An Interview with Sparketh’s Idea Architect: Tim Samuel

You never know who someone could be if they were to become the most creative version of themselves.”

-Tim Samuel, Sparketh Vice President and Co-Founder

Tim Samuel is the vice president, and one of the co-founders of, Sparketh. Tim and I chatted face-to face (virtually) to discuss his role in the organization, his sources of inspiration for hard work and entrepreneurship, and his excitement about fostering creativity through Sparketh.

 

Tim Samuel loves all things creative and is very open-minded. However, he identifies most with the details: the practicalities and the planning that it takes to bring big ideas to life. He describes himself in terms like, “logical, practical and organized.” In the mechanics of owning and operating Sparketh, Tim could be seen as the engineer, working behind the scenes to keep things working smoothly.

“Dwayne’s the visionary with the big ideas, always pushing us to dream bigger,” Tim says of his business partner, Sparketh’s co-owner and CEO, Dwayne Walker. “It’s my job to then take that big picture and reverse-engineer it into baby steps, so that we can begin to make things happen,” says Tim.  “Dwayne and I work really well as a dynamic duo–we have different strengths and, wherever one slacks, the other picks it up.”

Tim’s daily role at Sparketh involves taking the big goals, breaking them down into achievable tasks, and making sure that all of those smaller facets are running smoothly.

“It’s honestly just a lot of putting out fires,” Tim laughs. He lists just a few of the day-to-day mechanics that it takes to keep Sparketh running smoothly, tasks such as: interviewing new instructors, helping to strategize new courses, coordinating the growing Sparketh team, communicating with homeschooling parents, finding places to film, or filming the instructional videos.

Sparketh started out with the dynamic duo each using their skillset: Tim filming and editing video while Dwayne taught art courses. But since it’s origin in 2015, Sparketh has grown into something much larger, with a variety of different components.

Tim says, “For a while there we (Dwayne and Tim) were definitely overstretching ourselves. We were doing everything— every upload, fixing every bug on the site, communicating with every customer individually.  But in 2018 we realized that we couldn’t keep doing it that way, and we’ve started to grow and delegate to get ready for Sparketh’s future.”

A Curious and Innovative Mind

“I love questions,” Tim admits. “I’m actually kind of obsessed with questions. In college, I first started to take note on the power of questions and even started working on a book about it.”

Talking to Tim Samuel, it is immediately evident that he’s constantly in observation mode. He’s well-spoken, passionate about the future, and openly inquisitive. A few times in our interview, he flips the script and asked me the questions: “Do you like doing interviews?” (for instance). He seems genuinely interested in the answers.

When I ask Tim if he has any daily rituals to promote creativity/inspiration, his answer provides further proof of his love of questions.

“Last year, I decided that I would take the time to answer a question a day. Using the game, ‘Tabletopics,’ I chose 365 questions and programmed my phone to ask me one at random, every morning,” he says.

“The question pops up in the morning and I think about my answer throughout the day. At night, I’ll sit down and write a blog post about it.”  His blog contains daily updates: thoughtful musings over challenging personal questions.

A quick scroll offers confirmation of the consistency of Tim’s inspiration ritual: no days are missing  (impressive among even the most faithful bloggers).

His Inspiration and Values

In addition to finding inspiration from this daily ritual, Tim also says that he finds creative and entrepreneurial inspiration from those around him.

“I find inspiration all over the place,” he says. “I look to the journeys of people I admire. It’s not always famous people. I could be my brother playing basketball, or my sister pursuing dance. I look at how they push for their goals and don’t give up, and that inspires me.”

Tim says that he does have a few famous heroes, too, namely: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg–CEOs who are incredibly well-known for their innovation, entrepreneurship, and the way they are shaping the future of the 21st century.

“Elon Musk (of SpaceX, Tesla and Paypal) is probably my number one,” Tim says. “I admire the tenacity he has for his goals, and the fact that he never allows failure as an option in anything he does. Some people- a lot of people – quit when things don’t immediately work out, but he never does.”

Tim continues, “And the nature of his projects is so grand and so important—he’s inspiring the world on a whole different level than anyone else. He’s not just in it for the money. He’s genuinely trying to impact the world in a positive way—to change the world. I aspire to do that one day.”

In terms of values, Tim says that his top three are: honesty, respect and empathy.

