Meet Doug Hardman, founder and CEO of SparkBase.
What is SparkBase?
SparkBase is a loyalty marketing platform, specifically for small and medium-size merchants. We develop gift card and reward programs that increase companies' revenue, customer retention and customer acquisition. In addition to developing the programs, we also process gift and reward card transactions. We offer traditional plastic card solutions, and recently launched our mobile rewards application, Paycloud. We work with thousands of merchants all around the world, and process more than a million transactions per day.
How did you come to be an entrepreneur?
SparkBase was a project I managed prior to purchasing it in 2007. I had a vision for the company beyond its current capabilities and knew I could make it a reality. So, I bought it, built it from the ground up and never looked back.
Where did you find your first employee?
Most of the original people that worked on SparkBase back in 2004 are still with us. We generally try to get people from local colleges, or from the region. We've gone from nine to 38 employees in less than a year, and plan on doing that again in 2012. So, we tend to try several different methods for recruiting talent. My easiest hire was my brother Geoff as president. All I had to do was threaten to tell Mom if he didn't take the job.
What are some of the advantages to doing business in Cleveland?
Cleveland is a fantastic city for entrepreneurs. For a big city, the business community is fairly tight knit, so it's easy to connect and work with local business partners. Plus, the young talent in this city is unbelievable. I love it because I can bring young professionals onto my team and watch them grow throughout their career. And hopefully, I get to be a mentor to them. Plus, I grew up in Shaker Heights, so it's home to me.
What inspires you?
My employees. I can't say enough good things about them. They have ideas that spark something in my head that turns into a new product, like Paycloud. I'm also an avid sailor and usually have my best ideas on the waters of Lake Erie.
What's next for you and your company?
Right now we're in the thick of launching Paycloud nationwide, starting in Cleveland. We have more than one hundred businesses and thousands of consumers already using our mobile rewards app in Chicago and we set the bar even higher for our hometown and the rest of the country. We're also building out our customer analytics engine, which gives deep insight about customers to the businesses we work with. Plus, whatever we dream up next!