Are you having trouble deciding what to put on your Christmas wish list? Look no further! We asked the Forge members for all of their Christmas ideas and we have a wide variety of great suggestions!
1. Lindsay: “I really want a smoker… I love to cook for my friends and family and feel like you gotta have the right tools for the job! I’ve gotten pretty good on the grill and now wanna try the slow style of a smoker.”
2. Ginny: “TBH, I want new tires so I don’t have to buy them myself!”
3. Courtney: “A Razor scooter that I can ride around Forge!”
4. Bailey: “An Away Luggage suitcase is definitely on my list this year. As my family lives on the West Coast, I tend to travel a bunch throughout the year and this suitcase is beyond easy to travel with, super durable and even has a USB port to charge your phone or iPad!”
5. Emilie: “AirBnB gift card! I’m a big fan of gifting experiences over “stuff.” My husband and I love travel! Over the past 7 years we’ve explored from Bali to Ecuador & so much in-between. AirBnB gift cards gives us a personalized gift we absolutely will use, but with the luxury of using it on our terms.”
6. Connor: “Nintendo 64 – Our team at forge needs one for ‘productivity breaks.'”
7. Kellyn: “I encourage everyone to give to their passions. Do you love animals? There is the Greater Birmingham Humane Society. Do you want to lend a helping hand to Birmingham’s homeless population? How about the First Light Shelter. And what about supporting the amazing work of educators and therapists helping those with developmental challenges? Give to The Exceptional Foundation.”
8. Glenny: “An Instax share printer. I have been a photo booth devotee for decades and I got my first Instax camera 10 years ago, before the current craze. My photographer husband realized I would love having a photo booth in my purse. Film for the Polaroid-style camera comes in packs of 10. That constraint makes me more thoughtful about how many pictures I take. Now that there’s an Instax printer, however, I am giddy and it’s hard to slow down. The Instax Share app allows you to print any photo on your phone in an Instax format. I have been so pleased to send actual printed pictures to friends and fam. Deciding what to print has made me thoughtful about the pictures that matter most to me. I would love for more people to have that experience.”
9. Pierce: “I’d like to get a bass guitar for Christmas. I used to play and I’d like to pick it back up.”
10. Russell: “A nice DSLR Camera for those epic food pics!”
11. Rebecca: “Does wanting my LLC count?” <— yes it definitely does!
12. Kelsey: “Allbirds tennis shoes! Some friends say they’re the most comfortable shoes they own.”
13. Lauren: “Bluetooth headphones- they would make my life so much easier!”
14. Jami: “One item on my Christmas list is a trip to Disney. It’s actually a gift I am giving AND getting. Long story short, my husband and I weren’t able to go on our honeymoon due to a massive blizzard. He commented to me earlier this year that he’d never been to Disney and was bummed about it. I’m surprising him with a Disney make-up honeymoon in the spring.”
15. Retha: “The calm blanket! It will help me rest better when I’m at home and need to stop working!”
We loved this blog post so much that we snagged it (with their permission!) from our friends- Two Ravens. Dave Cowart wrote this one- be sure to check out the original post here!
There are plenty of articles proclaiming how great a place Birmingham has become. The food scene is world class! Shipt is showing what we’re capable of! The new mayor is going to fix everything! But nobody’s saying much about our disadvantages. Truth is, we have a lot—other cities have measurable leads in economic, educational, cultural, and societal measures. Our public image is shaded by the state as a whole. And regional cooperation is best measured under a microscope.
But don’t despair! In a bit of metaphorical judo, many of these disadvantages can actually be leveraged into advantages. One of the principles of judo is jū yoku gō o seisu, or “softness controls hardness”:
Resisting a more powerful opponent will result in your defeat, whilst adjusting to and evading your opponent’s attack will cause him to lose his balance, his power will be reduced, and you will defeat him. This can apply whatever the relative values of power, thus making it possible for weaker opponents to beat significantly stronger ones.
Instead of comparing ourselves to other cities and trying to emulate the paths they’ve taken, we should instead focus on what makes us unique and use our weaknesses as strengths. I’m not talking about finding the silver lining in a storm cloud; I mean actual, actionable changes we can make.
What are our greatest weaknesses? Size is an obvious starting point – we’re the 49th largest metropolitan area and the 104th largest city in the country. Population size isn’t everything, but it means we’re low on the list for outside investment, whether that’s attracting a corporate headquarters or a major sports team or even just niceties like the availability of same-day delivery or car-sharing. How do we use that as an advantage?
Since our city is smaller, we’re more likely to have friends in different industries. Sure, most people have lots of connections in their field, but we don’t have the density to support isolated bubbles like a financial district or a collection of tech campuses. This means that we’re more likely to be serendipitously exposed to the obstacles and breakthroughs of other industries, giving us the chance to treat our entire city like a huge Innovation Depot.
