Kim Sparkes, owner of Whink, is still in her mid-20s but has already been a fixture of downtown St. John’s for years.
Her store, Whink, which sells jewelry, art and giftware, marks its fourth anniversary this month, taking over from the Elizabeth Burry Fine Art and Gift Gallery on Duckworth Street before moving into its current location on Water Street last fall.
Her cellphone rings with the theme song from television show “Sex and the City,” and she cites Audrey Hepburn as an influential fashion icon.
She’s a director of the St. John’s Board of Trade, a position that she jokes is forcing her to become more politically aware.
“My first meeting, I was like, ‘You know what? I need to listen to CBC and I need to do news followup.’ Instead of me on my Pinterest inspiration board, I need to flip it a little. I need to step out of my creative box.”
She’s also getting married on New Year’s Eve this year — “It’s the most glamourous day of the year, so that’s perfect,” she explained to her mother. And now she’s answered 20 Questions with the Telegram.
What is your full name?
Kimberly Elizabeth Sparkes.
When and where were you born?
St. John’s, Newfoundland … June 1987.
And where is home today?
What is one act of rebellion you committed as a youth?
Disobeying my parents. (Laughs) I was never a bad kid, but I’d always try to push the envelope. Being a little kid, I’d always say, “You’re not the boss of me!” And I think it kept going with me as I got older. I don’t really have a huge, massive incident. We all do silly things when we’re younger. I have stumbled home tipsy when I wasn’t supposed to. Not really big rebel things.
Do you see any connection between the fact you said “You’re not the boss of me” as a kid and now you have a job where nobody’s the boss of you?
(Laughs) Yeah, that’s it. That’s why I mentioned it. My mom and my dad, if it was anything, whether I didn’t want to go to ballet class or whatever, I’d be like, “You’re not the boss of me, so I’m going to do whatever I want.” It totally is the way that I am now; it’s just my personality.
Where did you go to school?
St. Andrew’s Elementary, and Macdonald Drive (Junior High) and Gonzaga (High School).
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
“Be where you are,” (from) my dad. … For me, I guess for a professional standpoint, when I first opened Whink, he had said to me, “Be where you are.” You can get so caught up — every kind of business owner, you’re always working, no matter what, but when you’re with family, you’re with family and that’s it. When you’re going to the gym, you’re at the gym. If you’re on a vacation, you’re on a vacation, and that’s it. So be where you are, not you’re physically there but you’re mentally somewhere else. Just make sure you are where you are.
You come from business background in your family. Has that helped you?
A lot. My dad is a really good business adviser, as well as my aunt — but how I’ve been within four years, I’ve reached out to other people, not only family. I’ve had a coach in retail. She’s based out of Ontario. I’ve reached out to others that specialize in retail, whereas they come from an overall entrepreneurial business background, which is really, really good, but you also have to reach out to other people too.
How did you come to be in retail? Did you know that you were going to go into business?
It was Elizabeth Burry Fine Art and Gift Gallery on Duckworth Street, so I took over, I bought that business, so essentially I bought her clientele and merchandise and stuff like that, but I never envisioned that I was going to be in retail ever, ever, actually. … When you’re in your early 20s, you’re trying to seek out what you want to do in life and where you want to go, and for me that opportunity approached but I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. Yes, I’d gone to MUN for a little bit and I’d done business school, but I didn’t really know.
I knew I was a really creative person and I was smart, being my own boss and strongheaded, but I didn’t know what that was yet. Elizabeth had said, “Well, in 2011, I want to step away from the storefront side of things and go to Trinity and do my studio,” so I thought this might be a really great opportunity because I still could do my graphic design. I am my own boss — it was just one of those things. Not that I fell into it; it was just a really good opportunity to take on and develop Whink.
What’s the best part of your job for you?
The best part of my job is when I’m not in Whink and I see people wear Whink jewelry, or they’re talking about Whink when they have no idea that I’m there. I was at the grocery store the other day, and someone was wearing Whink jewelry, and I said, “Oh my god, I love your earrings,” and she was like, “Yeah, I got them down at Whink. They’re so great. I love that store. I could spend my whole paycheque there,” and to me that’s my favourite part. My favourite part of the job. Because that makes me say, “Good job, Kim. People are really loving your store and really loving wearing your products.”
What’s the most stressful part for you?
The most stressful for me — well, this winter! (Laughs) That was pretty bad. I think for me the biggest stress is making sure everything all falls together, like with the staff and getting all the product out and delivering a really good message, but for me, my most stressful thing is hoping that all the product that I’ve bought will be really successful. That to me is really, really stressful. Yes, I don’t like accounting, but guess what, I have people in business that help me with that, because I know I’m not really that great at it. But when it comes to buying, that’s what I’m here for, that’s what Whink is, so I think for me that’s very stressful, to make sure the products go over very well.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration mainly on the Internet — social media like Pinterest, that kind of thing. That’s where I really, really find a lot of inspiration. Art blogs, that kind of stuff. When I go on buying trips, I’ll take two days out of every buying trip and just go walk around their city and see what other retailers have and see their inspiration and how they do displays and stuff like that — that’s where I get a lot of inspiration.
What is your most treasured possession?
My most treasured possession is my horse. … I’ve had her for almost 12 or 13 years now. (Her name is) Kitty.
What is your greatest indulgence?
Wine. Red, preferably.
Are you reading anything right now?
I’m reading “Double Double” by Cameron Herold. … It’s about business. A couple of girls that I met through NLOWE (Newfoundland and Labrador Organization of Women Entrepreneurs), they praised this guy, so I was like, “Well, this might be a really good inspiration to read.” The other book that I was starting to read as well is “Double Double” (by Douglas Hunter) about the franchise of Tim Hortons. … Two different books called Double Double!
Do you have any hidden talents?
I used to be a choirgirl in high school, and a musical theatre girl, so I guess that could fall into my hidden talent.
Do you have a favourite movie?
Favourite movie? A show would be “Sex and the City.” (Laughs).
What bugs you?
Hmmm — lots of things can bug me. Bad driving. That really bugs me. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves. Bad driving really irritates me. Actually, bad driving, but more importantly, four-way stops. When they don’t stop or when you’re going through one, they’re like, “Oh, well I’m going straight, you’re going straight, we’ll both go straight at the same time.” That doesn’t count for you!
When you’re driving the Whink vehicle, you can’t really flip someone off, either.
No, it’s so bad! When I first started driving that car, Rob, my fiancé, was like, “You can’t be an aggressive driver!” I just swear a lot in my car.
What are your best and worst qualities?
My best quality, I’m a real social butterfly. I can walk into a room and talk to anybody. You know how some people have a hard time being in a room and they don’t know who to talk to? I can walk up to anybody. I think that’s a really good trait of mine. A bad trait is how I’m such a creative person, I have a hard time focusing. I have a hard time focusing on some things. I want to do 25 things at once, when really it’s better to do one thing and then cross it off. I have a hard time focusing.
If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you would do?
If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is take my family on a big trip, the 20 of us. Somewhere warm, so probably, I don’t know, Hawaii, or the Dominican. An all-inclusive, because we drink too much. (Laughs.)