A personal chef for $96/week in Birmingham? It’s true. I tried it. Learn more about Eryka Perry’s Not Just Catering

A personal chef for $96/week in Birmingham? It’s true. I tried it. Learn more about Eryka Perry’s Not Just Catering

Bham Now recently featured Forge member Eryka Perry of Not Just Catering in a recent article. Check out the original post here.


For $96/week, you can have your very own personal chef. Yes, you’re reading that right. For a little less than $100 (plus the cost of groceries) the folks over at Not Just Catering will cook in your home and leave your fridge stocked with three fresh, healthy meals. They’ll even clean up. Want to know more about the company making personal chef experience affordable? Read on!  


When Eryka Perry started Not Just Catering five years ago, she knew—hence the name—she wanted her culinary business to encompass more than just cooking food for people. She wanted it to be a lifestyle business, something that her customers could take with them after finishing one of her meals.

With Not Just Catering’s expert health coaching, private chef program and menu consultation service, Perry has done just that.

“Our goal is to really bring people back to the table, and show them what a healthy lifestyle looks like. We focus our meal planning and cooking around colorful, healthy foods and the importance of getting out and moving more, it’s a full spectrum experience.”

Eryka Perry, Founder of Not Just Catering

Not Just Catering serves the Birmingham metro area, focusing on certain areas of town each day to efficiently serve their growing clientele. Some of Not Just Catering’s services include:

  • In-home personal chef services
  • Wedding concierge service
  • Health coaching
  • Lunch and learns
  • Cooking classes
  • Event planning


How the In-Home Personal Chef Service Works

The menus, tailor-made for each customer weekly, are curated by an in-depth questionnaire of likes, dislikes and health goals. From the questionnaire, Perry and her team then make a weekly meal plan for each customer. They arrive on a pre-planned day, with fresh, seasonal groceries in tow, and get right to work. You don’t even need to be there! They’ll leave everything packaged and ready to serve in the fridge if you’re still at work.  



I had to try this service, of course.  Here’s what happened:

Here’s the thing. Nobody paid me to try out the Not Just Catering services. I did that on my own after talking with Perry about her business. As a busy mom of two with a long commute, Perry’s traveling chef service seemed like the answer to many a dinnertime prayer. After all, it’s tough getting dinner on the table after traveling the entirety of 280 in rush hour traffic from downtown to Chelsea. Crock Pots can only do so much.

I was very down to fork over the $96 plus the cost of groceries if it meant serving my family something other than frozen lasagna. I filled out the five-minute questionnaire and got a response and a meal plan the next day.

Coincidentally, I came down with the flu a couple of days before Perry was set to cook at my house, so she had to do all food prepping elsewhere. (Bc, germs.) She arrived with a smile on her face and sack full of home-cooked meals ready for my crew. She also included a little bottle of her homemade flu remedy that I’m convinced allowed me to live to see another day. It’s the little things!

The food was packaged family style and was absolutely amazing. Even the picky kiddos enjoyed the food, which is a downright miracle in itself.


This is what we had:

  • Jambalaya
  • Stuffed peppers on a bed of seasonal greens and veggies
  • Chicken spaghetti with zoodles

10/10— we will be using Not Just Catering on the regular moving forward!


About Eryka Perry at Not Just Catering

Perry went to school to be in the medical field but found herself with a culinary arts degree after a twist of fate landed her a scholarship in the culinary program.

“I kept noticing that there was a connection in my interests to the science and nutrition I was studying in school to the cooking at culinary school I was doing on the weekend,” she said. “So I opted to combine the two.”

A few years later she started Not Just Catering, dabbling in personal chef work and health coaching along the way.

Now in its fifth year, the company has seven employees comprised of local health coaches, private chefs and menu consultants. The team works out of Forge, the coworking space in The Pizitz in downtown Birmingham. She says working out of Forge has allowed her and her team the space they need to plan ahead and really focus in on the business side of their work when needed.

“It’s such a blessing that we are able to have a place to spread out and focus on the planning side of things,” said Perry. “The place has great energy—I can knock out a serious to-do list when I need to at Forge!”


Gift cards are available if you’d like to give the gift of a home cooked meal or three. I highly recommend this as a gift for a new mom or someone needing a little extra TLC and a few good meals.

Interested in knowing more about Not Just Catering or signing up for their traveling chef services? Visit their website here.

