Catching fire Featured

8:00pm EDT August 26, 2009

Douglas Hardman is a complex man, but he follows a simple rule when it comes to business: “Figure out what it is you’re good at, do it better than anyone else and resist temptation to divert from that.”

As founder and CEO of SparkBase LLC, a gift and loyalty card processor, Hardman’s innovative approach to alternative payment methods — specialty gift cards and customer loyalty and community rewards programs — has caught the attention of some of the country’s largest payment processors.

SparkBase is a revolutionary stored value network with enough capacity and redundancy to securely process tens of millions of transactions annually. SparkBase has built its network to meet the needs of independent sales organizations (ISO) who value the opportunity to use the SparkBase interface as their own private label. In turn, ISOs market their version of SparkBase’s gift and loyalty platform to their merchants in conjunction with credit card services and processing equipment. Only SparkBase provides ISOs with an opportunity to differentiate their services within the merchant acquiring industry and to make themselves indispensable to their merchant accounts.

This type of innovation and business model drove SparkBase’s revenue to grow more than 150 percent annually in each of its first four years in existence.

Hardman’s business model has also caught the attention of some of the company’s customers. One customer said, “Doug Hardman’s business model is fundamentally different from other gift card companies. The guys at SparkBase listen to their customers and understand what it’s like to be in their shoes.”

That type of customer response is also due to the company’s cooperative and constructive culture, which allows the organization to attract, develop and retain the area’s best talent. SparkBase’s contemporary loft workspace had a positive impact on employee morale and performance. The company’s casual dress policy and emphasis on individuality contribute to its collegiate environment. The collaborative and respectful environment spurs tremendous creativity and innovation.

SparkBase’s innovative culture is the result of uniting enthusiastic people with eclectic backgrounds in electronic payments, telecommunications, software development, graphic design and business-to-business CRM, sharing aggressive common goals and providing them with a fun and positive workspace.

How to reach: SparkBase LLC, (216) 867-0877 or