It started with coffee.
From her earliest days at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, Parker Wilson remembers wanting to develop a direct-to-consumer coffee roasting company. Her enthusiasm was born not of a caffeine addiction triggered by too many late nights spent studying, but rather by a thoughtful awareness of how sustainably sourced coffee could have significant social and environmental impact.
The Lexington, North Carolina native’s affinity for the social component of sustainability is encased in her very DNA. Her grandfather, an orphan who left the Junior Order Home with $5.00 in his pocket, developed into a local business leader who built a successful company that currently employs more than 150 people. Parker saw from an early age that the key to her grandfather’s success was the relationships he built with local business owners and their continued mutual commitment to helping each other grow and succeed.
The coffee company would have to wait, though. Parker graduated from Baylor University in 2006 with a bachelor’s degree in French and a fashion merchandising minor. While product development was still on her radar, she began to see the possibility of integrating her passion with an interest in socially-focused small business after she enrolled in UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, where she earned an MBA with a focus in sustainable enterprise and marketing.
Upon graduation, Parker moved to Vancouver, British Columbia to work for lululemon athletica, serving in a variety of roles supporting operational solutions and community development, then moved to South Carolina to support buildout of the company’s presence in the Charleston area.
But the entrepreneurship pull was strong. After three years with lululemon, Parker left to launch Smockbox with two partners. The online retail company served as a marketing platform for small apparel businesses, bringing ethically made children’s clothing to busy parents’ doorsteps.
Parker’s experience with Smockbox led to what she calls “an unwavering connection to the passion of like-minded entrepreneurs.” “I saw the potential for change in the movement of small business and made it my number one goal to advance these kinds of businesses forward,” she says.
It didn’t take her long to fulfill that goal. After selling Smockbox to one of the company’s original vendors, Parker founded a boutique consultancy firm, Sparked Consulting. The firm helps socially-focused consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) develop sales strategies and implement strong operational principles to create a foundation for sustainable growth.
Parker says she loves seeing a client go “from stuck to stoked” when they receive recognition or land a major wholesale deal. One transaction she’s especially proud of is landing a national POPSUGAR subscription box placement for one of her first clients in Wilmington, North Carolina, where she and her husband now reside.
But Parker realizes that large deals aren’t the only measure of success, and each company’s growth pattern is unique. She and the Sparked team strive to supply the right mix of strategies to ensure sustainable growth for their clients.
In spite of her success as a consultant, Parker says the pull of starting a product-focused company is still strong. She hints at the possibility of developing a second business in the near future.
“Find your boss, not your job. Share your career goals with your manager, and ask for opportunities. When it’s the right boss, you will experience tremendous growth – both personally and professionally.”
“Don’t wait for the good to happen. Celebrate what’s in front of you – right now.”