Striking the Right Work/Life Balance on the Road

Striking the Right Work/Life Balance on the Road

Today we’re featuring a post written by Forge Member Alex Grodner. We loved Alex’s perspective on work/life balance as he’s a remote worker often traveling for his job. Alex and his friends have a podcast and blog called the Clueless Dads. We know there are plenty of mom blogs out there (and rightly so!) but we love hearing from the mindset of the dads too. They share personal experiences and stories as they learn how to be a better dad.

In today’s day and age, the local / Monday-Friday / 9-5 jobs are almost non-existent. The antiquated ideas of all families being a man who is the only source of income for the household and a woman who takes care of the children and home are long gone. We have turned a corner in society where families look different, have different priorities, and a different working/stay-at-home mixture. While many families, including mine, have decided that the women staying home with the child(ren) makes the most sense, that is not always the case. The idea of the stay-at-home Dads or both parents continuing their careers soon after the baby is born is starting to change the way we think about families and how they work.

The idea of having the entire family home to sit down for dinner every night is not very conducive to many jobs. I personally have gone from every week travel schedule to every other week (but very flexible). What I have found, especially while my wife is pregnant and home with a toddler, is that work travel is not easy and can cause many issues if not addressed. Below is a list of the 6 things that I have found that help find that right work/life balance.

1. Set boundaries when you are home

I would argue this is important regardless of whether or not you travel for work. Whatever expectations you set at a job will be assumed in the future. If you are the kind of person that during a busy time will working until midnight and be back on working at 6AM the next morning, more power to you, but don’t expect that will be a one-time thing. On the other side, if it is an hour or two every work night you are home to spend with your family or letting it be known that Saturdays are for football and not work, it is so important to set boundaries of when you will/won’t work (outside of “normal business hours”). I have found that few jobs will care as long as you are meeting expectations and getting your work done when you say you will/when it is expected to be completed.


2. Make sure the time at home is special


When I am home, I have found that doing “other things” during my non-work time – playing video games, working on side projects, etc. – are best done when my wife and son go down for their afternoon naps or go to sleep at night. I also make a strong effort to spend as little time as possible on my phone or computer, often leaving my phone in the other room to avoid the unnecessary distraction. Having those distractions take priority over spending time with my family, especially when I am traveling a lot, is just not worth it and I end up regretting it when I am out of town.



3. Find a special activity


My son Bryant and I have our special activities that only him and I (and sometimes the dog) do. Spending some time at our local zoo (it’s 5 minutes away, hassle free, and we have a membership), cooking together, and going on runs with him in the jogging stroller and the dog’s leash around my waist are just a few of “our” activities. This is not to say that my wife cannot come if she wants to, but more times than not she finds this as a great time to do things that she wants to do…without a toddler and crazy puppy running around the house.



4. Give your significant other a break


As mentioned in the earlier comment, the activities that my son and I do give my wife a chance to do whatever she wants and has not been able to do while I was out of town – get a well-deserved nap, clean up around the house, run errands, etc. In addition to getting us out of the house, doing some of the things that my wife does while I am out of town (and especially the things that she doesn’t or can’t do) is something she greatly appreciates. Doing the bedtime routine/morning routine, turning cleaning up the house or dog poop in the backyard into a fun activity and having my “big helper” assist (which more times than not he is the opposite), and taking my son to school on my way to a coworking space ends up being a much-needed break for my wife.



5. Have a checklist of to-do’s before leaving town


Trying to get items on the “honey-do list” or things that you have put off and need to get done around the house is so important to try to do while you are in town. Many times it is very easy to forget/ignore some of the issues because they are “out of sight, out of mind” for you, but your wife and child(ren) have to see those things every day. Whether it’s cleaning up pet’s poop/pee or mowing the grass that has become a little too over grown, it can really make a difference and when you get home you aren’t reminded of something else that you wanted/needed to get done.



6. Communication, communication, communication


My wife and I share a Google calendar where I put my flights so that she knows when I am leaving and when I will be back home. This can obviously change due to flight delays or last-minute work changes, but if that happens I try to let her know when I know. I have found this gives my wife something to look forward to (a much-needed break) and it also keeps from the “so when are you going to be home again” question every day. In addition to keeping my wife updated on when I’ll be home, technology has made it extremely easy to video chat regardless of what type of technology someone has. I obviously can’t video chat with them every night, but it’s a nice way to see my wife and son and for them to see me.


