Sparkbox, 2016

01-02-17 Ben Callahan Rob Harr

Ben and Rob reflect on 2016. It was a big year...for the world, for the web, for Sparkbox.

How do you summarize a year?

Especially a year like 2016. Between the loss of some amazing people and the unfathomable atrocities happening around the world, there’s no doubt it’s been a challenging year for humanity. It makes reflecting on our little organization’s year feel petty, but we know it’s only through reflection that we can see our faults and grow from them.


To be honest, we’ve struggled to put words to the year. There is no doubt that we’ve grown and that we’ve produced some of our best work yet! We’ve had some really fun times together, and yet some of our families have had a very difficult year. All in all, 2016 has been a year of refinement for Sparkbox. As you’ve probably experienced, the forces that refine us can be painful, but they bind us, make us stronger, and require us to trust and depend on each other.

What We Learned

In 2016, we learned that one of the best ways to be better at our jobs is simply to be better people. We’ve always talked about “personal growth,” but we were focused on the craft—on the pixels and the code. It has taken consistent dedication focused on strength, eating, and sleeping, to see the impact in our work. So we added a wellness program. We shifted toward healthier snacks. We encouraged folks to stay active. As leaders, we are more focused and confident than we’ve ever been, and we’re seeing that carry over to the team.

And, of course, being better people also means we strive to understand other perspectives. The practice of this—actively seeking out those unique ideas—has improved our ability to truly hear our customers’ needs, to push ourselves to meet them where they are, and to walk alongside them as we create something beautiful together. And this has resulted in some tremendous collaborations.


We welcomed six amazing apprentices into our midst in 2016! Check out versions 5.0 and 6.0 over at These are some seriously smart and inspiring people. We have learned so much from having them around, and they are all out making the web a better place, some of them even with us.

Maker Series

We hosted six incredible Build Right: Maker Series events in our training space in 2016. Aaron, Josh, Wil, Darren, Jason, and Sara taught us about everything from progressive enhancement to fitness. It has been tremendous to have such brilliant and humble folks make time to come hang out with us here in Dayton.

Through the refining process of 2016, we are coming back to the simple idea that we truly love this work. So here’s to 2016:, the challenges, the successes, the growth. And here’s to whatever 2017 will bring. May we all continue to appreciate and hear each other, and to grow through the process.

Ben and Rob