Another feature from Bham Now focuses on Forge member Suzanne Humphries of Suzanne Humphries Design. Read more about how Forge has revitalized her business!
Suzanne Humphries recently made the move back to Birmingham after a few design stints in Atlanta and New York, just to name a few. She and her husband, a successful chef, both grew up in North Alabama and heeded the call of Magic City, where they are now pursuing personal projects.
Humphries used this move to set out on her own and create her own Interior Design company, Suzanne Humphries Design. Only a year and a half in, the company has had large success in the Birmingham area and beyond, but Humphries was feeling like she needed a change of pace. She had worked from home (and coffee shops) since setting out on her own, but was feeling like she wanted a place to go where she could get work done.
Forge to the Rescue
Humphries actually credits the team here at Bham Now for introducing her to Forge (#humblebrag). When I asked her how she found out about the chic coworking space in the Pizitz building, she said she was scrolling through Instagram one night and one of our posts about Forge caught her eye. She called in for a tour and was a Forge member the next day.
Perhaps you remember Humphries from a previous Forge article for which she gave the following testimony:
“Working at Forge has reinvigorated my business. I am more motivated, productive, and fulfilled now that I have the balance of self-employment and workplace culture. The best professional decision I have made was to move to Birmingham and start my own company…the second was to develop this company while working at Forge.”
Let’s Back Up
What Is Suzanne Humphries Design?
Humphries has worked for several different design firms since her graduation from grad school with a Master’s in Interior Design. These jobs took her from Washington D.C. to New York to Atlanta, and she finally branched out on her own in Birmingham. These opportunities gave her experience in an array of different design styles. In New York, she worked with Ralph Lauren in commercial design. In Atlanta, she gained experience in residential design through her work with Suzanne Kasler and in hospitality design with Smith Hanes. As you can tell, her portfolio is quite varied and broad. With her experience in the different design styles, Humphries has been able to move confidently throughout them, and has empowered her in her current project: opening a restaurant with her husband, Chef Adam Evans.
A New Birmingham Restaurant
There is no doubt that the space will be beautiful. Evans, who formerly worked at The Optimist in Atlanta, has plans for the space to serve gulf-caught fresh seafood and other local ingredients. The restaurant, whose name has yet to be revealed, will be in the Lakeview district. Humphries and Evans are hard at work designing and preparing the restaurant space, which is expected to seat 160 people, for an opening.
Stay tuned for more information on the restaurant!
While her focus is currently on hospitality, Humphries enjoys each different style of design and is open to projects of all kinds.
“I want to build my business to be open and accepting and excited about any type of project that comes my way. I want to be able to pull from my past experiences from the different places that I’ve been and use that skill set to work with whatever client is a good fit.
Interior Designer vs. Interior Decorator
With her degree in Interior Design, Humphries went through a curriculum in which she learned about construction and building, enabling her to understand the architecture component of the spaces she is working with. I had no idea that interior designers had to know all of the structural ins and outs of the building. When I thought of an Interior Designer, I was under the impression that she was choosing paint colors and focusing on the surface level of the home. However, it’s much more than that. Humphries explained to me that there are three main titles: Architect, Interior Designer, and Interior Decorator; and that each one is different.
Because Humphries’ title is Interior Designer, she has a broad list of responsibilities to the space in which she is working:
“The true Interior Design process includes everything and anything that goes on inside the walls of a home, a restaurant, a hotel — any sort of structure, permanent or temporary. I enjoy doing the full process, but I am also happy doing parts of the process.”
Spaces Shape Experiences
Have you ever walked into a restaurant, a hotel, or a store and it feels impeccably designed, yet effortless? That is the work of an Interior Designer. The layout, the colors, and so much more impacts the way we move through a space. Almost even more so, design impacts the way you live in your home. Of course, we never think about this, but the design of our homes impacts our everyday experiences. This is one of Humphries’ favorite things about what she does.
“It’s almost like you are creating this space that shapes the family, person, or couple’s day-to-day life. I think that’s a way in which design is so much more than picking paint colors and fabrics. And that’s why I like it. That is my favorite part.”
Humphries’ work experience is vast and varied. Check out her website and her Instagram.
Do you love podcasts? Have you ever thought about starting one? If so, we’ve got valuable insight from Knox McCoy and Jamie Golden of The Popcast. They have over 1800 five star reviews on iTunes podcasts- so we can trust what they say. The Popcast is a weekly pop culture podcast and if you’ve never listened to it, you can download it here.
Knox McCoy, Erin Moon (The Popcast COO) and Jamie Golden
Here are some things to think about before you record….
What’s Your Goal?
