This week, Dom Smith chats to Kendall Craven-Evans, the general manager of Spark in York. In the interview the two discuss how she came into the role, how businesses apply for Spark, success and much more.

Easter Bank Holiday 2019

Spark is a project designed to innovate York and achieve social change. In other words, Spark was designed to turn an empty city-centre site into a bustling enterprise filled village. This is filled with independent, local businesses that would give something back to the community that larger chains could never do. The project consists of 23 upcycled shipping containers, arranged over two levels, which gives this project a sense of style that not many other places can match. The types of stores on offer are exciting, with street food kiosks serving a range of food, whether that be Colombian, Italian or gourmet burgers. As well as food, there are beverage kiosks, retail, stage and performance area, meeting/teaching space and York’s smallest piano bar.

There is a lot of responsibility involved with managing a business like this, which is what 23-year-old Kendall Craven- Evans knows all too well. As the General Manager of Spark, she has an array of different roles all vital to the running of the business, which include liaising with traders, running events, and so much more. Kendall’s background as well shows her varied skill set, after starting to work in hospitality at 14 years of age, and then she took a fine art college course. Along the way she has worked in hotels, catering supplies and done some bar work. She was eventually pinched to work at Los Moros in York, and after only a year she became the GM there. Kendall’s role is to work with traders, and liaise between higher management and those using the hub. Kendall manages the events as well, and there’s a mixture of different responsibilities, along with bringing a bit of creativity into the site.

Indeed, with a pandemic, there has already been a fair share of challenges this year as well, along with starting the job late last year. How has Kendall coped? “I think that one of the biggest challenges I faced was going from managing a team and small business to managing something that is so huge.”

Joe Talbot (IDLES) DJ set earlier this year

Spark York. ©Kluens

With business applications for Spark, there is hands-on help every step of the way, every single application is answered, there is a lot of back and forth with the business applicants answering all the questions. For all those successful, there is support, “we give them the support network, we help them with any questions they may have, even down to the colour they’re gonna paint their unit, the smaller bits we’re always there,” says Kendall.

Being where Kendall is now, she is very astute, but what tips has she got for the readers here at Soundsphere that want to go into business themselves? “I’d say just go with it, there is the confidence that comes with it, and I think If you just put yourself out there. It might go wrong, but things will go wrong, nothings ever perfect, but I think having a distinct brand, having something that is a bit different.”

Success means many different things to different people, but for Kendall, what does it mean? “This role has helped me massively in my personal life, just in a small snippet of time really. It’s the people that I meet and the paths that I am going down just because of that. I believe the support network I have built up is completely contributing to my success.

As a developing professional, Kendall believes that success and learning go hand in hand, and learning every day on the job at Spark has those moments. “You know it’s great when you’re choosing to be here on your days off.”

Diving deeper into what makes Kendall such a creative individual, we find that she spends a lot of time out of work looking for antique furniture and has a fascination with the 50s and anything vintage. “It’s something I think about every day, it’s just people trying to bring back something so beautiful,” says Kendall. It seems creativity runs in the family, with her mother and grandmother both being creative souls as well. As well as loving vintage vibes she is also a fan of attending gigs, and when choosing her five favourite bands, she comes up with the eclectic mix of Malevolence, Arctic Monkeys, Groove Armada, The Prodigy and Paramore.

So, if you’re looking for something a bit different to do in York then pop down to Spark, support some local businesses, you won’t be disappointed.

Interview: Dom Smith / Words: Brett Herlinghaw