the other spark apps to create a beautiful symphony. Some examples include seeing where our caregivers are geographically at any point in time, having a state of the art communication hub that allows us to communicate with our caregivers on specific client channels in real time and letting caregivers scan recreation receipts that pull the information in for them so they can cut out many of the mundane administrative tasks that are required every day.
You started this business 6 years ago. Have there ever been moments of doubt or struggle?
Every day. Almost every minute. The world is full of incredibly talented people who want to do things differently. I love business because the same rules apply to all of us, we all only have 24 hours a day to work with. The day I stop worrying is the day I will turn the keys over to someone new!
Spark Lifecare now has a leadership team of 10 and growing! Not to mention the numerous caregivers in various areas of expertise plus the patients that are helped by those caregivers. Do you ever look back and think wow!
Absolutely. Beyond the 10 people who work here at the office, we have almost 100 out in the field working to change hundreds of clients lives across the province. How could you not be incredibly proud? The thing I dislike most about this: not being able to know and have a relationship with every client and caregiver anymore. But I am still trying!
Spark Lifecare has opened Spark University with the “Campus” an amazing space for caregivers to gather, learn and support each other. What was the inspiration for the Campus?
Community based healthcare workers have some of the most important jobs out there. They are caring for our sick children. They are helping our partners relearn how to walk after major car accidents. They are caring for our parents who gave up everything to raise us. Yet despite all of this, they are often the most isolated, underpaid and undervalued people in our field. This is unacceptable to us. We created Spark University, a separate non-profit entity to tackle this problem head on. Spark University hosts regular trainings, socials, support groups at the newly created Spark Campus, where these professionals can come to connect, collaborate, relax or even work out free of charge.
Being an entrepreneur is tough. Do you work beyond the 9 to 5?
Before my two children were born, I did the whole 8 days per week 40 hours a day gig for a few years. It gets old fast but early on, you just don’t have the luxury of taking your foot off the pedal. I am also a big believer in self-care though. That you need to care for yourself before you care for others. So if you are working hard at work, you better be working hard outside of it to ensure you are filling up your gas tank somehow. I will be the first to admit that even though I believe this, I haven’t mastered the art yet. Now a days, I am so grateful to have people who are way more talented and capable than myself leading the way at Spark. This allows me to be at home for my kids every night for dinner and to tuck them in. I don’t miss sporting events and I don’t ever plan on doing so.
When you aren’t working with your team, helping patients find personal care professionals or any of the other things that go along with a business, what do you do for fun?
I love exploring and traveling with my kids. The world is a beautiful and amazing place. I also love cottaging with them up north where I grew up.
Spark won The Rising Star Award from Invest Ottawa. Have there been any other milestones or businesses in Ottawa that have help you get to where things are today?
I can’t say that any particular businesses have helped me get to where we are today but I can say there have been people who have been instrumental to our success. The Rising Star Award connected me to my mentor of over 4 years, Greg Weatherdon. He has been the most pivotal piece for me in terms of mentorship. I have also found throughout the years that the best business’ relationships are the ones that aren’t forced. I don’t do business’ with someone unless I authentically would enjoy sitting down with them for a beer or coffee. Good business has just been a bi-product of these great relationships. With that said, I enjoy sitting down for a beer or coffee with Denis Chaine, from Logan Katz, Tom VanAlstine from TRV benefits and Darryl Bilodeau from MDK Business Law. They have all been phenomenal to us.
If you get a few minutes away from the office is there a favourite place to grab lunch, coffee or a post-work beer?
Absolutely. I love the food and craft beer scene in Ottawa. If I am picking up a growler of beer, it’s going to be from Dominion City Brewing. My current fav restaurant is definitely, Bar Lupulus and you can never go wrong ordering a pizza from Louis’ for a late night meeting.
Is there a Spark mission?
We don’t really believe in traditional mission statements, etc. Our mantra is: Believe in a different story. For our caregivers, clients, friends and family we want people to challenge the status quo. To not let our diagnoses, social or economic status or any mental/physical barriers get in the way of us realizing our dreams and believing that we have so much to offer the world.
You are also in Kingston and Toronto with the headquarters in Ottawa. What can we expect to see from Spark Lifecare in the future?
One of our core values at Spark has always been to leave nobody behind. We are proud to have created a model that has allowed us to offer our great services to areas like the Ottawa, the GTA and PEI. Our long term goal for Spark has always been to make our services accessible to all Canadians. Whether you live in a small town in BC or large city like Toronto, you deserve access to the best home healthcare. We will continue to work relentlessly to make this vision a reality, one great match a time!