Keeping the Creativity

Madison Whitehead, founder of Keeping the Creativity

Have you ever felt like your creative freedom is stifled by your work environment? That you have no time for creativity in your work because you are constantly managing and maintaining your business?

One emerging business owner successfully crafted a solution.

Madison Whiteneck is the mastermind behind Keeping the Creativity, a business that manages busy work for companies so business owners can get work on what matters. They can get back to creativity.

Whiteneck graduated from Samford University in 2016 with a degree in journalism and mass communication and has turned her combined passions for creativity and organization into a business.

Her vision is to provide local creatives with services such as social media, product launch, inbox management and large-scale writing pieces.   She achieves this through virtual assistant services, or management of the “little things,” which normally occupy the visionary’s brainpower and time.

Keeping the Creativity also provides freelance services including InDesign work and editing. The services range from daily assistance to passion projects.

When Whiteneck is not busy planning her own life, she is at work planning the lives of others.  Her new website launched this month, and her network of creatives continues to grow.

In Whiteneck’s business venture, it pays to be creative. Here is a conversation with Whiteneck about how her ambitious idea helped launch Keeping the Creativity.

 

Where did the idea for Keeping the Creativity originate?

Keeping the Creativity originally started out as a blog. My 9 to 5 job right out of college was pretty limiting to my personal creativity and I wanted to “keep the creativity” alive, so I started blogging. I wrote about everything from DIY’s to local coffee shops and my latest favorite outfits. I offered freelance services at the time so I started to feature more of my projects on my website as well. When I left my first career job, interest in my blog turned business grew a lot so I started taking on full time clients and more freelance projects.  

 

What is the most challenging part of starting your own business?

Finding and landing new and exciting clients. Having a local creative network has helped me a ton in gaining projects that I am excited to work on, but I always want to keep extending that network as much as possible. It takes a lot of work to reach out to others and turn it into business. Most of the time when I reach out to other creative, it just starts as a mutual interest in a project or idea and then it turns into a collaboration or working together, which I love.

 

 What is a valuable lesson you have learned since starting Keeping the Creativity?

Don’t let other people’s negative opinions discredit your hard work. I have put in a lot of time and effort into building my business and I understand there can be a lot of competition out there, but I have to just be myself and do the best with what I’ve got.

 

What is your advice to someone dreaming up a large-scale business idea?

Take a serious look at the time you can devote to your idea. Also, look at your finances because you have to invest a lot in the beginning. This past year, I invested almost half of what I made into my business, but it has paid off. In the first two months of 2017, my income has already equaled all of what I made last year with Keeping the Creativity.

 

What is your vision for the future of Keeping the Creativity?

I would love to work with more creatives to help them execute their big brand ideas. It would be great if Keeping the Creativity could evolve into a creative consulting agency. Who knows?! I am keeping the door open on those aspects for the future.

Seeds of Change

Jerick Hamilton is a student farmer that finds the farm behind his school to be a quiet respite from the chaos of the city. He starts his afternoon with a careful plant inspection. Moving row to row, Hamilton bends down to pull away stray, dead leaves to ensure the livelihood of the crops.

Hamilton loses track of time as he moves deeper into the sunflowers, or gets lower to the earth’s soil with the radishes and turnips. His eyes light up as he is asked to differentiate an array of brightly colored produce—produce that he helped grow.

“Amazing. Jaw-dropping. Fun.” These are the words Jerick Hamilton, a junior at Woodlawn High School used to describe the school’s recent partnership with Jones Valley.

Jones Valley Teaching Farm empowers students to grow, sell and eat their own produce. By inviting students at Woodlawn High School to participate in the farming process, Jones Valley is equipping change makers.

Each weekday, Hamilton can be found carefully weeding one of the 10 beds of vegetables in Woodlawn High School’s Urban Farm.

Among the sunflowers, turnips, radishes, mustard greens, chard, broccoli, cauliflower and kale, are the fingerprints of student farmers who stay behind after school and diligently tend to this plentiful garden.

He is eager to share his new passion for gardening with others.

“Ever since I’ve started doing it, I feel like I can take it anywhere I go, it can even help me in the long run,” he said. “Maybe one day I will want to have my own farm in my backyard, or a garden.”

