Youth + Experience

By July 9, 2019Uncategorized

There is simply no substitute for good ole’ fashioned experience. No matter how educated an inventor, entrepreneur, or product owner is, there will often be unforeseen roadblocks throughout the product development life-cycle. These are the moments when input from a “wiser” (read, experienced) engineer really defines the trajectory of a project. The most constructive insights come from someone who has already lived through this exact moment once, twice, or about thirty-eight times.

Take this recent case study featuring a collaboration between the SPARK team and Pocket Innovations LLC, a newly formed startup emerging from the VCU da Vinci Center this past year. Kayla Burkholder, CEO, and her colleagues came up with a practical solution to mitigate pocket hematoma trauma, an all-to-common complication after pacemaker implantation.

Their next step was prototyping… Kayla and her team were quickly hindered by not only material sourcing, but designing the product in a way that was both effective and simplistic. Finding themselves at a halt, they decided to reach out to Bruce Ferris, SPARK’s managing member and someone who can take an idea scribbled up on a napkin and transform it into a functional, manufacturable product. A seasoned engineer who has experienced similar hiccups once, twice, or thirty-eight times already.

Sure enough, their collaboration spawned a new iteration of the pocket protector — this time, more affordable and durable. Kayla says “I reached out to Bruce because he’s so realistic and understanding of what’s feasible and what isn’t.” Her team realized they needed a veteran who’s worked in this industry before to challenge their design in the name of market viability.


Working with SPARK and working with Bruce has truly been helpful for Pocket Innovations, as a new company with a physical product and very little background in bringing something like that to market. Lucky for us, they have been exactly what we needed. Bruce’s background and years of experience comes with insights of where pitfalls may be. It’s helpful, too, because he lets you know when you are on the right track; it’s motivating when you start thinking about things realistically. Our consults with SPARK really helped us define where we had weaknesses and what we needed to do to overcome them.
– Kayla Burkholder, CEO, Pocket Innovations, LLC.

Pocket Protector winning First Place ($5,000) at Ideafest shortly after SPARK collaboration


This case study is not solely about young, or old. Nor is it about experienced versus inexperienced. The takeaway here is to highlight the innovative excellence that can arise from collaboration among young, educated entrepreneurs and experienced, resourceful engineers. Exuberant inexperience can foster new lines of thinking. In fact, it is often essential to innovation, but ultimately, the ideas must be feasible to actually make an impact.

SPARK always seeks to bring this contrast and mindset to the table. They offer the perfect balance of opinion, broad and deep expertise, and a fruitful supply of resources to their clients and collaborators. In most contexts, this is a product development firm that is highly capable of finding problems fast and offering simple solutions that will make your life much easier.

This isn’t just a job for them, it’s a way of enabling innovation in our ecosystem.