Q&A with Sarah McFarland, Alpha Omicron Pi’s President

Samford University is home to six panhellenic sororities, one of which is Alpha Omicron Pi. The sorority is lead by an executive council that strives to make the chapter the absolute best it can be. Sarah McFarland, a junior accounting major from St. Louis, Missouri, has been the chapter president of Samford’s AOII for the past few months. Although McFarland enjoys binging shows on Netflix, hanging out with friends and eating far too many scoops of Edgewood Creamery icecream most of her time is spent serving with and for her fellow sisters. I got the chance to sit down her McFarland and ask her about her experience serving in such a crucial role and being a full time student.

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Q&A with Emma Percy: Young female pilot defies status quo in aviation

Pilot Emma Percy, 18, poses by her 1973 Bonanza V35, the plane she trains in.

Q: Where did your interest in aviation come from?

A: My dad does fly and I think that’s really what got me started with flying, you know just kind of being interested in that part of his life. So, he got me my first lesson (at Shelby County Airport). And after I took that first lesson, I was kind of hooked on it. It took me about a year of training to get my private pilot’s license which is the first license.

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The Faces of Reed Books

Reed Books is a bookstore in downtown Birmingham. With a residency of several decades, it has become a staple of the community. While people come from all over the world to view the thousands of books that line the shelves and the floors, there is much more to this bookstore than just the books. While Mr. Jim Reed, owner of Reed Books, will want to greet you with a smile, there are more faces that will welcome you into the store. Take a look…

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Q&A about “Cultural Shock.”

Q & A with Ruth Blackburn

  1. Can you introduce yourself? What’s your name? Hometown? Major?

My name is Ruth Blackburn. I am a junior from Birmingham, Alabama. My major is Foods and Nutrition with an Art minor.

  1. When people mention Asia or Asian, what is your first thought?

I think of the cultural differences between Asia and America. My best friend went to China for 6 weeks and I think of the stories of squatty potties and riding bikes all around the cities. I once read that middle-aged men in Asia are at a very high risk of suicide because of pressure to succeed and do well in the workplace.

  1. What makes you most proud to be an American?

The kindness that people show to each other even when they are strangers and do not know each other.

  1. What do you think about “Culture Shock”?

I have never been affected by culture shock very much when I go to different countries. I think I am very easy going so the differences between countries do not shock me or bother me that much and it takes a lot of effort for me to pick out the differences and things that bother me or that I like better about one country.

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Q&A with Ashley Steiner of Ashley Ink & Paperie

Meet Ashley Steiner, a junior at Samford University in Birmingham by way of Overland Park, Kansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas and Milton, Georgia. Steiner is a business major and actively puts her college studies to practice when running her own company, Ashley Ink & Paperie. Ashley Ink & Paperie prides itself with its faith based roots and offers a variety of products including: note cards, prints, custom stationery, invitations, calendars, and planners with handmade illustrations. When Ashley isn’t drawing or making , Ashley can be found sitting in a local coffee shop and engaging her local community. I asked Ashley a few questions about what it’s like running her own company while also balancing being a full time student. Ashley Ink & Paperie’s mission statement is rooted in Psalm 138:3, “He made me bold by strengthening my soul.”  I had the chance to ask Ashley some questions about her experience running her own company and being a full time college student. 

How long have you been running your own company and 

how did you initially get into it?

I started Ashley Ink & Paperie in 2013 right before my junior year of high school. I have had a passion for drawing ever since I was a little girl. I could always be found making greeting cards for friends and family, but I never knew this hobby could turn into a business! During my sophomore year of high school, one of my classes assigned an independent study project. My mom gave me the idea for the project to research how to create my drawings into notecards and prints instead of giving away the original copies. My research evolved into how to start a business and it became something I really wanted to do! In August 2013 before my junior year of high school, I officially launched Ashley Ink, which grew into Ashley Ink & Paperie in 2016. In October 2013 I sold my first wholesale order to a retail store, and in November 2013 I opened the Etsy shop.

Why stationery/paper products?