For Hamilton, this opportunity has presented more than just a new hobby—it has given him vision for the future.

“I want to be a little bit of everything. I feel like you can’t just choose one thing and stick to it, you are gonna always change. Change is good. But if I could pick one thing, it would be industrial engineer.”

Hamilton is one of the students at Woodlawn participating in an early college program established through Jones Valley. This partnership allows him to work for payment while also receiving school credit for his three-hour afternoon shift at the farm.

Woodlawn High School Urban Farm sits just behind the school and is equipped with two farming acres, a greenhouse and an outdoor teaching area.  This is where Scotty Feltman, the school’s environmental science teacher who doubles as the farm program director, brings his classes to expose students to healthy foods.

Feltman’s hands-on approach to teaching aligns with Jones Valley’s mission to “connect discoveries in the classroom to action in the community.”

Jones Valley originated as an urban farm in downtown Birmingham to provide better access to fresh produce. It has since evolved into a teaching farm through the implementation of a specialized curriculum model, Good School Food, in several Birmingham city schools.

In that program, students experiment in Farm Labs designed to provide learning environments that engage the senses.

With seven teaching farms across Birmingham, Jones Valley exposes students to nutrition as they interact with fresh food daily.  This creates a greater awareness of where food comes from and emphasizes the value of healthy lifestyle choices.

The leap to Woodlawn High School happened last year in an effort to create a K-12 learning experience where children participate in the growing process in different stages throughout their education.  The program culminates in Feltman’s high school environmental science class, where the urban farm is used as a tool for engagement.

Feltman was a fifth grade science teacher at Avondale Elementary when the idea for the urban farm began to formulate. He committed to the role of farm program director after realizing it would be a great opportunity to impact a lot of students.

Feltman impresses upon his students the fact that they can help others through farming. His ultimate goal is that students leave the farm experience with a confidence in who they are and what they can accomplish.

“I want students to be able to graduate knowing, ‘If I grew 200 pounds of radishes and I was able to feed my neighborhood, I can do a lot of stuff. Maybe college isn’t so scary,’” said Feltman.  

Senior Taylor Witt felt that empowerment. Witt uses her time on the farm to evaluate her lifestyle. “Maybe I can change my ways of eating and influence my friends and family members. I want to influence my nephews the most because they are young, the oldest is 7 and the youngest is 5,” she said.

Witt got involved with Jones Valley after her ninth grade biology teacher encouraged her to attend an interest meeting. That meeting introduced the urban farm concept to the Woodlawn community.

Witt worked with a group of students to brainstorm, provide input and contribute to the planning process as this idea materialized. The farm came to life last year, and it taught Witt a great deal about patience.

“It’s a learning process. It’s building up your skills. I feel like each day I am out here is a day I am learning something new,” said Witt.

Like Witt, the student farmers at Woodlawn have played an integral role in the process of building the garden from the ground up.  Starting work in August, the team works in a student-driven manner where everyone’s voice is heard.

Feltman, who oversees the co-op, is in a position to hear those distinct voices, as he develops personal relationship with the students involved.  One of these voices belongs to Hamilton, who met Feltman as a student in his fifth grade class.  His message to Feltman is one of profound gratitude, “Thank you, thank you for hiring me. Thank you for believing in me and showing me there is more to life,” said Hamilton.

Clearly the art of farming transcends health to benefit students in areas of attitude, success in school, family life and relationships. Jones Valley uses fresh food as a powerful tool to apply disciplines of patience, responsibility and teamwork to real-life situations.

Through the process of farming at Woodlawn High School Urban Farm students find vision, purpose and an outlet for personal growth.  The influence of the program extends far beyond growing plants, to the change taking root within the lives of students.

 

Big Spoon Creamery – Which ice cream sandwich are you?

dribbble.com//Todd Helzer

dribbble.com//Todd Helzer

Big Spoon Creamery creates artisan crafted ice cream that is sure to impress. You can follow them on instagram @bigspoonbham to track down their truck or cart.
Take the quiz to find out which one of their signature sammie suits you best? These culinary creations include: Choc dipped Pistachio, Octane Coffee Caramel, Brown Butter Apple
, Salted Caramel
, Pumpkin Gingersnap
 and Cookies n’ Cream.

