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There are plenty of opportunities for CU students to connect with successful professionals from a multitude of industries — Boulder is, after all, America’s startup capital. And now that Spark Boulder, the brainchild of several students, is open on the Hill, they have no excuse.
The walls between the Boulder and CU communities can feel high. Many Boulder-based businesses carry with them an air of prestige that students feel intimidated by, and besides, students looking to satisfy an entrepreneurial curiosity can do so within the Leeds School of Business, which offers several programs through its top-ranked Deming Center for Entrepreneurship.
But the professionals, some of them Spark sponsors, that attended the grand opening on Friday, Feb. 21 had a point to make. In a modern, fashionably-furnaced basement on 13th Street and College Avenue, leading figures in Boulder’s nationally-renowned startup community told a crowd of CU students something they needed to hear: that they are wanted.
“We wouldn’t be here today if somebody didn’t believe in students,” said Ben Buie, a CU grad and Spark board member, to the almost-200 people gathered in the room. “Every one of the [sponsor] logos on the walls and on the desks, those are people who believed in students at CU. So why is belief important? Belief leads to change in behavior, and if students believe that they can do it, it changes what they do. They party a little less and they work a little harder.”
Spark offers students a space in which they can work alongside entrepreneurs who will take on roles as mentors. There are several desks, small enclosed offices, a conference room, bar seating and a kitchen, all accessible to students by paying fees ranging from $20 to $250 — different price plans have different features, and if money is an issue, students can talk to the Spark team about payment options. A more specific breakdown of Spark’s services can be found here.
Because Spark itself is a collaboration between established professionals and ambitious students, the standard has been set for future relationships. The two spheres that define Boulder’s identity are now formally bridged.
The remodeled basement sits at the intersection of 13th and College, below a food court. It’s convenient for students, less so for professionals. But that’s how Spark is significant. It is physical, brick-and-mortar evidence that students are not forgotten or ignored by the larger community. Students are a necessary component of Boulder’s prominence, and entrepreneurs will come to their territory to meet them.
“If we believe in students, students will believe in themselves,” Buie said. “And if students believe in themselves, then Spark will have no problem making a difference in Boulder, in Colorado, in the U.S., globally. And I’m not talking about students in general, I’m talking about students at CU. So to the students, on behalf of everyone in this room, we believe in you. And we want to help you. But first, you gotta reach out.”