Behind the Design: Joe McAndrew

We’re so excited to welcome our new digital marketing specialist!

Hi, I am Joe McAndrew and I am the new Digital Marketing Specialist at Sparq Designs.  I attended the University of Dayton, and I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh region.  Before working at Sparq Designs, I was a Senior Account Manager at Avanti Consulting Group.  My goal is to continue to bring quality clients to Sparq Designs to help their business’ build a strong digital presence.  In my free time, I like to golf, go to Pirates games and spend time with my family.

Q: Give us some insight into your morning routine!
A: I get up, I shower, I come to work, I drink Coffee.

Q: Three apps that help with your work…ready go!
A: Most of my work is building relationships, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google help me do this.  My job is to find those who need apps, not those who already have them.

Q: What music do you listen to while you’re working?
A: I enjoy all kinds of music, I switch around from artists like Kid Cudi to Tom Petty to The Lumineers, it honestly just depends on my mood.

Q: What’s your dream job (besides working at Sparq =])
A: Retirement? Only 40 more years!

Q: If you could sit down and have an hour-long conversation with any person alive or deceased who would it be?
A: John F. Kennedy.  I admire what he believed in, the vision he had for society and his dedication to the people.  I admire his fight for the working man and am fascinated by the political drive he had to help others.  I would love to take an hour and learn what he must have known.

Q: Who is your idol in the business world? Why?
A: There are so many good businessmen out there, I don’t know who I’d pick.  But, I truly support those who want to give back, who care about their workers and give a living wage.  I am tired of CEO’s stripping workers of their rights, outsourcing jobs and destroying the middle class for their greed, my Idols in the business world are those who do the right thing.


Behind the Design: Rachel Shussett

We’re so excited to welcome our new community manager!

Hi! My name is Rachel Shussett and I’m the new community manager at Sparq Designs. I graduated from Westminster College in 2016 and moved to Pittsburgh right after. Before working at Sparq Designs, I was an administrative assistant and social media manager at Pittsburgh Presbytery. I’m so excited to see what I can learn here at Sparq!

Q: Give us some insight into your morning routine!
A: I always run or do yoga first thing in the morning! After that comes coffee and getting my life together for work–the coffee being very key. I need my caffeine to make it through the day!

Q: Three apps that help with your work…ready go!
A: Slack is the best! It’s such a great way to keep communication going with the team without requiring a massive email thread. I also am a huge fan of the Google Calendar. I’d lose my mind if I didn’t have everything organized on there! The last one definitely is Pages Manager through Facebook. Being on so many accounts can be a little crazy, but it’s all in one place and easily accessible with the Manager App! If I get a notification it tells me exactly where to go and I can handle it with ease.

Q: What music do you listen to while you’re working?
A: I’ve been listening to a lot of indie rock and folk lately! Some of my favorite artists right now are Bear’s Den, Alvvays, Dermot Kennedy, and The Jezebels.

Q: What’s your dream job (besides working at Sparq =])
A: I’ve always dreamed of being the editor-in-chief of a major newspaper or magazine. I’m a journalism junkie and studied it in college alongside public relations–it’s definitely my other passion! That said, I’ve wanted to work here at Sparq for ages! It’s so great to have a job on this team. I love it!

Q: If you could sit down and have an hour-long conversation with any person alive or deceased who would it be?
A: Jane Goodall. I love, love, love science, and her research absolutely fascinates me. It would be so cool to hear it all firsthand!

Q: Who is your idol in the business world? Why?
A: Susan Goldberg, the editor-in-chief of National Geographic. She is the first female EIC at the magazine and I think that’s such a huge step! Plus, she’s incredible at her job. Such an inspiration for aspiring writers and editors!


Learn As You Grow: The Power of Asking for Help

I’m going to begin by prefacing with the statement that the subject of this blog is not something new or profound. Instead it should be viewed as a reminder that every person has accrued a significant amount of relationships in their lives and making it in business for yourself can mean that you have to be willing to explore the value of those relationships.

Cashing in on personal IOUs

I want to make it clear that no one owes you anything nor should you ever expect it.

I had a conversation this week with a friend of mine that is taking a risk and starting his own business. He reached out to talk about some of the things that Sparq has learned in our four years of business and something that we talked was what we called “cashing in on personal IOUs”.

Cashing in on personal IOUs is not intended to be exploitative of personal relationships. It simply illuminates the fact that through a lifetime of creating genuine, authentic relationships there comes a time when it is appropriate to reach out to those relationships and ask for help or advice. Of course it is much more likely that this type of personal relationship makes it more likely for someone to meet with you and give you a chance.

Ask and see it through

Asking for help shows humility and respect for the other individual’s professional advice and achievements and being humble and willing to accept advice makes someone much more likely to share their secrets and possibly business with you.

Keep in mind that this is not an exercise in taking advantage of relationships, you should be reaching out because you value their advice and be absolutely willing to see through on their recommendations and connections. We can trace most of our successes back to the step of asking for help but more so because we took the advice that we were given and ran with it.

