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Mark Henson’s sparkspace

When is the last time you bought flowers for someone? Or jogged in a thunderstorm? Or gave something away, just because?

You've been asked those questions and more if you follow sparkspace on Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn social media websites.

sparkspace's biggest following is in Columbus, Ohio, and surrounding areas, but has an OC entourage because sparkspace belongs to alumnus Mark Henson (89).

He's the chief imagination officer for the "most exciting retreat center on the planet." Online buzz and media coverage also tell that Mark is a sought-after speaker on topics like using social media, enjoying your job and customer service.

"I'm passionate about customer service and setting the stage for a world-class experience. I love it when I get to experience that as a customer, and I absolutely hate it when I have a bad experience that could have been so much better with just a little effort," Mark said. "A true attitude of service makes this world a little better, one experience at a time. Yes, that's completely corny, but I really do believe that. I'm a bit fanatical about it, actually."

sparkspace itself is a unique meeting venue located in the arena district of downtown Columbus that features a wall of Mr. Potato Head toys and meeting rooms with catchy names like the Retro Room, the Loft and the ThinkTank.

"Another fun prop is racks full of hats - Viking helmets, Caribbean hats with fake dreadlocks, hockey puck hats, hardhats, police helmets. Every day we see serious business people wearing princess crowns or sorcerer's hats while they talk about sales forecasts or long-term strategic plans. Using our space to create a sense of fun and playfulness can really liven up a meeting full of spreadsheets," Mark said.

The entrepreneurial spirit grabbed Mark a decade ago after a successful stint at a major advertising firm. His creativity, courage and energy are no surprise to those who knew him at OC or listened to him on KOCC, the campus radio station, where he served as general manager before graduating with a degree in mass communication.

"There is no doubt that OC helped prepare me for a life of service. How could it not? Two things that have always stuck with me were the undivided attention I received from professors like Dr. Larry Jurney and Dr. Philip Patterson and the friendly, welcoming attitude when I walked into nearly every office or classroom on campus," Mark said. "Nothing ever felt off-limits, and I always felt completely supported, encouraged and cared for, even though sometimes I probably didn't deserve it."

Maintaining a solid foundation, he has found, requires setting boundaries to help keep his priorities in line, such as unplugging from social media during family time and weekends. Mark and his wife, Eve, have two elementary-aged children (all of whom he describes as amazing).

They are active in their local church and are avid Dave Ramsey Financial Peace University fans. He credits Ramsey's principles of debt reduction, in part, to being able to survive the crummy economy in Ohio as a small-business owner.

"Like many people, I'm not working in the career I trained for anymore, yet I draw on my OC education almost daily," Mark said. "The communication skills I learned and practiced are always in my toolbox. And the religious education, which I honestly barely tolerated, provided me with much more of a solid foundation than I thought it would."

Mark also credits his OC experience for starting the journey that led to sparkspace, and to a life led faithfully.

"My time at OC affected me for life, in only the best of ways," Mark said. "So many times in business, people ask where I went to school. When I say, Oklahoma Christian, 99 percent of them have never heard of it. But almost all of them give me an approving look that says, 'that makes sense.' I'm kind of proud of that."

By Dawn Shelton (90)