There are other advantages to being a smaller city. Cost of living is low, our worst commutes are laughable in other cities, and seeing familiar faces on the street can ward off the social isolation experienced by some people in large cities. The pace is a little slower, and people tend to be friendlier when there’s a chance you probably have a mutual friend. These factors can be crucial when recruiting against other larger population centers.
But why are we comparatively small? Growth in the metro area is slow, and it’s been getting slower for years. The city itself has actually been losing population. The good news is that we haven’t sacrificed our natural areas to develop real estate. Within a few miles of downtown, we’ve had Ruffner Mountain for decades and now we have Red Mountain Park. That doesn’t have to be the end of the story though. The same mountain that currently divides the city from its wealthiest suburbs has also shaped the city itself, both geologically and geographically, preventing sprawl in certain directions. Natural and historical areas in close proximity to downtown are still largely unspoiled and ready for enjoyment and preservation.
Industries that were previously a leading cause of the metro area’s growth are now declining or outdated. The steel industry has moved on, the financial industry has consolidated elsewhere, and we’re now home to only one Fortune 500 company. Those industries were the fuel that powered our economy and gave us the nickname “The Magic City,” and they occupied some of the prime real estate in town. They also employed many of the people that shopped and ate in the heart of downtown. Now that the furnaces and mills have closed and the shops and restaurants have moved away, all that land and empty real estate are available. The McWane Center and the Pizitz have revitalized empty department stores, Sloss Furnace is now a museum and the home to a successful music festival, Back Forty just opened a brewery/restaurant at the old Sloss Docks, and Amazon is building a fulfillment center on former U.S. Steel land. Just this week, DC Blox announced that they’re building a flagship data center at a closed steel mill a few blocks from UAB. It’s hard to imagine many other major urban universities having that kind of available land nearby. It’s important to focus on developing these previously-abandoned areas in a way that weaves young and innovative companies throughout the city.
Our airport is substantially smaller than others in the southeast. Ignoring the behemoth to the east, it still sees just a fraction of the boardings as Nashville, New Orleans, and Memphis – cities whose metro areas aren’t that much bigger than ours.
Population vs. Enplanements (commercial boardings) by City
Tourism is a strong industry in those cities, but there’s clearly a lot of opportunity for growth. The good news is that people there who are looking at the future, realizing they have to innovate, and are already making plans. Enjoy the short security lines and easy parking while it’s not too busy.
Nobody on the outside is paying attention and expectations are low. It’s time to work together to leverage our disadvantages while still doing things our own way.
We recently hosted a Lunch & Learn with Dave Jesiolowski- he focus on the mistakes we make when managing our time. We snagged this post from Forge Member Jacqui Jones. Check out the original blog post here.
Wednesday, November 7th, I had the opportunity to attend a great lunch & learn at Forge in Birmingham, AL lead by Dave Jesiolowski. I had to be at this one because as I scale my business, time management becomes a tricky thing. When he started by saying, “I know we are all lacking in vitamin E, execution” I knew I was in the right place.
He gave the things that we as entrepreneurs do that plummet our time management. There, of course, were portions where I felt “I’ve heard this before.” But there were moments of “aha!” Hopefully, it will help you the way it helped me.
Mistake #1: You don’t know your “why.”
I get up and go to my desk at Forge every single day. I’ll be the first to say; I’ve never just written down my “why.” I have a “why,” but I’ve never taken time to clarify it in the way that Dave described. He encouraged us to post our “why” everywhere. If there is a different “why” in different spaces for you, give yourself those reminders. You may have a “why” for home and one for work. Maybe you even have a “why” for the space where you get dressed. These reminders speak to your reason for staying on track. If my “why” for showing up at work by 745a every morning is because I want to grow my company to a size that can employ others and make a difference in the lives of those in my community, I need to give myself that reminder. If my “why” for leaving my work bag in the car is so that I can achieve uninterrupted and distraction-free time with my family, I may need that reminder.
In his book, “One Decision Can,” he has created what he calls success formulas. The formulas ask important questions that lead you to a well-defined “why.” I bought a book and can’t wait to get into and create my own. (I promise to come back and review my experience.)
Mistake #2: You have too many distractions and temptations.
This reason was one of those things I had heard before. But, you really can never have too many reminders that distractions are everywhere. Dave talked about how marketers are amazingly efficient and creating distractions in people’s lives all day every day. Though that’s my industry, I didn’t hang my head in shame. The agencies he was speaking about will have ads showing up in your mailbox from a google search you made last week. I’m good. But, I’m not on that level of creating distractions.
