We had the good fortune of connecting with Sonya Sparks and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Sonya, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
After college, I began a career in international business and then moved to online marketing. Although online strategies were creative enough at the time, I eventually wanted something different. I sat down with my mother for lunch one day and I was complaining that I didn’t feel like I was going in the right direction. She asked me, “If you could do one thing, what would it be?” and I said offhandedly, “I don’t know, maybe start an art gallery”. She replied with, “ok, then do it.” I’d studied art and would always visit galleries and museums, and it just clicked for me at that moment. I began to research to see what it would take. After 2 years of searching, we found a building just at the right time in the market. It needed a ton of work, and was basically an empty rectangular space, but was a historic building in the Gaslamp. We spent an additional 2 years renovating the space. I started Sparks Gallery to help support and promote talented local artists. We are community-centric and now specialize in showing art by artists all throughout Southern California.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I credit most of my business knowledge to my studies at the University of San Diego. I studied both International Business and Art, which allowed me to have the background that I needed to eventually launch my own business. Networking and connections were truly key. Running an art and event space allows for the interior to be ever-changing with a new design or concept for a show. There is a lot of creativity that I can channel during changeovers in the space. Curating and the presentation of the artwork in the space are both my biggest challenge and the most rewarding elements of the business. I try to set high, but realistic goals for the business, and I know that the harder the challenge, the more people will fall by the wayside. My advice to people just starting in business… try to identify what excites you the most, and then focus on that as much as possible. If you own a business, hire others to do what you don’t like so much or where you can acknowledge your shortcomings, so you can focus on where you shine the brightest. Perspective is also very important. Leave the familiar behind and travel (when possible). See how other people live and do what you want to do. It’s important to research and know what your end goals are.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would start with Balboa Park for a museum visit and walk around the park, then lunch at the Prado. With kids in tow, the Zoo is a great morning activity for the following day, or a beach trip in the afternoon, such as Ocean Beach or Torrey Pines. A Farmer’s Market trip to show off all the local foods and specialties is grounding and refreshing, and of course a trip to the Gaslamp to see Sparks Gallery along with other shopping options, with dinner at a nice restaurant in the Gaslamp. For history enthusiasts: check out the Midway and Star of India or take a boat tour around the bay.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?