WATERLOO — A hot spot for Cedar Valley entrepreneurs and artists looking to move out of their homes and into a new venue to sell their specialty products is now open.
Nia Wilder, a 2011 East High School graduate and soon-to-be Waterloo city councilor, has owned an entrepreneurial mindset her entire life. She recently founded her latest venture, Spark Lot, inside Crossroads Center.
The business, which has been in the works for more than a year, will hold a ribbon cutting ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday with Grow Cedar Valley, and a grand opening with a fashion show, DJ, and snacks from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Saturday, giving visitors the opportunity to meet the local people behind the businesses inside her store.
“Spark Lot gives me an opportunity to help revitalize the mall, and to bring more traffic to these businesses,” she said. “I want to become a destination or central hub for local products and help small businesses become larger staple businesses.”
And she hopes her shop and the mall as a whole play a role in economic and community development.
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“I’m hoping the mall becomes a place where families want to be,” she added. “When I was brought here as a kid, you couldn’t get me to leave.”
Store hours are 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday.
The business’ mission is empowering local artists and entrepreneurs by giving them a physical space to display their products, but also it gives small business owners “a chance to get away from being by yourself and to join a community,” she said.
Creators can get their products behind the store’s window by paying an upfront fee, or through a revenue sharing arrangement with Spark Lot. If interested, email email@example.com, or reach out through messenger on its Facebook page.
Some of the vendors or “resellers” already involved are Light Gear, Saucy Creations, Too Kustom, Simone’s Boutique, Jressed Like Mommy, Bossy Bonnets, Thunder Shop, Jacquet’s Boutique, ITMRTM, Sunkissed, Sistas Create, Fifth Generation, Melanated Glow Skin, Reigning Charm, Longevity, Bodied By Ty, Dream Designs, Beat The Streetz, Les Wild Customs, 4’D Acrylic Creations, Main Street Waterloo, Experience Waterloo, and Spells and Stones.
The lineup of products includes everything from skin care products, artwork, and natural hygiene products to candles, jewelry, purses, accessories and lots of custom clothing such as sweaters, jackets, shoes and caps.
Wilder is the founder of ShinDigg, a film, photography, music, and creative mentorship business at 526 West Mullan Ave., and also owns the clothing empowerment company Light Gear. Her newest project can be found in a 1,500 square foot space in the corner of the mall’s lower floor near At Home and Milroy’s Tuxedos.
“The other mall tenants are excited to see a business coming to the mall, rather than seeing another one leave,” she said.
More racks and shelves are expected to be added over time, and she says there will be “plenty of space for everybody,” whatever unique product or brand someone is looking to showcase.
“I’m open to all ideas,” she said. “I can’t say ‘no’ until you bring it on over.”
A website, thesparklot.com, will soon be up a running, “eventually” with an option to shop online. Wilder hopes eventually to open up another store downtown.
Wilder has hired two high school students to help run the store on weekends and prepare them for careers after graduating. While she is no longer hiring employees, she hopes to bring aboard a few interns.