Damiqa Golden is helping to cultivate the Innovation Quarter’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem through her role at Sparq.
Ask Damiqa Golden for her favorite spot in the Innovation Quarter, and she’ll give you ten. A Winston-Salem native, Damiqa thinks the Innovation Quarter has that “thing” that kept her in town after college graduation. Her enthusiasm for building relationships, activating resources and creating an inclusive environment in the Innovation Quarter made her the perfect candidate for Sparq’s Community Development Director.
iQ: What’s your background? How did you land in the iQ?
I grew up in the Winston-Salem and Clemmons area and went to UNC Greensboro for college. I started one major thinking I would go into nursing, and that was definitely not the case. Two years in, I realized this was not for me.
I switched over to business, and I received my degree in marketing. And after college, a colleague I knew from a job I held in college was working in the Innovation Quarter. They had an opening for an event management position. I started in a coordinator role and was promoted to event manager about eight months later. I did that for four and a half years until I transitioned to Sparq in November 2021.
iQ: It sounds like the Sparq role kind of fell into your lap.
There’s a lot of learning. I find myself asking “what is our ecosystem here in Winston-Salem?” What gaps are there for entrepreneurs and startup companies? How can we be a resource for these entrepreneurs? How can we get them connected in the Innovation Quarter?
“I find myself asking, ‘what is our ecosystem here in Winston-Salem?’ What gaps are there for entrepreneurs and startup companies? How can we be a resource for these entrepreneurs? How can we get them connected in the Innovation Quarter.”
It has been impressive to hear about the different tenants and what resources or value they bring to the community and other entrepreneurs. I’m constantly amazed to find out that companies like these exist in Winston-Salem.
iQ: What are some of the goals you’ve set for yourself and Sparq?
We have identified a couple of different areas where Sparq can impact. One of those is bringing in entrepreneurs and startup companies in the healthtech sector. There hasn’t been anyone else within this community that has necessarily spoken to those entrepreneurs. With our access to Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist and the iQ Healthtech Lab, we’re trying to hone in and lean into healthtech. We’re working towards programming and activities that will curate this healthtech-focused environment, but we’re also trying to serve all entrepreneurs and startups already here in the Innovation Quarter.
Although we’re really leaning into healthtech, we’re completely open to all entrepreneurs and startup companies. Sparq is here to complement the resources, spaces and programming that already exist within the Innovation Quarter.
“Sparq is here to complement the resources, spaces and programming that already exist within the Innovation Quarter.”
iQ: What does growth look like for Sparq?
I want Sparq to have name recognition so people start thinking, “I’m interested in the Innovation Quarter—I know I need to start with Sparq.” If an entrepreneur or community member is interested in a resource with the Innovation Quarter or wants to connect, they know they can go to Sparq. We will connect them to the person, event or company they need.
We also have this idea that entrepreneurs may be looking for a lower-cost membership for a spot to work now, but hopefully, they’re growing their business to where they’ll need a personal office. And then they grow some more and need a suite, and then maybe they’ll grow even more and need an even bigger space. We want to provide this growth environment for entrepreneurs that isn’t confined to this one space with Sparq—growth can happen anywhere in the Innovation Quarter.
iQ: What will the space be like?
We’re working to have a very inclusive, welcoming environment. We’ll have tables and chairs everywhere for coworking, but there will be other landing spots for members if they feel more comfortable with something different. We want to be mindful of how we can be inclusive because sometimes, these buildings can be intimidating.
We’ll 100% lean on our members and listen to their feedback. Ultimately, we’re creating a space for them. We want to make sure that they feel comfortable working and collaborating within our space and that members are getting everything that they can out of our programming.
“We’ll 100% lean on our members and listen to their feedback. Ultimately, we’re creating a space for them.”
iQ: What are you most excited about?
I am looking forward to connecting people to the resources they need. I thrive off working with people. And of course, I did that in event planning by working with groups to coordinate entire events. With Sparq, there’s a lot to do as far as building relationships with the community, different players, tenants already in the iQ and members that are to come.
“I thrive off working with people…With Sparq, there’s a lot to do as far as building relationships with the community, different players, tenants already in the iQ and members that are to come.”
There are so many resources out there—and I’m still trying to figure them all out—but these entrepreneurs don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know what resources are available to them or how to take advantage of them. I’m looking forward to finding the right resources and connecting entrepreneurs to them.
iQ: What’s your favorite thing about Innovation Quarter?
For me, I just love being in the Innovation Quarter. I love the activity and that there’s always something going on. I love that I can work out, shower and work in the same building. There’s a convenience to everything here. You walk through a building, around Bailey Park or on Long Branch Trail and you’re bound to meet people or see someone familiar. The Innovation Quarter is just a great area—it’s a nice district to be in.
iQ: What are your go-to spots in the Innovation Quarter?
I’m always going to F45 Fitness—I absolutely love that gym. DeBeen has been my favorite coffee shop, but I’m trying to break away and get to Anchor Coffee Co. more often since they’ve opened. I love both. It’s hard to pick one!
For lunch, it would have to be between Urban Street Grill or Que Viva. I don’t know if I could choose between the two. They’re both so good—or even Cugino Forno.
I’m also super, super excited to try Six Hundred° and for Barcelona Burgers to open. And, of course, I know there’s much more to come with phase II.