Being on the road so much has not been easy, but I have found that these things – maximizing time when I am home, setting work boundaries, and constant communication – make it a little bit easier.


Suzanne Humphries of Suzanne Humphries Design on how the coworking environment at Forge revitalized her business

Suzanne Humphries of Suzanne Humphries Design on how the coworking environment at Forge revitalized her business

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!



Humphries’ Focus


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.



Meet Two Ravens: a new Birmingham-based consultancy that aims to draw out the human in all of us

Meet Two Ravens: a new Birmingham-based consultancy that aims to draw out the human in all of us

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.



Business Approach


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 p​roviding 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.



Coworking at Forge means networking with lots of movers and shakers (and spinners)

Coworking at Forge means networking with lots of movers and shakers (and spinners)

Our friends at Bham Now featured Forge member Tiffany Martin and her new spin studio! Read on and find out why Tiffany chooses to work from Forge and what her studio has in store!


Ever been to an exercise studio in Birmingham that’s dedicated solely to spin classes? Not yet? Ignite Cycle owner Tiffany Martin wants to change that.


The Cycling Life


A University of Southern California graduate, Martin has always been into the gym scene and has worked in gyms and boutique studios all over the country. Before moving to the Birmingham, Martin and her husband lived in Boston. While there, she started teaching group fitness classes and cycling classes. It was during this time that she discovered her passion for cycling and how fitness can change lives.


“I fell in love with being an instructor and also being a rider. I love being able to create this amazing experience for people.”


Creating Her Niche


When Tiffany found out that her husband’s work would be relocating them to Birmingham, she decided it was time to find her niche in the job world. After some market research, she discovered that Birmingham has plenty of spin class enthusiasts, but no boutique cycling studios that are dedicated just to cycling.




“When I found out that there were no boutique cycling studios in Birmingham, I realized it was something I really wanted to create and bring to the area.” 


Doing The Body Good


Tiffany’s studio will be named Ignite Cycle. Tiffany said the mission is, “to be a community for you to discover and become your best self, and cycling is how we do it.” Classes at Ignite will be full of music and fun! So fun that Tiffany describes the classes as a “party on a bike”.



“It’s a party on a bike, but it’s also a lot more than that,” Tiffany said. “It is that feeling where you’re somewhere and you’re dancing with a bunch of people—some you know— some you don’t. There is just this amazing energy among everyone because you are all moving together. Everyone is together feeling free, and with that feeling, you are doing something really good for you and your body.”




No Shame In This Game


Positivity is a huge aspect of Ignite Cycle. While working at other gyms and spin boutiques around the nation (Boston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle), Tiffany found that there is often a sense of shame, rather than pride, present among fitness centers.


“The environment at Ignite Cycle will be positive,” Tiffany said. “It’s all about living your best life, appreciating your body’s ability to move, choosing the best things for you and enjoying what life has to offer and not feeling guilty or shameful about it.”


It’s this emphasis on positivity that Tiffany hopes will set the “Ignite experience” apart from other fitness experiences in the city.


“Instructors at Ignite will go through a six-week training program on safety, our method, and keeping the culture and brand consistent for everyone,” Tiffany said.


Tiffany plans to carry over her mission of positivity and motivation to her instructors as well.



When And Where


Ignite is set to open late this year or early 2019. The location will be announced soon, and we will bring you that information! Stay tuned for more information regarding when and where.



One thing is for sure, when you take your first Ignite class you’ll wonder if you can take a class everyday — and you totally can!


The Perfect Workspace At Forge


After completing her market research and coming up with the idea for Ignite Cycle, Tiffany began planning. She has spent the last year creating and developing her business model and brand while working out of Forge, a place she says she fell in love with because of its physical space and also the idea behind it.


Tiffany has worked out of the Forge space for a little over a month, and said that she feels like she can be very productive in the space.

What’s an ideal day like for Tiffany while working out of Forge?


“It’s a lot of community, coffee, and skittles,” Tiffany said. “The community is so great, it is really fun being aware of what other people are up to in Birmingham, and it is much more motivating than sitting on my couch with my computer. Forge also has a really great playlist, which is great to work to.”


Check out the original article here!