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Surviving the Pandemic: TechStak Evolves, Grows with Ann Arbor SPARK Support

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Ann Arbor SPARK contributes to the region’s economic development efforts by helping attract and retain talent in the area. While the organization provides several resources dedicated to this effort — such as the job portal, talent newsletter, internship programs, and networking events — occasionally the connection comes after a series of fortunate events.

This was the case for Cindy Cleary who, after her employer downsized to address the impact of COVID-19, found herself searching for her next opportunity. At the same time, TechStak founder and CEO Nicol Pasuit was evolving the company’s services to ensure its post-pandemic survival. They both reached out to Ann Arbor SPARK for support.

A SPARK client since 2017, TechStak is an online marketplace where small businesses can find quality IT and tech professionals for specific projects. “When COVID started shutting everything down, it put such a damper on what we were building,” described Nicol. “Searching for new opportunities, we surveyed the IT and tech providers in our database and discovered we could provide value-added marketing services.”

Once the path was identified, the team set out to make it happen. Nicol credits the SPARK-sponsored Digital Summer Clinic internship program for helping TechStak prepare for the new market. “It was a do-or-die moment and we successfully launched our marketing services as a result of the Digital Summer Clinic interns’ efforts. I cannot stress enough how well that clinic is put together and the caliber of resources it provides.”

Meanwhile, Cindy was searching for her next opportunity and reached out to Carol Griffith, broker of Griffith Realty, chairwoman of Livingston County Board of Commissioners, and member of the Economic Development Council of Livingston County, for recommendations. “I reached out to Carol, who is just the nicest person you’d ever want to meet, and she introduced me to Marcia Gebarowski at SPARK. Marcia shared the job portal and newsletter with me, as well as other regional resources available to job seekers. I also gave her a copy of my resume which she circulated internally at SPARK.”

The TechStak team also worked closely with Kristine Nash-Wong, Ann Arbor SPARK’s dedicated in-house marketing and communication strategist who helps entrepreneurial services clients with their marketing and business development efforts. It was during one of these sessions that Nicol mentioned her search for a person to sell the company’s new marketing services. “I needed someone who had the right energy, wasn’t afraid to take risks, understood they were coming in to sell a new service, and would be able to hit the ground running as well as adapt as we go.” It was Kristine who shared Cindy’s resume with Nicol.

“It was very inspiring to interview with Nicol, hearing her enthusiasm and to learn about the chances she took launching TechStak,” said Cindy. “It’s been an awesome experience and I love the company’s team-focused attitude. I’m grateful to SPARK and everybody who was involved moving my resume along.”

Nicol is equally appreciative. “The level of the support SPARK continues to provide and being able to leverage those resources was especially essential this year. Bringing Cindy on board was the best move we’ve ever made. She brings so much talent and a ‘go-getter’ attitude to the team. Without Cindy, we wouldn’t have a company.”