A quartet of social enterprises shared $24,100 in awards at the 2021 Spark Tank Awards June 17 at Fresno Pacific University.

Trim a Tree with Me received $10,500, Impact Center Café received $6,500, Lighthouse Thrift received $4,100 and Made for Them Culinary received $3,000 at the morning ceremony in the Encore Amphitheater on the main campus, 1717 S. Chestnut Ave. Spark Tank is organized by the university’s Center for Community Transformation (CCT) to encourage community people to solve community problems through business to make the Central Valley a place of peace and plenty.

Trim A Tree with Me is a tree-pruning business that gives homeless people work and resume experience. Lighthouse Thrift helps women learn employment skills and earn income. Made for Them Culinary provides job training to survivors of human trafficking and Impact Center Café encourages budding restauranteurs to develop their own business. Each winner also received a full scholarship from the Lilly Foundation to the CCT’s two-month Social Enterprise Academy and successfully completed the program.

Judges for Spark Tank were Anthony Armour, CEO of Neighborhood Industries; Amber Balakian, owner of Balakian Farms and instructor at Fresno City College; Bryan Feil, Bitwise Industries vice president of real estate development and co-owner of The Revue; Trevor Thomas-Uribe, vice president of investment at Bitwise; Rob Bell, founder/principle consultant at Copper+Friant, LLC; and Renee Chu-Jacoby, associate director of the graduate business program at Craig School of Business, California State University, Fresno. Past winners on hand at the event included GD.STWRD (Good Steward), Give Culture, Moving On Up and Tagua Fair Trade Store. CDH productions provided audio/video services, and Wawona Frozen Foods, Beneficial State Bank, Granville Homes, CenCal Finance and Bitwise Industries provided support.

Spark Tank has:

  • Given $136,000 in start-up awards
  • Helped catalyze 57 social enterprises in the Valley
  • Seen $4.9M generated by 20 social enterprises from 2017-2020

Carlos Huerta, associate director of CCT, confirms that those social enterprises have achieved twice the national success rate for new businesses, with 58% generating revenue three-plus years after start-up. In addition, 300 people have been employed, many with barriers to getting traditional jobs. Social enterprises—which can be launched by churches, community organizations or individuals—must have a financially profitable revenue stream, a strategic social impact goal that can be measured and managed and a plan to operate in an environmentally responsible manner.

Part of the Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, CCT supports entrepreneurial creativity, spiritual freedom, economic vitality and justice, environmental integrity, cross-cultural/social collaboration and political health. More on all CCT programs at cctfresno.org.  



Wayne Steffen
Associate Director of Publications and Media Relations