Growing up, I always made greeting cards to give family for holidays and special occasions. My friends started noticing and wanting cards too, so I decided to make copies instead of giving away the originals! I believe there is so much power behind the simplicity of a handwritten note. In a world so driven by technology today, sending a tangible message is even more important. As my company has grown, notecards and stationery are just a portion of the products. Prints, calendars, and planners are also popular among customers.

Have you ever considered making other products, say (for example) t-shirts, posters, phone cases, etc.

Yes! I am currently in the process of expanding product lines…more information to come on that soon! 🙂

Is there anything else to Ashley Ink & Paperie besides your products?

Ashley Ink & Paperie has a blog at ashleyinkandpaperie.com. Besides selling online, the company wholesales to stores in various states around the country and participates in local markets. I have presented my company in a few business competitions with Entrepreneur Organization’s Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, and Region’s New Venture Challenge. I was so surprised and blessed to have won both competitions last year! My company also sponsors Samford Zeta Tau Alpha by creating promotional materials for chapter events and philanthropy.

How do you balance managing your company and being a full time student?

Balancing life, school, and a business is honestly a lot like organized chaos sometimes, but I wouldn’t change it for anything! Holidays, summer, in between classes, and weekends are the major times I work on Ashley Ink & Paperie. Being a business major has been such a blessing (even though it’s hard!!) because the business school has been an incredible support for my company. I’ve been given incredible opportunities such as competing in business competitions and having an overflow of resources to learn and grow as a business owner. I’m a member of the Incubator Program for startup companies – which means I have access to mentors and an office space in the business building. I’m trying to come up with some good answer on how it all works together, but honestly, I know it’s not my own doing! There’s no other way to explain it – the Lord has been so faithful in leading me through this busy season of juggling school with owning a company.

How have you seen your company and/or products change since being a student? Has it even changed?

My goal as an artist and business owner is to never stop improving my artistic style. Since I have been at Samford, I have found so much inspiration that has greatly evolved my product lines. I have also traveled to lots of different places throughout college, all of which have inspired new work and products! My business classes have definitely helped improve the business side of operating my company and have sparked ideas for growth.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of being the single mind behind your business?

There are lots of rewards at the end of the day that stretch far beyond any challenge I face as a business owner. However, I must admit that I am not the only mind behind my company. I’m an entrepreneur and artist at heart, but there’s no way I could do it all alone! My friends and family-specifically my mom who works with me-are my biggest helpers and supporters.

There’s nothing quite like meeting a customer for the first time and watching them find joy in something as simple as a notecard. It’s a feeling I cannot describe, but it gives so much reassurance in what I’m doing! I find so much joy in someone recognizing my notecards in O’Henrys or picking up a calendar from the Samford Bookstore. It’s the little things! My company is the channel through which I’m able to use the gifts I’ve been given in a tangible form, so I love waking up and being able to do that everyday!

How do you engage the community with your designs?

Social media is the major platform and means for communication with customers. Instagram by far has the most engagement, and it has been a fun way to connect with customers! I love creating local-themed artwork as well. It connects with customers on a home team level, and some of these local products are the most popular! Getting out and meeting customers the good ole-fashioned way through markets is also a fun way to engage the community.

Has there ever been a moment when you’ve considered discontinuing your business?

Oh, definitely. There are always unforeseen bends in the road and times that I’ve wondered if all the work is worth it…but then I remember why I started my company. Its purpose is so much greater than any story I can tell myself, and its calling comes from gifts and passion the Lord has placed in my life. In challenging moments, I’m reminded that I can’t rely on my own strength to succeed. What a relief! It makes me think about one day last summer when I had a booth at a local art festival. I was so excited to be there, but the weather had other plans. A massive gust of wind and pop-up downpour carried my booth’s tent down the street! Yikes. Oh well. I learned that it’s okay for business things to not always work out the way I expect–sometimes you win, and sometimes you get wet! Through every hard time, the things I have learned in the end help shape me and my company even more.

What do you hope to see for the future of your company some day?

I am so excited for the future of my company! There are lots of fun things in the works as it evolves into a lifestyle company. More to come on all of that soon!