- Build an audience. A sticky one.
- Build a personal connection to your existing audience.
- Create valuable and reusable content.
- Develop your speaking skills.
- Make money!
Do everything in your power to figure out who is your listener avatar. And when looking for hosting software, Knox and Jamie suggest Libsyn and PodBean. The most important thing is making 100% sure you own your content!
What is your show’s format?
When producing content, let your mission/vision inform your content. Knox and Jamie believe that the three components of an excellent podcast are repetition, an early call-to-action and crazy valuable content.
Of course podcasting software is important- The Popcast uses Garage Band but they also suggest Audacity as a great option. Knox and Jamie both record from “studios” in their own homes- Jamie uses a large closet so there’s no need to be fancy. Just make sure you limit your hard surfaces using blankets and curtains.
Knox and Jamie never record together in person- they are always in their own homes so they use Call Recorder for Skype to record their dialogue! Look it up if you plan to podcast with another person in separate locations.
Editing is very important- will you subcontract it or learn to edit yourself? Knox is the editor of The Popcast and he admits its not easy. It can take him several hours to edit one episode. They provided a couple of screenshots of their editing software to show a before and after.
Think about what you want the length of your show to be and stick with it! Knox and Jamie feel like 20-30 minutes is the sweet spot for most audiences.
45-60 Minutes: The Popcast
One of the last steps is to get feedback- not just from your family and friends. Send it off to other podcasters to get their opinion!
Now you’re ready to give it to the world! Upload it to iTunes, Spotify and Google Play.
But you might be asking yourself, how do I find listeners?
- Be sure you’ve made something good.
- Experiment with social media.
- Ask your listeners to share.
- Track the analytics.
- Listener surveys!
- Network with other podcasters (conferences are good opportunities!)
- Be ready to spend some money.
HUGE thanks to Knox and Jamie for sharing all of their wisdom and secrets with us! Be sure to check out The Popcast if you haven’t already!
This article was written by Lauren Bedford for Bham Now!
Have you ever wondered what coworking is? Have you seen #workatforge floating around Instagram or Facebook? Do you work remotely or from home? Self employed? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be interested in learning about Forge coworking space.
What is Forge?
Forge is currently Birmingham’s first and only professional coworking space. Other coworking spaces in Birmingham include The Hub, MAKE Bham and Social Venture. Forge is currently the only coworking space that is geared toward professionals only. A coworking space is a space from which all kinds of people can work. This includes entrepreneurs, those who work remotely, and the self-employed creatives with big dreams. The facilities at Forge are state of the art and the space is stylishly decorated. Kim Lee, founder and CEO, is committed to those that call Forge their home 40+ hours a week and does everything she can to make sure they have what they need.
Forge is located in the Pizitz building and overlooks the Food Hall. The working space runs around the edges of the building. Next time you’re grabbing a drink at The Louis or breakfast from Alabama Biscuit Co., look up. See those people? They’re working in Forge.
Happy Birthday, Forge!
Forge recently celebrated its first year of business with a lunch party. There was balloons, champagne, lunch catered by Ono Poke and cupcakes. The Forge community came together for a celebration of the space and the founders. After just one year, the space was full of people celebrating and spending time together — a huge testament to the supportive environment found at Forge.
A Little Background
The fearless leader: Kim Lee, Founder of Forge
Lee has a Bachelor’s degree in Business from Samford, and a Master’s in Counseling from Covenant College. Her first job after graduation was for a window-washing company as a business-development team member. Though this seems like a sharp detour from a path that would lead to coworking, Lee cites this job as the place where she really fell in love with business in this way — business as service and hospitality.
“When we moved back to Birmingham and I went back to work, I discovered this concept of coworking. I thought to myself, ‘This, somehow, combines everything we love. We love building community, serving the city, growing the city, providing ways for people to work and building an ecosystem for small businesses.’”
Some people may come to lament the fact their job becomes monotonous, the same thing day in and day out. That is not the case when running Forge. Kelsey Sizemore, Marketing and Community Manager at Forge, feels like there is never a dull day — and that is one of her favorite things about working at Forge. She also notes one of her favorite things as the fact that she gets to meet so many different types of people based on all the unique people that call Forge their work home.
“I like the variety of getting to interact with a lot of people here. It’s fun that there are people doing a lot of really different jobs, so I get exposed to a lot of different things I never would have known about otherwise.”
Apart from the difficulty of finding the perfect downtown location, Lee basically had the idea from the start and has been able to execute her plan well. Although Forge opened later than she had originally planned, it has been an immense success and something that brings both her and Forge members joy and utility everyday.
How Does Bham Feel About Coworking?
