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SPARK program empowers female entrepreneurs

| Friday, January 17, 2014

Bridgette VanSchoyck-Clark, director of the Saint Mary’s Belles for Fitness program, opened Beyond Zen, a new yoga, pilates and massage studio, Jan. 2 in Granger, Ind.

VanSchoyck-Clark participated in SPARK, an 11-week program sponsored by Saint Mary’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative (WEI) that helps South Bend women gain business skills to succeed.

“[SPARK is] an incredible support system,” VanSchoyck-Clark said. “It’s not just business. This program makes you go deep inside yourself, helps you to conquer your fears and fix personal problems that might be holding you back.”

VanSchoyck-Clark began envisioning opening her own studio in April 2012, she said. She said she had been working on business plans for 10 months when she discovered SPARK.

“My college degree is Movement in Sports Science so I have not had one business course,” VanSchoyck-Clark said. “This course is only 11 weeks long — four hours per session, twice a week — but it covers everything you need to write a business plan, how to fix your credit, acquire investors, get loans and then what to do after you open, making a budget, taxes and more.”

SPARK instructors teach the participants that they are not alone in this process of opening a business, VanSchoyck-Clark said. She said WEI director Martha Smith and her staff have built a support system and camaraderie among participants and presenters.

“Opening a business is scary stuff,” VanSchoyck-Clark said. “Can I afford it?  What if I put all of my savings in this and it fails?  Is this a good idea?  I don’t have one business class under my belt. Who am I kidding? I can’t open a business.

“SPARK has given me the knowledge and the confidence to put my dream in action.”

VanSchoyck-Clark said she was touched by the amount of people in the South Bend community who take time to support the women of SPARK. She said she recommends the program to local women because of the support system.

“[Smith] changes lives,” VanSchoyck-Clark said. “And it doesn’t stop at graduation. She continues to help me, encourage me and give me support.

“You have to take a good look at you, yourself, and figure out what negative patterns you have that might be keeping you from going after your dreams or succeeding,” she said.

VanSchoyck-Clark said her staff at Beyond Zen is composed of caring and considerate people. They are educated and experienced at what they do and take Saint Mary’s values into consideration, she said.

“We help our clients to feel better,” VanSchoyck-Clark said. “Increasing your strength or flexibility, helping you to quiet your mind and focus, de-stress, improve your posture and immunity … all through Pilates, yoga and massage.”

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About Alex Winegar

A junior at Saint Mary's, Alex is a Communicative Sciences and Disorders major. She serves as the Saint Mary's co-associate news editor. Alex enjoys traveling, food and spending time in "The Mitten."

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