For myself, however, I found a dilemma. A part of my job is notifications. I don’t manage as many accounts as I once did now that my team has grown. But, I do still have a few. So, this one, though a common time management call-out, may be a challenge for me personally. He even talked about how we let people take over our calendars with the “do you a minute” and “can we talk this afternoon” type approaches. I am guilty of letting people take over my calendar daily. Dave made it clear that if I want to reach the goals I’ve set for the day, I have to be willing to say “no.”
Mistake #3: You don’t have accountability.
You may be thinking that this is a more common call-out as well. It was, but it wasn’t. We know that we all need accountability, but he was talking about new methods of self-accountability. He mentioned that during coaching sessions he has clients create a scorecard for their perfect day. He said, “we do things for pain or gain.” Because of that, on the scorecard, you put what you gain by doing a thing and what pain you’re caused when you don’t. Having a scorecard and keeping a record should allow you to be able to track more specifically why you’re getting the results that you are.
Your scorecard appears in all spaces. If you’re trying to lose weight and you are tracking what you eat every day, looking back over the week or month of your detailed tracking should show you exactly what habits are leading you there. I thought this was a great way to put it. It spoke, not only to tracking your actions, but to analyzing your data. That’s the part that I feel most people miss. I know I do.
I will have a one-on-one call with Dave in the near future, and I’m excited to do so. Coaching is an important part of growing and developing as a business owner, but even as a person. This is something I’ve always known as a coach for business owners and entrepreneurs as it pertains to marketing and developing a strong brand foundation. But, as I said in “Entrepreneurship Starts in the Mind,” there is more than doing the work that one must consider if you want success… repeatedly.
Thanks to Bham Now for another feature! This article was written by Lauren Bedford- focusing on Forge Member Mindy Rohr. Read more about Mindy’s role as the Experience Manager at The Pizitz!
Have you been to one of the recent events at The Pizitz, like Moonlight Movies or Flashback Brunch? Chances are, you had a great time. You can thank Mindy Rohr for that.
Rohr is the Experience Manager at The Pizitz Food Hall. While she has a background in Event Planning, this job takes that to a whole new level. Not only is Rohr responsible for the event itself, she is also responsible for the operations and all the behind-the-scenes work like social media and marketing.
Lexington To Birmingham
Rohr was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Always a fan of finding the best restaurants and shops downtown, she started a successful Instagram account and blog called Love, Lexington that she used to highlight the businesses in town. Eventually, this budded into a pop-up style night market called Market 301. The market highlights local makers and shops and, even though Rohr transplanted to Birmingham, the market is still up and running.
I believe it is her love for local shops and the excitement to highlight small businesses that makes Rohr so successful in Birmingham. Ours is a city that loves to support small business and local shop owners, so she is a perfect fit.
Social Media Maven
As a large part of her career budded out of of her popular presence on social media (namely Instagram), I asked Rohr a few Instagram-specific questions. First I wanted to know what her advice would be to someone who is interested in breaking into the marketing / media field via social media. Here’s what she told me:
- First, pick a platform and stick with it. For her, it is Instagram. For others, it may be Twitter or Facebook. Finding out where you excel and which platform targets your demographic is an important first step.
- Good photography is CRUCIAL. She really stressed this point: “If you aren’t a skilled photographer, do some research and learn how to take great photos. Visual content is so important.” Especially on a platform like Instagram, engagement comes from visual content first and foremost, so make sure it is quality.
“People Want to Feel Comfortable”
Rohr stressed the fact that she always wants her content to have utility. When she started out writing for her own blog, she knew that she wanted to include details in her write-ups. For example, when she visited a new restaurant she shared what was on the menu, what she ordered, what people were wearing, where the parking was, etc. She has taken that mindset with her to The Pizitz Food Hall.
With all of her Instagram posts and social media shares, Rohr aims to answer people’s questions. The day before we talked, she received a question from someone asking about vegan options at the food hall. Rohr is not vegan, but she went around to each food stall and compiled a list of vegan foods that she then shared. The attention to detail that she puts into marketing, events and everything else with the food hall is key to its success.
“The Birmingham food scene is booming. We don’t cook at home a lot so we have gotten to know the local food scene pretty well. Most of our friends turn to us for ideas of where to go when they have a date night or want to try a new spot.”
(Note: Rohr and her husband Jesse started the Instagram account @badass_bham. Check out the account for Birmingham food scene highlights!)
In talking to Rohr, it’s clear that she is a foodie. She loves to try new restaurants around town, so of course we got to chatting about food. She and her husband recently moved closer to downtown, so they have much more walkability to restaurants and bars. Lucky for her, she works at the food hall, with a variety of choices at all times. So, what would she eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner from the food hall?