The response from the community has been supportive and people are very interested in the concept of coworking. Not only that, but people are coming from all over to check out Forge. Many of the companies that work from Forge have noticed that their client meetings tend to be onsite simply because people really want to check out Forge and see what’s going on. That is definitely a perk of working from Forge — everyone wants to come to you!
The kitchenette on site features fruit-infused water, coffee, tea and snacks. The black / brown / white / gold color scheme is modern but still funky and creative. Natural light floods the workspace. Forge features three conference rooms, plenty of workspace, rentable desks and full offices available for rent. The location is unmatched, especially when the lunch hour rolls around. You can easily pop downstairs to the Pizitz Food Hall and choose from poke bowls, sandwiches, mediterranean food and more.
Lee is also dedicated to furthering the education of all Forge members. She hosts events like lunch-and-learns and happy hours that allow members to meet each other and learn more. Events held include marketing seminars, discussions on small businesses and more.
“Working at Forge has reinvigorated my business. I am more motivated, productive, and fulfilled now that I have the balance of self-employment and workplace culture. The best professional decision I have made was to move to Birmingham and start my own company…the second was to develop this company while working at Forge.” – Suzanne Humphries, Interior Designer
“Since day one there has really been a sense of community and collaboration at Forge. There is something to be said for the creative and entrepreneurial spirit you find here, that you can’t find working from home or your typical office.” – Connor Hand, Agent Leads for Big Gen Inc.
“I’ve been working at Forge for a year now. I have found a strong sense of community working at Forge. The familiar faces and great business connections really have helped me as an entrepreneur and my company move forward. Kim and Kelsey have been so wonderful and helpful every single day. The events that happen at Forge are so helpful to the journey of a small business owner. I’m grateful to have them happening right there in my workspace. I can partake of continuing education while I eat lunch and still stay focused and on track with work. Working at Forge has been a game changer for my journey as a small business owner and I’m grateful to work there.” – Jacqueline Jones, Owner of One Degree MMM Marketing and Creative Agency
We are highlighting another article from Bham Now about a team at Forge. Learn more about the Two Ravens team!
Among the many talented companies that work at Forge, the coworking space located on the second floor of The Pizitz residence building, is Two Ravens. Two Ravens is an “innovation consultancy,” “research and development,” “problem solving” company. Their team consists of six people, and they are always looking to a wide range of individuals in order to come up with the best ideas and constantly improve their business.
But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Who Is Two Ravens?
First, why the name “Two Ravens?” The team referenced Norse mythology and the two ravens of Odin when I asked about the origin of the company name. Mythology has it that the two ravens of the god Odin were responsible for flying all over the world and bringing information back to him. These ravens were responsible for bringing Odin information about the goings-on of the world from a third-party perspective. Two Ravens, the company, feels that this is similar to their business strategy. Their job consists largely of working with companies to be a third-party observant of issues or programs that the company may want to change or address. They bring an observant nature to the gathering of information, then they formulate action steps for those issues.
I sat down with three of the partners to discuss the company: Marc Beaumont, who has a background in Marketing, Donne Garvich, whose background is in tech and team building, and Dr. Lindsay Sutton, whose background is in Psychology, Behavior Analytics and Research.
The team at Two Ravens is quite varied. The best way to describe them is that they are a supergroup. Beaumont shared that the company is truly made up of people in different disciplines that have often worked together in some way in the past. He described them each as having their own unique “superpower” to bring to the team. Many of them worked at the same company previously, but quickly realized they generally had one common goal, so they decided to work together at their own company.
“The common core element that drove us is this really strong internal drive to improve the lives of other people. And what we were finding is this: we had these talent sets that were really complimentary but we weren’t combining them anywhere we had worked before to that end.” – Garvich
The following is a brief description of the company from Garvich:
“Two Ravens was created to help organizations better understand the problems and opportunities ahead of them, and to help them quickly develop solutions that they can bring to the world. We do this by providing research and development-based innovation services that blend expertise in behavioral science, marketing, technology, and operations.”
This thinking is one of the things that makes the company so special. Their approach focuses on research, development and ideation, yes. But the three words that each member used to describe Two Ravens came down to the following: ‘Empathy’, ‘Human’, and ‘Innovation’.
Empathy And The Human Element
A large part of the Two Ravens strategy is something called “empathy mapping.” This is what ties in the empathy factor to the human factor. They describe it as being the outcome of a sum of different observations the team has. This includes “collectively gathering as many different perspectives as you can. [Perspectives] that you’ve heard expressed through conversation, surveys and interviews.” Empathy is introduced strongly into this process. This is the point in which the team at Two Ravens starts to collect information about what the humans want.
