Chuck Bloom: Lynn Sipiora for Texan of the Year

sourced from: The Dallas Morning News

Posted by Marc A. Sparks in Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX on Dec 04, 2008

03:06 PM CST on Wednesday, December 3, 2008

She has never thrown the winning touchdown pass to capture the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl or Super Bowl, nor has she won a Grammy or political office. All she has done is … change the world, at least for some people in need in Collin County.

As executive director of the Samaritan Inn, the county’s only homeless shelter, Lynne Sipiora marshals the task of providing food, shelter, counseling and the possibility of a better future to folks many would rather forget. And on April 9, she fulfilled the goal of opening Gateway Apartments in McKinney, the county’s first transitional housing unit for homeless people.

For that achievement, she deserves this nomination for the 2008 Dallas Morning News Texan of the Year.

Think for one moment what Gateway represents to its residents: For the first time in ages, 20 families (and more in the future) can re-emerge into society as functional, productive citizens with a regained sense of dignity after so much pain and loss. Without Lynne’s initiative and oversight, it would never have become a reality.

She hoisted this challenge on her shoulders and willed Gateway’s completion, doing it without one red cent from the government. She found the perfect silent partner in Dallas philanthropist Marc Sparks, who entirely funded the construction and property purchase; got the builders, Darling Bros., to work at cost; and convinced numerous businesses, churches, social groups and individuals to sponsor aspects of the everyday Gateway regimen.

Lynne’s daily task at the Inn is difficult enough; each resident has a sad story behind their predicament. There is the added heartbreak of turning away others (including families with children) due to lack of space and resources. This work can crush most normal spirits and souls, but she always prevails.

Add to this Lynne’s backbreaking schedule of meetings, speeches and fundraising activities – as well as the role of mother and wife, at which she also excels.

“Sometimes it’s pretty overwhelming, but I love my job; it is my passion,” she once wrote me. Her work earned her the 2007 Executive Director of the Year award from the Texas Homeless Network – and that was before Gateway opened.

Lynne now has her sights focused on the next logical step – more beds, plus a homeless children’s day care center. Only a foolish person would bet against her.

Most people know there is no definitive face of “the homeless.” They come from all cross-sections of society. Too often, they are mirror images of ourselves – people who worked hard, followed the rules and searched for the American dream.

However, a stumble here, an illness there, or a divorce that leaves one former spouse without means … and things get out of control. The problem in these rough economic times is only becoming more acute, and the services of the Samaritan Inn will be needed more than ever.

If, for whatever reason fate decides, should it be you or I who faces such tribulations, and you need that dreaded four-letter word “help,” the person you need at your side is Lynne Sipiora – to change your world.

For more about the Samaritan Inn, or to donate or volunteer, go to thesamaritaninn.org.

Chuck Bloom, a volunteer at the Samaritan Inn, is a former columnist-editor for several North Texas newspapers. He can be reached at chuckbloom@hotmail.com or through his Web site, chuckbloom.blogspot.com.

Marc Sparks History – Chapter 3

In 2000, Marc Sparks ran a tombstone ad in the Dallas Morning News, looking for a business model that “needed” an entrepreneur with his talent, experience, vision and tenacity. Out of the hundreds of opportunities that flooded his office, God shone the light for Marc on one in particular – a unique software start-up operation. While Sparks didn’t know how to even turn a computer on, much less know about software code, he forged ahead anyway as he clearly saw a perfect match.

Previously, Sparks was forced to leave a company he had devoted nearly 100% of his time to – and while his former ‘advisors’ and colleagues pointed fingers at him and the SEC investigated, he courageously sat front and center in a large first-floor office window, daring to start over. Daring to prove himself… once again.

Sparks took on a brash, young partner who had developed a remarkable software program but had no idea how to get it out of his garage, much less get it packaged, to market, manage customer service and technical support, and ultimately expand it into six additional software programs with substantial recurring revenue. In just four and a half short years, Marc A Sparks took GlobalTec Solutions from a small start up to a an extremely successful software company. As of June 15th, 2004, GlobalTec had a staff of just over 130 people. And it had become a leader in the “Business to Consumer” financial software marketplace.

