The Vulcan always watches over Birmingham. Who watches over the Vulcan?

The Vulcan statue of Birmingham has served in a variety of roles since its inception in 1904 as an exhibition piece for the World’s Fair in St. Louis. Currently, the statue stands like a guardian over Birmingham, symbolizing the city’s industrial roots.

The Vulcan

Towering at 56 feet tall on a sandstone pedestal at Vulcan Park and Museum, the statue has pierced the Birmingham skyline for 79 years. It has endured harsh weather conditions including Alabama’s scorching summer heat and the “snow-pocalypse” of 2014. While no natural phenomenon has been able to take the Vulcan down, this cast-iron Roman god of fire and forge still needs some tender love and care every once in a while. Joe Saling is just the man and caretaker that Vulcan needs.

Joe Saling

Saling has served as director of visitor experience at Vulcan Park and Museum for 2 years. In addition to accommodating the best possible experience for guests, Saling oversees park maintenance projects. Prior to working at Vulcan Park and Museum, Saling spent over 30 years in sales and marketing. He worked with Sheraton Birmingham and Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa. Most recently, Saling worked on marketing and community relations efforts for the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook, Alabama. His expertise in hospitality and tourism has served him well in his position at Vulcan Park and Museum.

Vulcan Park and Museum

Even so, taking on the role as the Vulcan’s caretaker did not come without a few learning curves, specifically in the aspects of engineering and construction. Shortly after Saling took the position, the Vulcan needed a new paint job. And the pedestal it stands on needed to be sealed.

“This required understanding the inherent unique challenges with getting the job done, using the right products and doing it with the least disturbance to our visitors,” Saling explained. “Also, how to maintain a federally protected historic monument within the required guidelines.”

The Vulcan undergoes yearly interior and exterior inspections performed by the craftsmen at Robinson Iron of Alexander City, Alabama. “What they tell us is typically what we do,” Saling explained. “And fortunately, we do not have to do anything but every eight to 10 years.” Because the Vulcan is made of almost-indomitable iron, the statue rarely endures damage, aside from the occasional paint chip.

Vulcan Painters of Bessemer, Alabama, maintain the statue’s interior and exterior paint work. When painting the Vulcan, they prep the surface by sanding it down, caulking cracks and imperfections so that they are water-sealed. Then, they use an industrial primer and final coat. The Vulcan’s last paint job was in 2012. According to Saling, the Vulcan is currently in great cosmetic standing.

Over more than a century, the statue has undergone some inevitable repairs and updates—the most notable of those changes being the re-casting of its hand and anvil in 1938.  When the Vulcan was moved from the fairgrounds to Vulcan Park, its hand and anvil were lost and had to be recast. Even so, Saling explained, “one would never be able to tell any difference between the Vulcan today and the Vulcan at its original inception.”

Saling takes great pride in his work as the caretaker of this beloved Birmingham icon. He said the Vulcan represents not only Birmingham’s industrial prosperity, but also the city’s progress. “We equate that with the spear he holds. It points upward to symbolize Vulcan’s persistence and endurance,” Saling said. “Our mission at Vulcan park and museum is to educate and further develop the pride in Birmingham. I think he does that very well.”

 

 

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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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.

5 ways to procrastinate productively

We live in trying times. It seems that there is constantly so much to do and not nearly enough time to do it all. In a world where deadlines reign supreme and productivity is held in a place of honor, “procrastination” is shunned like a bad word. But, fret not! It is possible to put off doing that overwhelming task and still be productive. Cross something off of your to-do list with these great ways to procrastinate productively.

  1. Get organized. Take a moment to tidy everything up. Throw away the 45 coffee cups you’ve collected on your desk. Wash the dishes you’ve been pretending not to notice in the sink. Cleaning your home or workspace is a perfectly productive way to procrastinate; yes, you still haven’t finished that report your boss wants on her desk Monday morning, but at least you vacuumed. Besides, being surrounded by clutter hinders productivity, so clearing out all of that old junk might be the perfect way to get your mind ready to work.
  2. Feed your brain. If cleaning up didn’t do it for you, treating yourself to some brain food might help get your mind going. Start reading that book that has been collecting dust on your bookshelf. Learn a couple of new words in English … or maybe in Spanish. If you can’t force yourself to be productive, at least you can make yourself smarter.
  3. While you’re at it, feed your body, too. Let’s face it: You can’t work well on an empty stomach. When was the last time you ate something that was green? And, no, those St. Patrick’s Day-themed cupcakes don’t count. Consider preparing a healthy meal or snack to fill your belly before getting to work.
  4. Catch up on events in the world around you. Have you been ignoring everything going on in the world? Now is the time to catch up on all the current events you’ve been neglecting. Spend a couple of minutes reading or watching the news.
  5. Take time to focus on self-care. In this stressful, work-oriented world, it is easy to forget to take care of yourself. Don’t doubt the importance of maintaining good mental health when it comes to working. Self-care and self-love are important for productivity and an overall better quality of life. So, spend a little quality time with the most important person in your life: yourself! Treat yourself to a hot bath or curl up on the couch in your coziest pajamas and watch that episode of Game of Thrones you can’t believe you missed. Perhaps you could even go for a run to clear your mind or meditate to center yourself. Yes, you have work to do, but you know that you’ll get it done eventually. As much stuff as you have on your to-do list, you deserve a little break!

Rising Sports: Birmingham Hammers

Soccer has become an increasingly popular sport since the early 2000s. According to a 2014 ESPN poll, 18 percent of 12-to-17-year-olds were avid MLS fans compared to only 10 percent in 2004.

Kids are not only watching soccer, but also playing it. More than 3 million players are registered under US Youth Soccer while clubs across the country continue to see an increase in participation. Almost 16,000 youth players are registered in Alabama and over 30 had committed to play at the collegiate level last year.

President of the Birmingham Hammers Morgan Copes recognized the growing attraction of soccer in 2013 and set out to bring the sport in a major context to Birmingham.

“Just because there’s a lack of professional sports in Alabama doesn’t mean that there’s not a want for them,” the club’s president said. The Birmingham Hammers’ 2015 exhibition season brought in big crowds, proving to Copes that Alabama would embrace the world’s most popular sport.

The 2016 season was the Hammer’s first season in the National Premier Soccer League, playing teams across the South including teams from Atlanta, Nashville and New Orleans. Copes and his staff have taken thorough steps to make the club successful, and will continue to do so in order to improve the organization.

“We’re making sure that we do the little things right so we can keep getting better,” Copes said.

Copes and the Hammers have also used their social media presence to garner fans, with over 6,500 likes on Facebook and 2,000 followers on Twitter.

“Fans have been responsive to our social media platforms and we’re excited about the reaction,” he said.

The Hammers will play their first home game of the season on May 13 at Sicard Hollow Athletic Complex against Inter Nashville FC.

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.