A full day of eating at The Pizitz Food Hall
(Please note: this is Rohr’s ideal eating day. Calories don’t count in dream worlds, thank you very much.)
Breakfast: Croque Madame from Alabama Biscuit Co.
Lunch: A burger with a fried egg on it, plus a side of both tater tots and fries from The Standard.
Dinner: Poke bowl from Ono Poke, dumplings from mo:mo, and a glass of rose from The Louis. If she’s not feeling rose, she loves the $5 happy-hour Old Fashioned.
Birmingham Weather and A Great Job
Of course, Rohr loves living in Birmingham now. Although she was born and raised in Lexington, Birmingham has become her home. What’s her favorite thing about Birmingham? The weather! Apparently, Lexington is one of the most overcast cities in the U.S. — who knew?
“We moved here in early May, and every morning I would walk outside to sit on our porch and drink my coffee because I just couldn’t get over the perfect, sunny weather.”
Another one of her favorite things? Her job with The Pizitz. She told me all about the history of the building — did you know that The Pizitz Building was the home of the very first parking deck in downtown Birmingham? And of course, it’s the first ever food hall in Birmingham as well. In addition, there is a basement! Rohr was telling me how excited she is for the new Sidewalk theater to be built downstairs. There will be 2 theaters, and each will seat 100 people and have a concession stand as well as a bar. Construction will start soon (get excited Bham!)
Overall, it is the community aspect of her job that Rohr notes is her favorite:
“I love being downtown and being able to meet and work with the owners of the food stalls. I love being able to share all my favorites with my friends and make connections in the city.”
The staff at 24 Communications are part of the Forge family and they always have valuable info to share. We’ve snagged a blog post written by Charlotte Donlon from them focusing on the reasons why blogs are effective!
According to The Content Marketing Institute’s B2C 2018 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, organizations with an extremely successful or a very successful content marketing approach say blogs are one of the most effective formats for helping them reach their objectives. The only marketing tool more effective for these businesses is email.
1. Your Blog Can Be Used for Email Content
Even though email is the most effective marketing strategy, don’t dismiss blogs. Email and blogs go hand in hand because blog content can be used for email content. Including links to your blog in your email newsletters can help drive readers, current customers, and potential customers to your website.
2. Your Blog Can Be Used to Share Helpful Information
Your customers have the same question we all have: What’s in it for me? Your blog posts can answer that question for your customers and your potential customers. How do your products or services solve their problems? How do your products or services make their life easier? How do your products or services help them achieve their goals? Blog posts are a great way to communicate these specifics to your audience.
3. Your Blog Can Be Used to Highlight Your Products and Services
Do you have a new product or service that you need to introduce to the world? Writing a blog post about your new offering will help spread the word.
4. Your Blog Can Be Used to Respond to Objections
You know why a customer might hesitate to purchase your product or service. Why not use your blog to respond to those objections? Your customers and potential customers will see that you are trying to listen to them and trying to understand their point of view which will make them more willing to consider your point of view and more willing to move past their objections.
5. Your Blog Can Help Generate More Leads and Sales
On average, companies with blogs produce 67% more leads per month than those without.
6. Your Blog Can Help You Connect with Existing and Potential Customers
Many consumers feel more positive about a brand and more connected to a brand after reading custom content, especially if that content tells stories about the company’s brand in ways readers can relate to. Stories about your mission and your goals and ways you give back to your community will resonate with readers, customers, and potential customers.
7. Your Blog Can Increase Traffic to Your Website
Let’s talk about compounding. One in ten blog posts are “compounding,” meaning organic search consistently increases traffic over time. Compounding posts are important because one compounding blog post generates as much website traffic as six regular posts combined. Also, compounding blog posts generate 38% of all blog traffic. There’s no way to know which of your blog posts will be compounding posts. But if you aren’t blogging, it’s safe to say you won’t have any at all.
8. Your Blog Can Help You Tell Your Story
You have a story to tell. And your customers want to know it. Most consumers—70% of them— prefer learning about a company through custom content like blog posts instead of through paid ads. That’s a great incentive to blog more and give your customers the content what they want.
9. Your Blog Can Help Build Trust
Customized content can help build trust with your customers and potential customers. They will see that you know what you’re talking about. They will see that you care enough about your products and services to allocate resources to creating unique content. And if you provide custom content that’s beneficial to them, they will see that you desire to help them. It’s easier to trust someone who is knowledgeable, who cares, and who wants to help you.
24 Communications is here to help you develop and implement your content marketing strategy, and can find strategic and creative ways to leverage your content across multiple platforms to expand your brand’s reach.
Get in touch to learn more.