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How New Zealand businesses can embrace tech and grow faster

Spark Lab initially began as an events programme hosted every month, but through its popularity, it soon became clear that it could grow into a bigger, more permanent fixture in the Spark stable.

It has now expanded to become Spark’s business customer experience platform that offers knowledge, support and tools to Kiwi businesses to grow their digital potential and create real-world results.

What’s more, it has also helped create a collaborative space for New Zealand’s business community to come together in and trade tips, both online and offline.

Spark business communication manager, Sally Gordon says when Spark Lab began she noticed businesspeople were thoroughly enjoying the networking aspect.

“We realised that we had the opportunity to bring together a business community of people to be inspired to learn and to grow their business, and that we could provide really useful content for them,” she says.

Spark Lab now runs a programme that combines business tools, online content, events and networking. Aside from the on-the-ground networking taking place, fittingly, there’s a Spark Lab digital community blossoming as well.

The Spark Lab Facebook community has almost hit 3000 business owners, allowing Kiwi businesspeople spread far and wide to come together in an online space.

Social media aside, there’s also Spark Labs’ online hub packed full of articles, videos and tools to assist businesses. It offers inspiration from key business leaders, including Dr Michelle Dickson (Nanogirl), former New Zealander of the year Sir Ray Avery and Colart Miles from Velox Innovation.

Improving businesses’ skills digitally is a key focus for Spark Lab. An online Digital Journey assessment tool helps small to medium businesses understand what point they’re at in their digital journey, as well as possible areas for improvement.

“Companies can enter their information and be benchmarked against their industry on how far along the digital maturity scale they are,” Gordon says.

“Businesses can work out digital strategies like social media, security, device use and what their next best steps are.”

Through research, Gordon says Spark has discovered some of the key issues SMEs are grappling within the market today are online security, as well as how to effectively use social media.

Smaller businesses also struggle with the time and cost of digital solutions, she says, which is where Spark Lab wants to step in with easy, useful solutions that take the difficulty away.

What each business will get out of Spark Lab will be varied, Gordon says.

The lessons on offer are broad enough to be relevant to any business industry or size, but what it does do is help educate and inspire businesses, as well as show them how to survive in the increasingly digital world.

However, Gordon says a key market Spark Lab would like to target more is those who are lagging behind digitally.

“There’s a big part of the business community who is not up to speed in the digital space –  not using social media and who don’t have a website – that’s a community we want to reach – we want to engage with people not quite up to speed yet.”

But overall, Spark Lab wants to show New Zealand businesses the digital realm isn’t a space to be scared of – it’s a space that will lead to success when embraced wholeheartedly.

“We want to help business customers have access to the knowledge, support and digital tools to be better and go further,” Gordon says.

“It’s proven that businesses that embrace technology grow faster, and we’re passionate about helping make that happen. That’s what Spark Lab is all about.”

Elly is Idealog's editor and resident dog enthusiast. She enjoys travelling, tea, good books, and writing about exciting ideas and cool entrepreneurs.

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