Animal Science undergrad creates online networking platform for animal welfare entities

Najya Robinson earned a bachelor's degree from MSU with a major in animal science and a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation in December 2022. In her final year at MSU, she launched a social-good startup, Sparks of Purity Shelter Connect.

Najya Robinson

Najya Robinson earned a bachelor's degree from MSU with a major in animal science and a minor in entrepreneurship and innovation in December 2022. In her final year at MSU, she launched a social-good startup, Sparks of Purity Shelter Connect. Through its platform, the company aims to prevent animal euthanasia in shelters experiencing overpopulation.

I grew up in Detroit, Michigan, with my mom, dad, and two older sisters. Since I was 7, I knew I wanted to attend Michigan State University to become a veterinarian and start my own practice. I grew up in a home with a variety of pets. We had cats, dogs, hamsters, fish, and, at one point, we even had frogs! I was always fascinated by nonverbal communication with our pets, which motivated me to become a vet. Dr. Dolittle was literally my idol.

najya lamb najya piglet

najya horse najya calf

I came to MSU in 2018. I declared my major as Animal Science and began seeking internship opportunities at vet clinics during my sophomore year. After accepting two offers to shadow two different veterinarians, I soon realized that it was not the work environment I wanted for my career. By this point, I was a senior. I decided to talk to my academic advisor about the change in my career interest. When I told her I was considering starting an animal sanctuary, she pointed me to the Burgess Institute. She suggested I investigate adding a minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

At the Burgess Institute, I have pursued my love of animals and fully realized my passion, which centers around eliminating the euthanasia of shelter animals for non-health-related reasons. My venture began as Sparks of Purity Animal Sanctuary, focusing on the successful rehabilitation and socialization of dogs suffering from PTSD. I started doing some research and talking with different shelters. I found that there was a gap in communication between animal shelters. Seeing this opportunity led me to pivot my venture, where the goal is still the same. Still, instead of creating another physical animal shelter, I want to help bridge the gap in communication with Sparks of Purity Shelter Connect.

Sparks of Purity Shelter Connect is a subscription-based, online networking platform specifically designed for animal welfare entities (shelters, sanctuaries, rescues, etc.). This platform will allow these organizations securely share capacity information and specific breed demands for their areas. The goal is to help them secure transfers of shelter animals instead of having to euthanize them for space or poor quality of life due to sitting in the shelter for long periods.

Ultimately, Sparks of Purity Shelter Connect will give animals a better chance of being adopted while helping shelters avoid euthanizing animals for non-health-related reasons. There’s a national movement to help the US reach the “no-kill zone” status by 2025. Sparks of Purity is determined to help these organizations achieve that goal.

As I reflect on my journey at Michigan State, I think what inspires me most is my mom and my son. I lost my mom when I was pretty young. She was the strongest person I’ve ever known and always encouraged me to keep my passion at the center and follow my dreams. When I joined the Burgess Institute and learned about “finding my why,” I connected it back to what I learned from my mom.

In the fall of 2021, I decided to take a gap semester. I was expecting my son at the end of October. With all my extra time, I started my entrepreneurial journey. As soon as I began meeting the Burgess Institute staff and seeing all the resources and support offered, I instantly wished that I had learned about the ESHIP minor sooner. The classes I took strongly influenced my personal development. They helped me realize my strengths and weakness and allowed me to develop my entrepreneurial mindset further.

najya first place

najya we innovate checks

Part of finding success is building a network and taking calculated risks. With this in mind, I participated in both sessions of 2DAY VENTURE (2DV) during the fall semester of 2022. It just so happens I won first place at both events!

I attended the first 2DV to see what the experience would be like and see if I would be comfortable pitching my venture. At the following event, I decided to pitch my venture idea and had the honor of working with a fantastic team. Within this group, we took a deep dive into my concept. We made so much progress in developing Sparks of Purity Shelter Connect that I went on to pitch alone at the MSU Women in Entrepreneurship Annual Pitch Competition, where I won the first-place prize of $2,000!

najya and son

Today, my son Liam has sparked a different fire in me to succeed. I want to create a life for him that gives him the utmost encouragement to find and do what he loves. We no longer live in an era where there are limits to success. While I was already striving to be the best version of myself, Liam altered my perspective, giving me an even stronger drive.

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