They have noticed that a lot of top business men and women in corporate companies eventually become identified AS that company. The downside? Losing the human element. That’s where Two Ravens steps in. Dr. Sutton describes it like so: “Other companies may not dig into why a CEO thinks he needs an app. But we do. Who is it for? How are we changing a behavior or a process that people are engaging in? How are we changing the way they’re experiencing it? And there isn’t a single bit of tech involved in that.” That is purely a human process.
Though they realize that this process takes time, they believe it is worthwhile. The human relationships they are able to help their clients make through the empathy mapping process can be invaluable, as well as helping to find the root of the customers’ wants, needs and pains.
Two Ravens bills itself as an “innovation consultancy.” They know that many established companies have a sense of fear attached to the term ‘innovation,’ and are working to change that for the better. Beaumont sums it up nicely: “Innovation is a byproduct of our process. Innovation can sometimes feel scary when it is attached to disruption. Change is not always seen as the best thing, and innovation implies change.”
As Two Ravens’ clients go through this process, they find that those fears are usually unfounded. Dr. Sutton notes that behavior change often happens in small increments. She states that a company might move in small steps but that the output can be powerful: adding value to their clients’ and customers’ lives.
“It’s not scary and unattainable and unreachable. It’s here and approachable and can happen today.” – Dr. Sutton
The Forge Advantage
So what is the best thing about working from Forge?
Of course, the fruit-infused water and elegant, clean bathrooms are nice. The unlimited lunch options available at the food hall are also a nice perk. Overall, though, the community wins. Here’s what the Two Ravens team has to say about the community at Forge:
Dr. Sutton: “Community drives energy. We’re all hustlers in a way, and we are figuring out who we are as businesses. So there is that shared experience in a way. All the businesses are so unique, but the energy that is put out is so productive and positive.”
Beaumont: “The energy. It facilitates interaction. There is an energy dynamic that helps feed the office here at Forge.”
Garvich: “I love the fact that we have community, so we have external viewpoints. They are like coworkers, but they’re not attached to one particular silo, so we have access to people who have viewpoints and conversations, etc. talk to people that are in a whole different world.”
In addition to community, there was an overwhelming gratitude for the way that Forge founder, Kim Lee, has set up the co-working space. The team at Two Ravens notes that as a start-up, the last thing they were thinking about is office furniture. Or a printer. Or anything other than their business plan. They are thankful to Lee for creating an environment where they can come into work and be able to focus solely on their business growth.
We recently brought in Adelaide Matte of AMD Birmingham to teach us more about perfecting our Instagram accounts! If you haven’t heard of AMD Birmingham, you need to check them out. They do everything from branding, graphic design, photography, social media to web design! They have worked with brands like Urban Cookhouse, Farmbowl + Juice Co, Dreamland Barbecue, Vulcan Park & Museum and Alabama Ballet. Adelaide gave us 5 steps to Instagram perfection that we’re sharing with you!
Step One: Identify Your Brand
You need to take time to choose your colors and fonts. Also think about what you want the overall feel to be. Adelaide mentioned that Drybar is a great example of a company who has a very defined theme with specific colors and fonts that are recognizable to their audience.
Step Two: Determine Your Grid
What do you want the layout of your Instagram grind to look like? A mixture of photos and text?
If you don’t already have them, you need Instagram Highlights for your account! What do you want your target audience to know? As a restaurant you can choose highlights like food, location, hours and facts! Think about what is your aesthetic? Stick with the colors of your brand as much as possible.
Step Three: Gather Content
You need to take plenty of photos so you can go ahead and plan out your posts. Photos of landscapes, your products, projects and even personal photos are all great options! AMD always focuses on having blue in their photos- especially lots of blue sky if it’s a landscape! Blue is an integral part of their overall style and aesthetic.
Adelaide gave us her recommendations for her top 9 favorite apps for all things Instagram!
(in no particular order)
- VSCO (she REALLY loves this one!)
- Lightroom CC
Step Four: Find Your Voice
You have to create captions that drive your audience to action! But you don’t want every single post to be advertising for your product or service. Make sure you throw in some inspiring or witty quotes too. Your audience values knowing that they can count on your messaging to provide them with what they’ve come to expect rather than it being a gamble every time.
Brands that accurately hone in on a consistent brand voice for their social media accounts quickly build followers, establish trust, and have stellar engagement rates. Be consistent with your voice!
Step Five: Plug and Chug
Now that you have all of your content stored up, you have all of the tools you need! Go ahead and post! Or better yet, plan out your posts through Plann app and you can see exactly what your grid will look like.
Thanks for all the tips Adelaide!