I also suggest that you have a goals and specific questions in mind for your discussion. It should go without saying that focusing the conversation will result in better and much more streamlined advice. It is also makes it easier on the person that you are meeting with to be prepared for the conversation and make it more likely for them to assist you.

The pleasure is not only yours

The hurdle that you may have a hard time getting over is working up the courage to reach out to someone. If this is a challenge then remind yourself that not only do you receive the benefit of their advice but that person also gets the opportunity to remember some of the disciplines that they used to get to where they are. In my own case, I used my conversation with my friend as motivation to get back in touch with my own network and focus on growing it.

More importantly, there is a good chance that you offer them the opportunity to learn something of value or connect them to one of their goals in some way. All relationships are strongest when both sides are benefiting, so be cognizant of the things that you can do to help them as well.


How to Achieve Sustainable Growth

Like many companies who are in a fast growth period of their business, employees wear many hats and there is constant cross over in their roles. As a founder in a start up company, I have found “structured” growth to be one of the most challenging tasks to accomplish. In business there are always new things to learn and skills to develop. I have identified three keys that have helped and will continue to help me grow in the future.

Trusting Your People

The team in 2015/16. Since this photo has been taken, we have added 10 new employees.

Growth is without a doubt one of the most difficult items to tackle in business. Though overwhelming, it is a great problem to be faced with as it means that the company is moving in the right direction. Managing growth has become a daily item for myself and has allowed me to think in ways that I didn’t think possible.

In our organization one of the most important pieces to growth is to find a team of hardworking and vision-sharing individuals who can be trusted. As an entrepreneur and “doer” it is often difficult to let go of certain tasks and delegate them to others. Sourcing and trusting the right employees allows growth and the scaling of a business to occur.

When you find people you trust to take on an important role within your organization it is important to put them in positions where they can make mistakes and learn from them. Failures teach people important lessons and helps to develop a maturity. Put your team members in positions where they can be successful and trust that they can handle the success.

Being Self Aware

Many people think that GROWTH = SUCCESS. This is just not the case. Growth in the right way will lead to success, but doing it the right way is the key. Being naive and self absorbed is a characteristic that inhibits both personal growth and company growth.

I personally believe that both self assessment and self awareness have helped me better understand where both my personal and my company’s pain points lie. Being self-aware of both myself and our company has allowed me to understand our core competencies, allowing us to continue developing those to get better. Being able to address paint points while growing allows room for improvement, which is crucial in a growth phase. Being self-aware from a personal standpoint means being honest with yourself. If we can be honest and hard on ourselves, we will help alleviate pain points and address them before they get worse.

Keep Your Clients Happy

In an attempt to grow, many businesses focus on the goal of obtaining new client accounts, sales, product development, etc. in order to grow their businesses. Obviously this is a key to growth. But the ability to keep clients and customers happy and feeling valued is the thought behind strategic growth. Clients or customers are the lifeline to any business or organization’s success.

An emphasis must be placed on the ability to keep customers satisfied and valued so that growth can be attained. If a company is very good at landing new accounts with great pitches and presentations but cannot retain a core client base, then growth is going to be very difficult to attain.

Sustainable growth will come with client and customer retention. Keeping clients satisfied will lead to client retention which helps to build infrastructure for growth. If you have a proper infrastructure in place it will allow for growth to happen at a sustainable level.

Growth is definitely something that takes time to achieve. Developing a trust in your people, being self aware and retaining your clients will help to create a framework where success is achievable and scaled at a high level.


Nick Brucker Named in WHIRL Magazine’s”Pittsburgh 13 under 30″

PITTSBURGH – In February 2017, CEO and President of Sparq Designs Nick Brucker was named one of WHIRL Magazine’s “13 Under 30” in Pittsburgh.

Each year, WHIRL selects 13 individuals that are ambitious go-getters who spread progress throughout the city or Pittsburgh.

Brucker boasts a bachelor’s degree in business administration and marketing, as well as a master’s degree in mass media and communications. This training and education gave him all of the tools needed to create Sparq Designs.

At Sparq Designs, Brucker has cultivated a team to develop and execute strategic marketing plans for regional, national and global brands. He has grown his team of creatives from two to 16 in just four years. With this group, Sparq has landed eight national brands.

“We’ve been extremely fortunate when finding great people who have helped develop a corporate culture for the company. The most gratifying part of starting this business is building a team to scale and grow at a larger level,” said Brucker. “I enjoy the opportunities that Pittsburgh has to offer. It is a great place to start a business, and meet driven and passionate people who are willing to help one another out. It is a city that has a great deal of talent when it comes to art, culture, food, and music.”

The next goal for Sparq Designs is to become one of the top marketing agencies in Pittsburgh in the next three years, as well as expand into more verticals to reach clients more effectively in different areas of marketing, such as sports, retail and medical.