“Being honest is super, super important,” says Tim. “Not just being honest with other people, but also yourself, can save you a lot of trouble. Respect can too. Especially in relationships, it’s important to make sure you wouldn’t ever do anything to another person that you wouldn’t want done to you. Empathy is the last one, but maybe the most important. If we could all just try to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, it could really make the world a better place.”

Tim says that he tries to apply these values – these principals – in all of his relationships, including those with Sparketh’s customers.

For example, he explains that, while he does have many creative interests, he doesn’t consider himself to be the “most talented person, fine arts wise.”

Tim says, “Recently though, I sat down and did an elephant silhouette painting—one of the courses on Sparketh. Not only did I really enjoy it, but it gave me a lot of insight into things that students might think or need while using one of our courses.”

Why Sparketh?

As he said in his discussion of Elon Musk, Tim has a desire to bring innovative and positive changes to the world.  However, since he (self admittedly) isn’t an artist and doesn’t come from a homeschooling background, I was curious to know how and why his entrepreneurial interests have translated into Sparketh.

“Creativity is the most underrated – and number one factor- that drives innovation in the world,” responds Tim. “The human race couldn’t thrive and progress as much as we do without it. It’s easy for us to get stuck in the spreadsheet, looking at numbers. But if you don’t express your creativity – if we don’t foster that as a society – then we wouldn’t have any innovations, no new ideas. These are crucial to the human experience.”

For Tim, it’s all about creativity, and importance he believes it to have — especially for the upcoming generations.

“I think that art education can and should be done better and more affordably,” says Tim. “When most people think of ‘art,’ they think they have to spend a certain amount of money or be gifted. My philosophy is that you can teach anyone to learn creative things. I think, if we keep going with Sparketh,  we can encourage a lot of people to pursue their creative interests. You never know who someone could be if they were to become the most creative version of themselves.”

Rewards and Challenges

Tim says that, as he and Dwayne have traveled to various homeschooling expos around the country, making personal connections with the families who use Sparketh has been the most rewarding and motivating facet of the entire experience.

Sparketh was initially designed with homeschoolers in mind, since it can be done from home and gives kids access to professional art instruction from the convenience of home. However, it has become a valuable component to more and more kids and teens in private and public schools, as well. Thinking about the way Sparketh has, and will continue to, positively influence kids is very motivational for Tim.

“When I look at the way that this (Sparketh) could impact kids and teens, I get really excited about it,” says Tim. “I know the struggle that kids can when they have creative interests, but they can’t pursue them for physical or financial reasons. Sparketh takes art education to a place where anyone can learn more about their creative interests.”

When I ask Tim what the biggest challenge with Sparketh has been so far, he has an answer. “2018,” he says, “definitely 2018.”

“Up until that point, Dwayne and I were the whole company, which had grown a lot since we started in 2015. Things were getting bigger and responsibilities were growing, and we kept trying to fill every role at once. On top of all that, we were also trying to go to as many expos as we could—over 20 in a matter of months. We were always driving or flying somewhere. Eventually, it took a huge toll on us. We ended up both being in the same hospital, at the same time, as the result of physical health problems. We’d just stretched ourselves too thin. We were burnt out.”

“Even worse,” says Tim, “we felt we’d let our Sparketh customers down. I even wrote an article about it, explaining exactly what had happened that year.” (You can read that article, here).”

Ultimately, however, they didn’t give up. After some restoration, the duo came back with a refreshed view on Sparketh and its mission. “We decided that the solution was simple, that we needed a team.” With a growing team to delegate the daily workings of Sparketh, Tim (and Dwayne) are now ready to continue to nurture the company’s future.

On His Hopes for Sparketh’s Future

Tim says, “I would say my ‘unofficial’ goal is to make the next generation the most creative generation. We want to give this generation all the resources and tools they need to flourish. And leave them no excuses for why they can’t create anything they put their mind to.”

Tim explained that they also have upcoming dreams in terms of Sparketh’s course offerings.

“We knew we wanted to start with painting and drawing because it’s simple to do with our online format, and because of Dwayne’s passion and background. However, we also want to expand to offer other courses in subjects like baking, acting, dancing and magic. But that’s not even a ‘wildest dream,’” Tim says, laughing. “We know we are going to make that happen.”

Tim says, “My wildest dream for Sparketh is for it to be known world-wide as the creativity haven. That, for anything going on in the world that has to do with creativity, Sparketh would have their hand in some way and be supporting it. If it has to do with expressing creativity, we want to be a part of it.”