 

For more information about Ashley and her products…

Etsy shop: ashleyink.etsy.com

Blog: ashleyinkandpaperie.com

Rising Sports: Tragic City Rollers

Birmingham has become a city of revitalization and promise over the years.  That’s why it’s no surprise that it’s home to one of America’s growing sports, women’s flat track roller derby.  The sport now has over 451 leagues worldwide, according to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association’s (WFTDA) website, since it’s beginning in 2005.

Birmingham’s Tragic City Rollers were also founded in 2005 and joined the WFTDA as a full-time league member in 2010.  President of the Tragic City Rollers Diana Bostick, also known as Lana del Slay, ensures that the league is operating under the guidelines of the WFTDA.

 

Bostick fell in love with the sport because of the strength and diligence of the derby women.  “I was in awe how these women moved, fought and displayed amazing talents and skills. I knew immediately I wanted to be apart of such an ensemble,” she said.

Another one of Bostick’s role is to manage the organization’s presence within the community.  The Rollers have seen growing attendance at their bouts, according to Bostick, and the organization is excited about the support. “People now realize roller derby is much more than circus theatrics. They recognize derby to be a legitimate athletic sport,” she said.

Even though roller derby women skate hard on the rink, they have a soft heart for issues in the community. The skaters enjoy participating in local events and stresses the importance of supporting small businesses and charities in the area.

“TCR strives to always be relevant and maintain a presence within the community. We try to find local sponsors as much as possible so that not only do they support us but we in turn do our best to support them,” Bostick said.

Their 2017 charity partner is Girls Rock Bham Camp, an organization that teaches girls to play instruments and showcase their talents in the community.

The Tragic City Rollers host their meets at the Zemora Shrine Temple in Birmingham against league members from across the Southeast.  The team is ranked 223rd in the WFTDA.

30th Street Cakes Now Open

“Ring by Spring”, a common phrase thrown around on the local campus of Samford University. The idea that many graduating seniors will be engaged by  their spring semester has led engaged Samford senior Mary Michael Maddox to capitalize on the phenomenon, and her passion for baking, and open up her very own local wedding cake company. 30th Streets Cakes officially launched March 2 in the kitchen of Mary Michael’s little apartment in Highland Park.

 

After years of helping her mom out in the kitchen of their family farmhouse in Dothan, Alabama, her daily rituals became her youthful passion which has now led to the start of her first business as she begins the journey of “adulting”. Mary Michael believes in the essence of celebration and strives to create a cake worthy for anyone’s BIG day or  anything else worth celebrating. In her biography online she talks about the abundance of celebrations and parties her family threw growing up, she says, “basically anything you can think of, we threw a party for. And when there was a party, there was a cake.”

Mary Michael’s love for the small and simple details of a celebration are visibly seen in her work. Her cakes are simple and elegant with whimsical strokes of frosting laced with wild botanicals. “I believe that our generation has moved passed the desire for perfect elegant cakes and more towards the desire for the natural and simple look.” She finds joy in not only the finished product but also in the process of creating a cake, an art of sorts.  “My goal is to create more of an artisanal style of cake.” says, Mary Michael.

If you are throwing an upcoming party or looking for the perfect wedding cake, send Mary Michael an email or stop by her website: www.30thstreetcakes.com. She would love to sit down with you over a good cup of coffee and talk celebrations.

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.

My Magic City Success: Heidi Elnora

This is the third installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.

________

“Pray about [starting a business]. Pray for God’s guidance and diligence.”

Heidi Elnora came to be one of Birmingham’s most well- known bridal gown designers by accident.
Literally.

Soon after she was eliminated from Lifetime’s Project Runway series, Elnora was in a car accident. She was living in Atlanta at the time and moved to Alabama to recover and be close to her mother. While she was here, she met the man who would become her husband.

The couple settled down in Birmingham and a new realm of work opportunity opened up for her. “How can I take what I love to do and make it special for someone else? And what’s more special than a wedding dress?” she said.

Design has always been a passion for the Morris Ave. business owner. As her bridal store, hiedi elnora Atelier, continues to grow, she is driven every day to give the boutique a welcoming atmosphere. “The best part about the job is the brides.” Elnora said. “It’s about how good they feel in their dress, and I want them to feel con dent in what they are wearing.”