Sparq Designs is a full-service marketing agency based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Sparq Designs caters to clients of all industries, but specifically in the medical, sports & entertainment, and consumer world. 2018 is Sparq’s fifth year in business. Since 2013, Sparq has grown rapidly into a team of 16+ employees. Sparq Designs’ services include but are not limited to: Web Design, Web Development, Search Engine Optimization, Graphic Design, Social Media Management, Email Marketing and Video Production.


4 of the Most Unique Holiday Advertisements Thus Far

Thanksgiving has passed, and now it’s time to jump into the holiday season. Businesses and corporations have already dove headfirst into the 2016 holiday season with new ideas and holiday advertisements that aren’t easily forgotten. Here are just a few of our favorite holiday commercials so far:

Apple uses Frankenstein to symbolize unity during the holidays

In the words of our senior project manager, Adele: “So cute. Want to die,” this Apple commercial really tugged at our team’s heart strings. When the little girl decided to join in with Frankie’s singing, we couldn’t help but tear up.

Aside from the adorable story line, the ending of Frankenstein’s anecdote really brought the advertisement full circle. Ending with the words “Open your heart to everyone,” Apple’s advertisement touched upon the current political atmosphere. Apple has a history of focusing in on unity in their advertisements like in their Human Family advertisement that spotlighted a Maya Angelou poem about global diversity.

With the current animosity post-election, this advertisement not only promotes Apple products, but encourages the acceptance of everyone despite background or ethnicity.

Xfinity bridges the gap with technology and different generations during the holidays

Beginning with a “celebrity reads mean tweets” vibe, there is just something hilarious about people reading snide subtweets about themselves. And there is something even funnier about grandparents reading passive aggressive subtweets.

Our VP of digital marketing Kait, loves the interaction between sentiment and humor that makes this advertisement so memorable.

When the grandparents acknowledge their dated lifestyle, they update and equip their homes with Xfinity cable and WiFi. The advertisement symbolizes a gap being closed between the younger generation and older generation, ultimately proving that technology can bring people together for the holidays rather than isolate people on their phones.

Amazon Prime touches on political atmosphere with religious acceptance holiday advertisements

Amazon Prime’s holiday commercial aired at a pivotal time for this country. Although some people may think that a holiday commercial prior to Thanksgiving is a little premature, some critics note the insinuated dig at early November president-elect Donald Trump.

Despite the political criticism of the advertisement, the Amazon Prime ad comments on the recurring holiday theme of bringing  family, friends,and colleagues together to celebrate the holiday season.

Our company president Nick, thinks that the Amazon Prime commercial “was a great way to bridge the cultural gap of religion. Because at the end of the day, we are all just people.”

The advertisement ends with both religious leaders on their knees, praying to their respective belief with the Amazon gift in use.

M&S creates advertisement celebrating Mrs. Claus’ holiday powers

Lastly, on a more lighthearted note, this M&S advertisement shows the feminine boss-lady side of the often forgotten about Mrs. Claus. M&S is an international, multi-channel retailer. Their advertisement exhibits an emotional response, as the little boy in the ad starts out fighting with his sister.

He writes a letter to Mrs. Claus asking for a special gift for his sister. Mrs. Claus sneaks out in her bright red helicopter, and sneaks a gift under their Christmas tree.

Our social media manager, Lizz, appreciates the emphasis behind Mrs. Claus, because in this advertisement Mrs. Claus can do just what Santa does and can make Christmas wishes come true.


These are just some of our favorite holiday advertisements so far. We are looking forward to more memorable ads as the holiday season continues. What holiday ads have stuck out to you?




Focus on your strengths; Build a team around the weaknesses.

It’s one of the most common self-improvement ideas; focus on turning weaknesses into strengths. But if one thinks about this statement I think that it can be counterproductive to personal growth and may actually be a more inefficient strategy.

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Look at any successful team and one will see a common denominator; people. Good coaches and leaders understand that to form a great team they must first find great people who complete that team. In order to successfully and efficiently build a team it is important to identify skill sets and people’s strengths that mesh well together.

In business, like in sports, it wouldn’t make much sense to build an entire team around one common successful skill set. For example, a software engineer whose expertise lies in development and design may be the best asset in terms of product creation, but may not be a great option in terms of sales and communication. To dedicate the time and effort to make the engineer a better seller and communicator may not be the best use of their time. Instead of trying to fix people’s weaknesses, why not focus on their strengths. By focusing on one’s strengths the time and effort is spent honing an already polished skill.

The increased productivity and results of a team who focuses on their strengths will be much greater than that of a team who is forced to focus on their weaknesses. A company is only as strong as their weakest link and if you have the opportunity to make that weak link stronger, you are bettering your team and productivity.

I believe that the best leaders are the ones who have the ability to set their pride and ego’s aside in order to see the bigger picture. Ultimately, a good leader understands people and where strengths and weaknesses lie within each of them. Focus on what they do well and support their efforts to become even better, while finding complimentary pieces who make the together, make your team’s skill set that much better.

Nick Brucker is the President & CEO at Sparq Designs, a digital marketing agency in Pittsburgh. Learn more about him, here. If you have questions about building a relationship, contact the Sparq team today.

Follow Nick on Twitter & LinkedIn