We have a pretty amazing team here at Spark.Orange, so it’s only natural to want to highlight our people! And, what better way is there for you to learn more about who we are and what we do? For this installment in our #SparkSquad series, I sat down with Aliza Seeber, a Managing Partner at Spark.Orange since day 1.
As a Managing Partner here at Spark.Orange, let’s start with your story and some professional guidance before we dig into the fun stuff. What ignited your entrepreneurial spirit and lead you to start Spark.Orange?
I was exposed to business and entrepreneurship at a young age. My parents owned and operated two businesses, one in printing and the other in auctioning scrap metal. The whole family helped operate the businesses out of our house, so running a business was always a big part of my life.
I also saw firsthand how businesses need to adapt over time when so much new technology came out in the printing industry. We were using large printing presses when the industry started to change and people could print things cheaper and quicker without investing in the big, old equipment we had. I saw my mom making the tough decision to leave the industry rather than invest in new equipment, and it really opened my eyes to how much technology affects business.
When it came time for college, I knew I wanted to do something that could affect change in the world. I wanted to make a difference and give back, so I pursued a degree in Journalism and Political Science from SU. When I graduated, I entered the nonprofit world and loved that I was doing something for the greater good, but knew I could make a bigger impact.
Fast forward a few years and I had the opportunity to open a business with my father-in-law. I essentially ran the back office so I learned a lot, but eventually moved on to another startup that focused more on how technology could impact business. That’s where I met the other managing partner of Spark.Orange, Derek.
At this job, I was thrown into helping another early-stage company grow and develop, and was involved in all aspects of starting a business from operations, to setting up processes and systems. I also got into software development and worked on behalf of many different companies, identifying gaps in operational and sales processes, and using technology to rectify those gaps.
When that business started to head in another direction, Derek and I saw the opportunity to start our own company. In 2013, we launched Spark.Orange with a few goals in mind. We wanted to do our part in giving back by helping businesses and nonprofits improve the way they operate, and we wanted to positively impact the Syracuse job market by creating quality jobs for young people in the technology field. We’ve helped a number of nonprofits scale and reach more people, and we are up to nearly 20 employees, so I would say we are well on our way!
What advice would you give to others who are interested in starting their own business?
I wish I would’ve known how important it is to find an accountant or accounting firm that works with you well and is very proactive and involved in your business. Not having a good accountant from the start has an impact years later. You continue to pay for accounting mistakes made in year one! I’d also say to take advantage of resources that are available. SCORE offers free services for people who are learning to start their business, and I used them a lot with the first business I started. They put you in touch with people who have experience and mentor you through the process. With their help putting together a business plan, it made it less scary and I felt less alone.
How do you unwind outside of work?
I have two sons I spend a lot of time with. Any adventure they’re up for, I am too! I also enjoy running and doing CrossFit and HIIT workouts. Anything outside is fun for me too, from skiing in the cold weather to swimming when the summer hits.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done?
As an entrepreneur, the hardest thing I’ve ever done is sticking with it when it gets tough. There have been times at Spark.Orange where it’s been a struggle from both a personal and business perspective and I’ve wanted to quit. It’s been hard to fight through it sometimes but I am so glad I did, because I believe in everything I’m doing, even though giving up would’ve been easier. Being okay with the sacrifices that I’m making has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It’s hard to be both a mom and a business owner. Mom guilt is real! The work I do has to be worth sacrificing time I could be spending with my kids. It’s still an internal struggle, but I do have to remember that I can set my own schedule, and I can be there for important things. Like I said, it’s hard, but also so rewarding and I don’t regret it.
And now for the lighter questions…
What’s your favorite restaurant in Syracuse?
I’d have to say Lemongrass, the Thai food spot in Armory Square. I love the Pad Thai (and the convenient location, a 2-minute walk from our office!).
Who would play you in a movie about your life?
I’d like it to be Reese Witherspoon.
If you could have a personal assistant, what tasks would you love to delegate to them?
I’d love to have cooking and grocery shopping and personal shopping off my plate. I hate shopping!
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you recently?
My 3 year old just started preschool and after the first day of school, his teacher told me that she asked him what his brother’s name is and he said “Spellcheck”. His brother’s name is actually Cole, but my husband has nicknames for everyone in the family and now my youngest son has taken to calling his family members by those nicknames. Cole is “Spellcheck” because he is such a poor speller, and I’m “Ice Block” because I’m always cold!