002 A-B Tech Small Business Center: Sparking the Entrepreneurial Fire

Show Notes

“Sparking the entrepreneurial fire”…see what I did there? Get it?! Jill SPARKS? Yeah, I know, you get it…you got it a while ago. But really, if you’ve meet Jill Sparks in person, you know her last name suits her perfectly. As the Executive Director of the A-B Tech Small Business Center, Jill is a super connecting dynamo the brings tremendous energy and passion to her work every day. While talking with her, it was clear how much she supports the mission of the Small Business Center Network. Equally important to Jill is the support she gives to entrepreneurs who walk through her door every day. We talked not only about the A-B Tech Small Business center, but also touched on the additional support resources they’ve partnered with to make the Enka Campus one of the go-to places in Asheville for low cost and free support.

Speaking of bad asses, Sadrah Schadel, co-founder of No Evil Foods, a plant based meat alternative that yours truly happens to love, joined me for a quick chat about the support she’s found working with Jill and her team. What really struck me was Sadrah’s use of the phrase “part of the family” when referring to her interactions with the A-B Tech SBC.  I didn’t go full fan girl in this episode, but I’m looking forward to sharing my lack of control in future episodes. Sadrah and her team have created a business with a clear culture and ethos and it was inspiring to hear how the start-up ecosystem is helping along the way.

The Details

:52 – An introduction to Jill. We get the scoop on Jill’s journey to the A-B Tech Small Business Center…did you know she was a banker at one point?!

2:02 – There’s an entire network of Small Business Center’s in NC. Jill gives us a quick overview of the network as well as the A-B Tech Small Business Center.

3:37 – Here’s what’s unique about the A-B Tech SBC. Aside from bragging rights and customized programming, it’s the partnerships that help make this center truly unique.

6:35 – Did you know 50% of the folks that walk through the doors of the A-B Tech SBC self-identify as not having a business, yet? Jill walks us through the programs provided to these and other entrepreneurs.

11:58 – We discuss the A-B Tech SBC incubator – it provides space, support, and access when businesses need it most.

13:45 – Interested in making natural products, skin care products, tinctures, or any variety of natural products? The A-B Tech SBC provides access office space and connect you with a world class laboratory managed by BioNetwork.

14:36 – I’m not kidding when I say I’m a total fangirl of No Evil Foods. Sitting down with the co-founder Sadrah Shadel was SO COOL! We discussed the A-B Tech SBC and the support they’ve been provided.

16:15 – Aside from the seminars, space, and education provided by the A-B Tech SBC, Sadrah tells me about the connections that Jill has helped her make throughout the ecosystem.

16:47 – Sadrah helps clarify what the A-B Tech SBC offers to entrepreneurs by way of describing what programs she didn’t realize were offered.

17:43 – We close our time with Sadrah by asking for her advice to fellow entrepreneurs who want to get involved with the A-B Tech SBC.

18:20 – Time for another quick ad  read. This week I’m talking about WeDo Worldwide.

19:14 – We end our time this week with one piece of advice from Jill Sparks that she would give to any entrepreneur starting out. Hint – get off your butt, out from behind your keyboard, and take advantage of opportunities.

The Facts

Check out the programs offered by the A-B Tech Small Business Center, here, on Supportedly.com

Read more about Sadrah and No Evil Foods and find out where you can buy it, here!

Jill talked about incredible partner network she has at the A-B Tech Small Business Center. Find out more about those partners as well!


BioNetwork Test Kitchen

Natural Products Core Laboratory

Blue Ridge Food Ventures

The Craft Beverage Institute

Carolina Small Business Development Fund

Western Women’s Business Center

We love success stories! Here are just a few that have worked with Jill and her team at the A-B Tech SBC:

Plum Print

AVL Technologies

Dog Tag Art

Big Boom Design

Open Box Moving

The 3-D Professor

Spectra Light Images

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Host: Stephanie Kissel

I utilize my background and expertise in project leadership to find creative operational solutions every day. I’m passionate about great ideas and inspired by the entrepreneurs who bring them to life (ever seen someone cry happy tears over your prototype?). I'm fortunate to work with people who share my passions and inspire me every day. Together, we're working non-stop to create cool things that empower entrepreneurs and business owners, like Supportedly.com, the place to find entrepreneurial support programs, events, and actionable content like The Supportedly Podcast. To all the providers and entrepreneurs they support, thanks for letting me tell your stories, and if you’re reading this, I hope we’ve helped make your entrepreneurial journey just a little be easier and maybe even more exciting!

Jill Sparks

Jill Sparks joined the NC Community College System in 2006 and currently serves as Executive Director of the Small Business Center and Business Incubation program at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College.  She also serves as a regional director and is on the state leadership team for the NC Small Business Center Network.  Jill loves to help existing and aspiring entrepreneurs fulfill their dreams and contribute to the economic vitality of WNC.

Prior to joining A-B Tech, she worked at Appalachian State University as the Director of Career Planning Services and later as Director of Development for the Walker College of Business.  Jill earned both a BSBA in marketing and a BA in History from Appalachian State University and worked in both the transportation and insurance industries.  After earning her MBA from Appalachian State University, she worked in the financial services industry before returning to work at her alma mater in 1999.  Jill lives in Asheville and enjoys kayaking, running, traveling, dancing and baking.

Sadrah Schadel

Blind faith and stubborn determination led Sadrah Schadel to co-found No Evil Foods, one of the most disruptive brands in the competitive plant-based meat category. With a lifetime of plant-based experience under her belt, she has some serious veg cred. In 2014 she set out on a mission to address a broken food system by reinventing the time-honored tradition of meat-making using nothing but plants.

Building on lessons learned in the lively hub of her family’s kitchen, Sadrah has built a relatable brand based on authenticity and punk rock values and has guided the growth of No Evil Foods from farmers markets to grocery stores nationwide without wavering from a purpose-powered approach to use food as a force for good.

Sadrah stands in command of the test kitchen and develops innovative recipes drawing from world flavors inspired by her extensive travels. She passionately spearheads the brands social justice initiatives and is also a creative magician who shares the vision and communicates the voice of No Evil Foods.