A former Derby resident is one of 24 people selected for a prestigious scholarship.
Michelle Tran Maryns, founder of software company We Sparkle, will receive a $ 100,000 grant through the Bush Foundation in St. Paul, Minnesota. His company aims to provide easy-to-use software for small business owners, especially people of color and other minority groups.
“We basically provide a digital assistant that can help you with these tasks, like making appointments, answering customer questions, and he also does some marketing tasks,” she said.
Maryns launched We Sparkle in October 2018, kicking off a pilot program in 2020 with beta customers. The company was originally scheduled to launch in March 2020, but due to the pandemic the launch has been pushed back to July 2020.
Maryns was born in Wellington and moved with her family to Derby when she was around 1. She attended school in Derby through middle school before opting for a high school boarding school.
Maryns attended the University of Kansas for her undergraduate degree and earned a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard. Maryns now lives with her husband in Minneapolis, where she has lived for the past decade.
Maryns said she was inspired to help small business owners because her mother previously owned a fabric company in her home country of Vietnam.
“Women of color are the fastest growing segment of entrepreneurs, but their incomes do not compare to their peers,” she said. “Here in Minnesota, we have the worst racial wealth gap in the country, and we’ve seen how when people are excluded from economic opportunity, how it spreads and affects the rest of our society.”
Maryns previously worked for a non-profit organization that helps minority entrepreneurs succeed, gaining relevant experience that would help her found We Sparkle.
“Through this work, I have met many small business owners and learned about the challenges they face in being able to grow their businesses and manage their time better,” she said. “I decided to use the skills and experience I had in building different technology products over the years and develop software for them.”
According to the Bush Foundation website, the scholarship is “an investment in individuals to develop the skills and connections necessary to drive large-scale change.”
The stock market touts its flexibility, allowing fellows to define what they need to become better leaders.
Maryns said she hoped to use the grant to participate in learning opportunities to develop her skills as a business leader, as well as to learn how companies like We Sparkle can not only make a profit, but ” helping people and the planet ”.
“I think it will really help me have time to reflect and reflect on how I can grow We Sparkle and this movement to overcome this racial wealth divide.”