Bright Idea: The Story of O’Henry’s Coffee

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“I couldn’t find a truly great cup of coffee in Birmingham.” These words, spoken by Dr. Henry Bright of Birmingham, launched him into a coffee obsession that resulted in the birth of O’Henry’s Coffee in 1993.

At the start of his coffee craze, Bright was working as a successful orthodontist in the Birmingham area. Bright became interested in coffee after recognizing a need for a place where people could meet and enjoy one another’s company.

Bright’s passion carried him across the country, as he studied different techniques and roasting processes in order to be successful in the industry. Bright was fascinated with the chemistry of coffee, beyond the taste, and wanted to control all steps of the process, starting with the coffee bean.

He bought an espresso machine for his home and after learning how to roast, source, and blend coffee, Bright opened the original O’Henry’s in Homewood with a “little red roaster” in the front window.

Today, out of Bright’s vision, O’Henry’s has expanded to four different locations around Birmingham, Brookwood, Highland Park, Region Tower, and the original Homewood location. Business Insider named O’Henry’s Alabama’s Best Coffeehouse in 2014, proving it is a growing success story.

The story began when Bright saw a need for a gathering place and wanted to do something about it. He envisioned a coffeehouse as a place where cross sections of society could meet and feel comfortable.

Bright understood the dynamics necessary to produce a sense of hospitality, comfort, and home in a coffeehouse. O’Henry’s conveys this mood through warm colors and a welcoming environment.  “We love to hear people say meet me at O’Henry’s,” said current owner, Randy Adamy. O’Henry’s strives to make people feel comfortable in coming and staying.

O’Henry’s was a hit from day one. This business venture involved a great deal of risk, as Bright sold his coffee for $1.50 in 1993, when you could get coffee elsewhere for a quarter. Yet, people saw a difference and appreciated Bright’s innovative idea. Bright was revolutionary in bringing specialized coffee to the people of Birmingham.

“Dr. Bright was the type of guy that would make sure he succeeded, he would do whatever it took,” said Adamy. O’Henry’s introduced the trend of artisan roast, setting the standard for what is expected out of a quality cup of coffee.

Jenn Russ, employee of five years, described Bright as humble, soft-spoken, friendly, and a man who loves coffee and getting to know people. In the coffeehouse industry, “It is all about the relationships and Dr. Bright knew that,” said Adamy.

O’Henry’s employees make an effort to learn people’s needs, beyond a cup of coffee, whether it is the need to be heard or to slow down. “That is the most important thing we do, we just happen to be selling coffee,” said Adamy.

When Bright was looking to sell the company in 1999, he met Adamy through a mutual friend. Adamy said Bright wanted someone to keep the standards high, committed to producing something that would enhance the community. For Bright, it was never about money, and to Adamy, “profitability is something that happens when you do something right.”

Under Adamy’s ownership, O’Henry’s has just expanded on the precedent set by Bright. With four O’Henry’s across Birmingham and the roasting business booming, the franchise has managed to remain true to its “mom and pop” origin.

Russ appreciates the small-business aspects of the company and the traditional roots, which have sustained O’Henry’s and allowed it to flourish. “I like what it was founded on,” shared Russ. She described the reward of watching the coffee culture evolve and morph, while O’Henry’s hasn’t changed.

Bright, who will turn 81 this year, is still a vigorous and sharp businessman and consultant of O’Henry’s. There are regulars today who still come in and talk about him. One example is a group of men that have been coming every week since the opening in 1993. They call themselves the “has beens” and have a reserved table where they meet each Thursday morning at 9 a.m. “They are like antiques, we have to dust them off, they are part of the atmosphere,” said Adamy.

Regular costumer, Zach Eaves keeps coming back for “the atmosphere, seating options, and Southern Pecan Crème Coffee.” Everyone has their reason for coming back, and for many it is more than just coffee. The “notebox” on the mantle of every O’Henry’s serves as a testament to the memories made there, filled with notes on scrap paper and tokens of gratitude from loyal guests. Adamy believes regulars come back for “the same reason we all look forward to Christmas- tradition, comfort, family, friends.”

There is humility about Bright and the O’Henry’s story. “If you were to say to Dr. Bright, ‘You are too humble,’ he probably wouldn’t say anything,” shared Adamy. Bright started something unique and so it remains, coffee and community since 1993.

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