SPARKS blends student life and running a business


Autumn Graybill

SPARKS cafe is on the fourth floor of the Student Innovation Center and carries an assortment of niche syrups and snacks.

With innovation and creativity at its core, the Student Innovation Center serves as a perfect fit for the lively cafe. SPARKS cafe is a student-run coffee shop located on the fourth floor of the Student Innovation Center.

Placed in front of a large seating area and numerous study spots, the store is convenient for students looking to buy a pick-me-up or a quick snack between classes.

Since the cafe is completely run by Iowa State students, taking responsibility for every little detail that goes into maintaining an entire store seems daunting. One may wonder how a full-time student finds the time for such a task. Stephanie Martinez, a SPARKS employee and senior in hospitality management, answers with enthusiasm.

“I really do feel like I have a great balance between work, life and being a full-time student,” Martinez said. “It has helped me a lot since I am a hospitality management major. Working at SPARKS has helped me complete hours towards my major. I love working at SPARKS, so I don’t really see it as a job.”

Martinez said she has learned important skills while working at SPARKS.

“A huge skill that I learned was time management,” Martinez said. “I’ve learned to turn in my ​​assignments for school first and then I take my time to answer emails and create invoices for SPARKS.”

There are many different employee positions at SPARKS, ranging from general barista to managing product development and inventory, all of which hold opportunities for leadership advancement and collaboration.

Martinez is in charge of catering with employee Michelle Na, a junior in pre-interior design. This entails creating invoices, managing emails and preparing and delivering catering orders multiple times per week.

The beauty of being a student-led store is that through all the trials and tribulations of running a business, employees can bring their creativity and initiative to the table while also learning useful skills that go into working so closely with other students.

Grace Dodder, a freshman in marketing, shares her admiration for the unique cafe.

“I find myself studying in the Student Innovation Center a lot recently, and more often than not, I need an iced caramel latte or iced coffee to help keep me awake and motivated,” Dodder said. “It’s too convenient not to stop by, and the staff is always so, so friendly.”

SPARKS cafe adds a touch of innovation and motivation to one’s day and differentiates itself from other coffee shops via its syrup variety and creative drink menus. The teamwork and genuine care for employees shown at SPARKS allow the coffee shop’s growth and the staff’s empowerment to coincide with one another.