An enormous focus of GlobalTec Solutions’ staff, and in-grained in its company culture, is to provide exceptional, focused customer service. Under Sparks’ leadership, GlobalTec initiated an annual convention for its software users. Attendance tripled since the inaugural “WizeFEST” in 2002 and now accommodates 3,000 GlobalTec customers at each annual convention. To attend a WizeFEST convention is akin to attending a Republican or Democratic Party convention. The frenzy and excitement is clearly generated by Sparks’ marketing fire, and his contagious enthusiasm.

While Sparks could write a book on what to do and – equally as important – what NOT to do, at times he says he wouldn’t wish his life on the Devil himself. Yet, at other times, he says he’s had a remarkable life and wouldn’t trade his experiences for the entire universe. “There is no other way to learn the remarkable lessons I’ve learned without being in the game.”

Throughout his career, Sparks has been in the wholesale furniture business, retail furniture business, commercial mortgage banking, restaurant, manufacturing, real estate, surety bonding, property and casualty insurance, software, and his latest business passion… LIVE, business television and now streaming of video and data.

Stay tuned for the next chapter in the Marc Sparks’ history where the next venture of Splash Media will pioneer a path for IPTV and ‘video based e-learning’ into the corporate world of global communication and training.

Marc A Sparks is a leading Dallas Texas start up entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Submit an application for seed funding to Marc A Sparks – the Dallas entrepreneur only at whoismarcsparks.com.

http://directory.leadmaverick.com/Marc-A-Sparks/DallasFort-WorthArlington/TX/10/4820/index.aspx

Marc Sparks History – Chapter 2

In 1989 Marc Sparks started yet another highly successful endeavor in the construction surety bonding industry which ultimately morphed into the property and casualty insurance industry. Sparks acquired his local recording agent’s insurance license, a surplus lines license and a managing general agent’s license. Over the next ten years, Sparks focused on the goal of fully integrating the insurance industry. This vision meant not only selling an insurance policy to a consumer but included servicing the policy, fully managing the claim, financing the premiums, and even taking a portion of the risk. To finally fulfill the vision, in 1996, Sparks and a minority partner purchased a distressed property & casualty insurance company in an arrangement with the Texas Department of Insurance and thereafter received “Form A” approval – which is the state’s blessing to own and operate a full-fledged insurance company.

This was a proud milestone for Marc Sparks, and was also the beginning of one of the biggest and most emotional phases of his life. Since starting with a staff of 10 in 1989, Sparks grew the company to a successful insurance holding corporation over the next 10 years. With a focus on business development and quality customer service, by 1999, the company was generating over $160 million in annual premium, with a staff of over 500, 171 retail agency offices in three states, two premium finance companies, several general agencies (wholesale), and an M.G.A. all backed by eleven A and A+ (AM Best) rated reinsurers. The company became public in 1998 and was listed on the American Stock Exchange. There appeared to be no limits to its growth, and it was Marc Sparks’ entrepreneurial dream come true…success, tremendous growth opportunity, happy staff and good health.

At the very peak of its success, the walls started crashing down. The company’s stock started falling fast, and before Sparks and his management team could find a reason for the drop, the Stock Exchange halted trading and the rumors started to fly. Soon thereafter, the coveted A+ rated list of reinsurers stopped backing the insurance policies that were being sold, and Sparks lost the company that had been his passion for 10 years, as well as his business relationships, his stellar reputation, many friends and a wonderful staff.

Over the following years, the lawsuits and the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation were amicably resolved. It was an emotionally painful, financially expensive and very personal experience for Sparks. Ultimately, the experience awards a kind of “badge of honor” for an entrepreneur. Sparks allowed himself less than a month to grieve, and wasted no time in looking for his next venture. Sparks knew one thing for sure; he’d built many successful businesses before and would do it again. He knew that his God-given entrepreneurial talent could never be taken away from him.

About Marc Sparks

Marc A Sparks is a leading Dallas Texas start up entrepreneur and venture capitalist. Submit an application for seed funding to Marc Sparks – the Dallas entrepreneur only at www.whoismarcsparks.com.