While business plans and loans can be intimidating, look for organizations that can assist you in making these rst crucial steps. Elnora used a local business-training organization that helped her get her feet on the ground. “They helped me write my business plan, and I was also able to get my very rst loan at 25,” she said.

Eagerness to engage with customers and diligence to create the best product can evolve into incomparable opportunities. With Elnora’s success in the Magic City, she has been involved in numerous projects including starring in her own television show on TLC, Bride by Design. “I loved doing it because I really got to showcase my work,” she said.

Passion can be contagious, especially when you have a celebrated product. In Elnora’s case, her craft’s in uence is not con ned to the borders of the United States. “I’ve had people as far as Dubai y in,” she said.

While business owners are always looking for ways to expand and grow, milestones are convenient points when you can regroup and look ahead to the future. Elnora continues to look to the future, as this year marks the boutique’s 10th anniversary. “We are moving to e-commerce and have just opened up our new 8,000 square-foot shop,” she said. But this expansion will not push away her end goal. “I want to live a happy life. No amount of fame or notoriety will fulfill me.”

My Magic City Success: Will Pearson

This is the first installment of a three-part series that explores the nature of successful businessmen and women in Birmingham.

Success is a difficult term to define, and it can be hard to pinpoint where you draw the line between successful and unsuccessful. Some Birmingham entrepreneurs have found that success is never quite achieved. As a result, they keep pushing themselves and their companies to innovate and create engaging products that promote culture and creativity in the Magic City.

________
“A lot of people hesitate to start something if they feel like it won’t be great from day one. There is something to be said about being willing to just get out there even before you know it’s going to be a premium product.”

Passion drives some people to set goals and to work to make them happen. Will Pearson concocted the magazine Mental Floss through conversations with college friends who had the desire to be intellectually stimulated and help others learn about areas outside of their realm of study.

“From day one, we were waking up every day and thinking, ‘How do we take Mental Floss a step forward?’” Pearson said.

Hard work stems from passion and is essential to a start-up, and “non-stop focus” made Pearson’s dream a reality. From working summer jobs to asking campus departments for donations, there is nothing Pearson wouldn’t do to get his magazine started. “The term ‘irrational commitment’ is something we talk about quite frequently that it has taken to make this work,” Pearson said.

Mental Floss has taken off since its initial conception in Pearson’s Duke University dorm room, with more than 160,000 magazines in circulation per issue and 20 million unique visitors to its website every month. The growth only fuels his eagerness for the brand. “We were just as excited about it when it was 5,000 people as we are now,” Pearson said.

Although Pearson sold the company to Dennis Publishing in 2011, he is still active in finding the most reliable and relatable avenues for the magazine and digital components to give information to its consumers.

Connections inside the industry push careers and business ideas to the next level. Passionate conversations about your goals can open doors, leading to more doors, that will eventually bring you to the audience you want in front of you. Pearson communicated his ideas to anyone that would listen. Even through telling a friend’s mom in New York City about the magazine’s plans connected him to a future publisher.

“It’s about getting something out there and saying ‘we’re going to do this,’” Pearson said. “It’s not where it needs to be, but have people look at it, understand where we want it to go and see it evolve over time.”

In a successful business, you must always think about the audience you are trying to reach. Pearson has had to adapt with Mental Floss over the years in order to best engage his audience in a world of communication that is constantly changing and shifting. In fact, Mental Floss is moving away from the magazine altogether at the end of 2016 and will move to a completely digital world.

But Pearson continues to be open to ideas that allow him to invest in new areas where the company can engage its audience. He is experimenting with new methods to communicate with consumers while also using effective digital platforms such as YouTube and Twitter to provide enough information that they are able to stand alone from their print counterpart. “Part of why it worked was because we didn’t have a rule book saying if you launch a magazine you must do these things exactly. I think we brought a fresh perspective to it,” said Pearson.

Research about your industry will also move your career plans forward. Keep learning and stay updated on the latest news in your field because it will unfailingly fuel your passion. Pearson owes a lot of the magazine’s success to studying what was happening in the media world around him. “Learning as much as we possibly could about the industry and about anything we could do was such a huge part of this and then communicating that with as many people as we could,” he said, as Mental Floss continues to blend the ever-changing world of intellect and culture.