Meet Our Team

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Helen Apple Edwards, Owner, Chief of Operations & Design

This North Carolina native thrives on sorting through the nuts and bolts of events to bring life to abstract ideas. Since 2006, Helen has been known in the Charlotte industry for tackling logistical challenges by uncovering the most effective event solutions and solving the most challenging ‘how-to’ problems… all with a smile!  She loves the creative process of building the foundation of events through timelines & fabrications and executing a perfect event experience with our dedicated DMC Staff and Design Crew. After graduating from UNC-Wilmington and returning from her travels through Italy, Helen began her career in Events at Discovery Place and then moved on to Sterling Events Charlotte as Manager of Operations, where she and Kristen developed their long-standing relationship. In 2015, she stayed by Kristen’s side as her Director of Event Operations as Kristen started Spark By Design. In February of 2019, Kristen passed the torch to Helen as Owner of the Company. Helen served on the Board of Directors for the International Live Events Association of Charlotte starting in 2010 and was Charlotte Chapter President 2015-2016. She is involved in the local chapter of NACE and as a partner of Visit Charlotte. Helen loves spending time in any body of water, picking for rare props, checking out new hot spots, uncovering hidden gems in North Carolina, and camping with her husband Brent.  

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Emily Thomas, Director of Planning & Design

While growing up in Virginia, Emily found her passion for service & hospitality by assisting her mother in planning and executing large events and weddings. Upon graduating Cum Laude with a degree in Business Management and Finance, she knew she wanted to pursue a career where she could continue to serve people and tap into her creative side. This desire led her to the hotel industry in Washington, D.C. where she quickly climbed the ranks and became the Regional Sales and Catering Manager over 10 hotels in the area. Over the years in the hospitality industry, she has held management positions in all aspects of Group Sales, Events & Catering. In 2016, she made the move to Charlotte to be part of the pre-opening management team of a new uptown hotel. Her strong communication, organization, and vendor management skills combined with her positive values and quick thinking are instrumental traits in coordinating complex meetings and events with the Spark team.  She prides herself in building meaningful client relationships and providing positive and cutting-edge insights in proposal development.  In her rare spare time, Emily loves to hang out with her family and friends on Lake Norman, snuggling with her toy poodle, experimenting in her kitchen with a variety of international cuisines, and planning her next trip to Disney World.

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Alex Friedrich, Operations Manager

Alex grew up in south Charlotte, attending Charlotte Catholic High School and then Johnson and Wales University where he majored in Sports/Entertainment/Event Management. He earned his Bachelor of Science in 2006 and has been a staple in the events industry ever since. With his friendly personality, quick wit, and strong work ethic, Alex has been a key component to our success & our company culture since 2010. His ability to troubleshoot any issue on-site and work through the logistics of even the toughest of design installations ensures we provide our clients with their best event atmosphere. Because of his skills and experience, Alex is our lead installation captain on events, providing guidance and help to other team members. He is also focused on quality control, design transportation, and product procurement. During his free time, Alex can be found attending live music shows, visiting restaurants and local breweries, or hanging out at his family’s vacation home in Charleston. 

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Carrie Spicher, Event Manager

Carrie grew up in rural western Maryland where riding horses and corralling steer were as much a part of her life as her family hosting large gatherings. Her chosen family chore has always been and continues to be table setting. These quickly turned into creative table scapes that family members looked forward too.

Carrie also found a passion for decorating; always willing to help her mother redesign a room. Her design spirit steered Carrie to Elon University where she majored in Sport and Event Management. During her summers off, she worked for many Washington DC event planners. After graduation, Carrie joined the Cooke Rental team where she continued to build her experience, reveal her organizational strength, and develop a knack for business operations. Her foundation is directory rooted from a family that has run a small business for 60 years - where customer service is central and owning your job is the attitude. Carrie enjoys spending her free time antiquing, decorating and cooking for her friends with the perfect bottle of wine.

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Ashley Blinson, Creative Services Manager

A passion for creativity, the ability to think outside the box, and finding inspiration in anything are just a few of the things that allows Ashley to take a simple idea and turn it into a masterpiece. Fresh out of high school, she opened her own furniture store that ran successfully for 6 years. Deciding she loved the people and design aspect of the business, she moved on and began her career in event planning. For the last 15 years, she has been planning and working events in corporate and charitable capacities. In addition to event planning, Ashley can be found on a soccer team traveling across the Southeast, tending to her horses and farm, and volunteering in her community with animals, and coaching various young athlete sports programs.

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Kristen Prestwood, Founder

After graduating from UNC- Charlotte in 2004, Kristen began her career in the hospitality industry with a local event company.  An entrepreneur at heart, this Carolina girl then took a leap of faith and started her first event planning and design firm, By Design Event Group, in 2007. After another three years, she was approached by one of her clients, Sterling Events Group, with an offer to merge her company with their DMC division. From there, Kristen and her team (Sterling By Design-Carolinas and Sterling DMC-Carolinas) managed event planning, design and destination management services across the Carolinas for 100’s of clients. Six years later the company’s owner offered her the opportunity to assume ownership, and in June of 2015 Spark By Design was born. In this venture, Kristen returned to her passion by taking a spark of an idea and exploring two of her strongest talents: full service event planning as well as event design. Passionate about producing unique and unexpected events with her talented team, she found inspiration everywhere traveling nationally and internationally to attend leading event planning and design conferences to bring award winning trends back to our clients. She has served on the Board of Directors for ILEA (International Live Events Association) and NACE (National Association of Catering and Events) and has served on the UNC-Charlotte Meeting and Event Planning Board of Advisors.

After 15 years in the career that she loves, Kristen passed the torch to her loyal employee and friend, Helen Edwards. In this next step of her life, Kristen enjoys cooking and entertaining loved ones at her home and giving back to the community. Traveling and exploring new places with her husband, Joshua and their two little ones Mason and Scarlett always make for a grand adventure. As her children grow, she lends her design eye to their class projects and guides them to follow their dreams, just as she has done.

Our Staff

Our Project Managers, Teambuilding Facilitators, Tour Guides, DMC Staff, and Design Crew are integral members of our team. They are the smiling faces that greet you upon arrival, the trouble-shooters behind the scenes, and the skilled artisans that build your event from the ground up! Always providing the highest level of customer service, our team shares in our desire to provide the perfect experience for your event.

Our Affiliations

Spark By Design is a proud member of the following industry organizations: