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.

 

A City Divided – A History of the Iron Bowl

Photo by Kate Sullivan

Roll Tide! War Eagle! What may seem like simple words are actually phrases that hold an unexplainable meaning for two very loyal fan bases. Phrases that have become battle cries ringing in the air all year long, sparking both friendships and fights.

In an interview with Charles Barkley for AL.com, University of Alabama football head coach Nick Saban said people who grow up in the state are raised in the football rivalry and it is a part of them. “And they have a lot of passion and they don’t have a lot of other choices. There’s not an NFL team, there’s not an NBA basketball team. So, everybody relates to one of these two schools and there’s a lot of passion for it.”

Alabama and Auburn fans wait all year long for that one day when their teams take the field against each other. The whole state of Alabama turns its attention to the game, and the neutral neighbors of these rabid fans are forced to pick a side. That day is known as The Iron Bowl.

The Iron Bowl gets its name from its Birmingham ties, as the city was the location of the game for 53 seasons, including the first. The programs met in 1893 in Lakeview Park for the first time ever in front of a crowd of about 5,000 strong. Drama ensued from the start as there were arguments as to whether the game should count for the 1892 or 1893 season. Word of the two teams playing and the subsequent tension drew interest as people began to discover the sport of football.

As Auburn was enjoying early success, threats from the university almost put an end to Alabama’s growing program. The dangers of football as well as the cost associated with funding a whole football team, had the University of Alabama’s faculty questioning the need for such a sport at the collegiate level.

Luckily for the Crimson Tide, football would be preserved and the yearly game against the Tigers would resume, that is until 1907 when the series was put on hold for financial discrepancies between the two teams.

Forty years later, the battle was reinstated after the Alabama House of Representatives brought forth a resolution to resume the rivalry by implementing full athletic programs for both schools. The state legislature went one step forward by threatening to withhold funding for the two universities unless they agreed to bring the Iron Bowl back.

The game was to return to Birmingham where the largest stadium in the state, Legion Field was located. By the time the game was officially moved to be played at each team’s respective fields in 1998, the game had earned its title of “The Iron Bowl” due to the city’s rich iron history.

While Birmingham may no longer play host to the most heated rivalry in all of college football, the roots of the teams run deep throughout the city with a plethora of both Alabama and Auburn fans as residents. It is easy to assume that almost everyone in the city has a side with which they align themselves in the series. However, this doesn’t always hold true.

In 2011 the Capital Survey Research Center in Montgomery surveyed throughout the state to see which team they pulled for. Of those surveyed, 37 percent identified themselves as Alabama fans and 18 percent said they cheer for Auburn, but 20 percent said they cheer for both teams and 22 percent said they cheer for neither.

Essentially, 42 percent of the polled population said they don’t care which team wins.

Birmingham is growing and with that growth comes new waves of people who don’t have a background with either team. Regardless of their football preferences though, new residents often find themselves in a bizarre situation of having to choose a team, either by coworkers, neighbors, friends or significant others.

Kasey Mack, a college student in Birmingham, found herself having to choose sides despite her background as a University of Georgia fan. “I moved to Birmingham for school and all of a sudden I was surrounded by all these Alabama and Auburn fans who wanted to know not what my team was, but whether I cheered for Alabama or Auburn. It was like they weren’t satisfied with my response of not really caring between the two.”

Mack said as a Georgia fan she was raised to hate Auburn because they were one of Georgia’s rivals, thus she found herself cheering for Alabama when the Iron Bowl rolled around. Ultimately, she was just watching the game as a fan of football as opposed to a fan of either team. Her Bama fandom was solidified when she began dating an Alabama graduate.

“Yeah, I pretty much have to root for Alabama now. When he found out I didn’t really care which team won, he looked at me like I had two heads. I’m still a Georgia fan at the end of the day, but I find myself saying ‘Roll Tide’ a lot more often now.”

Birmingham Without Walls

A large community of homeless people gathers at Birmingham’s Linn Park. They gather near the fountain as the sound of running water blocks out street noise, citizens say.

There is a common, grim image traditionally associated with homelessness: a dirty, desperate man with a long beard sitting on the corner of a street alone, occasionally begging passersby for nickels.

However, this extremely public image of the indecent homeless man does not reflect the true demographic of the homeless community. In truth, most homeless individuals consider the streets too dangerous to live on.

“They’re scared,” Mallory Pettet said. “One woman I met—she was homeless—but she was mugged and was scared out of her wits. Some men followed her and robbed her of everything she had. And she doesn’t have a place to go and lock a door.”

Pettet and her close friend Hannah Baker visit members of the homeless community in Five Points every week. The pair help lead a Bible study, which they say is mostly led by a seven-year member of the Five Points houseless community.

Even more contrary to the common face of homeless is the fact that the majority of the homeless population is hidden from view.

According to the needs assessment study, only 12 percent of the homeless population in Birmingham stay on the street. About 34 percent stay in transitional housing, 22 percent in emergency shelters and 12 percent in treatment facilities. Around 82 percent of Birmingham’s homeless have been homeless for less than 2 years.

Pettet said that many of the people who live on the streets of Birmingham suffer from severe loss of identity and dignity as a result of being homeless.

“I had a conversation with a guy a couple weeks ago at a grill-out at Five Points,” Pettet said. “This one man wouldn’t look me in the eyes. I asked him his name and who he was and why he wouldn’t talk to me, and he mumbled ‘I just got out of prison.’”

“He put that stamp on his identity and assumed that the nice girl that gave him food was going to walk away,” Pettet said.

This is the second installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Birmingham Without Walls

Leroy sat in Linn Park waiting for a ride to the bus station on a warm, November afternoon. He was not alone in the park; in Alabama, it is still warm enough for short sleeves in November, so people with no other place to go can sit outdoors comfortably.

He leaned forward on his cane, a crutch he found necessary after a surgery left him with metal rods in his leg. His rough hands—one with stitches running across the palm—crossed one over the other at the crook of the cane. Leroy’s leg surgery left him unable to work, he explained. He draws a disability check for $925 a month and collects $16 in food stamps each month. After a divorce, Leroy found himself with no place to live.

“I lived in my car for a while,” he said. “But I lost my license. I would be in my car all day, driving from Greenville to Mobile, Mobile to Birmingham, Birmingham to Montgomery. I fell asleep. I was in the right lane so I went off the road, but the officer pulled me over. He thought I was drunk.”

The bus he was waiting on this day would take him to Greenville, nearly 2 hours away from Birmingham, where his car was. He had $300 in his pockets—money he planned to give to a contact in Greenville to pay back a debt. It was all the money he had to his name.

“I can’t get an apartment by myself,” he said. “I only get $925 a month for everything. An apartment—that’s my whole check. I wouldn’t have anything left over for anything else”

Leroy is one of the thousands of homeless men and women living in Birmingham. He is one of a smaller subset considered “chronically homeless.”

According to the study “A Needs Assessment of the Homeless of Birmingham and Jefferson County,” 29 percent of the homeless population in Birmingham fit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of chronically homeless. Chronically homeless people either have disabling conditions and have been homeless for a year or more or have been homeless four times within three years.

Many of these homeless people said that “personal relationship issues” caused their homelessness.

“Ninety-one percent report experiencing at least one undesirable life event over the last year. The most common events are job loss, death of a close friend, family member or partner, physical abuse, or problems with a spouse or partner,” the study says.

According to county records, on Nov. 9, 2011, Jefferson County filed for bankruptcy. The debt of $3.14 billion made it the most expensive municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history at the time. Since then, the availability of jobs has been decreasing.

Birmingham has an estimated homeless population of about 3,000 people. That is 0.13 percent of the overall population of the city living without a home.

More people are without work and fewer of them are able to find employment. The loss of job infrastructure caused by being homeless creates a vicious poverty cycle that local activists and volunteers say is not easy to break.

This is the first installment of a five-part series. 

1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Christmas Time is Here: How to get in the spirit

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  • Christmas Tree

Whether it’s tall or short, nothing makes a home more in the Christmas spirit than a Christmas-lighted tree. Inexpensive, artificial trees are found cheap at Big Lots or Ollies stores. Small trees can be found for cheap at Salvation army!

  • Garland and Christmas Lights

Many dorm rooms or apartments may already have Christmas lights hanging. What better way than to make the space feel more Christmas-like and the wrap garland around the lights!

  • Hot cocoa in a Christmas mug

Nothing may feel more like Christmas than ending a long day on a chilly night with a cup of hot cocoa in your favorite Christmas mug!

  • Peppermint candles  

They may not be allowed in the dorms, but fill your home with Christmas air this holiday season!

  • Spotify Christmas playlist

Nothing brings more cheer than filling your rooms with Christmas music for all to hear!

  • Christmas movie night

Gather your friends and enjoy a cozy favorite Christmas movie!

Birmingham blogger Jessica Stroud on creativity and communication in an online world

As Birmingham continues to be a city of exciting new things popping up everywhere, people are staying engaged through the art of blogging. Here, local writers are able to share ideas, thoughts, and opinions on anything from new restaurants to wardrobes to match the season. Jessica Stroud started her own blog, “Daily Brunch,” and has been featured on The Birmingham Bloggers website multiple times. You can tell right away in her posts her love for the city of Birmingham and how to communicate that through writing.

southerndailybrunch.com//Jessica Stroud

southerndailybrunch.com//Jessica Stroud

Q: What was your reasoning for starting your own blog site, specifically about the Birmingham area:

There are two main reasons I started blogging:

  1. To enhance my creativity. Let’s get things straight, I am by no means creative in an artistic sense. I cannot play an instrument, paint a picture, or do any sort of d.i.y. crafts. What I can do is explain myself through writing. I figured if I started posting I’d have to come up with new ways to explain myself, and also create new material through trial and error. Managing and writing a blog has been a personal challenge that I have thoroughly enjoyed. It has helped me find new ways to think about things and challenge my brain.
  1. Express myself better. At first I felt funny asking my husband to take pictures of my outfits (see Instagram husband on YouTube for accurate review of our relationship) or write like I was talking to a friend on the blog, but now I feel more inspired and I’m just like “WHO CARES?! Come take this picture of me while I pose looking off into the distance.” This has been an extremely inspiring year for me. I have felt more like a woman in charge than I ever have! I feel my insecurities melting away. Thank you older age and wise mind! I feel like Birmingham has grown so much since I’ve been out of college, I love that there are always new places to see and new restaurants to try, it is the perfect city to expand your mind and get creative.

Q: What has the reaction to your blog been like?

When starting anything there will always be trial and error. Depending on the post and content it holds there will always be fluctuation in how many people click on the post and how many views it gets. I find that my outfit posts and recipes get more attention than any other post. People like to see pictures and something they can scroll through fast while waiting in line somewhere or browsing before they go to bed.

Q: Are there certain areas of interest that you feel most passionate about focusing your blog on?  

ARE THERE?! I want my blog to be about supporting women and encouraging them to follow their dreams. I want my blog to empower women and have those women empower women. I love it when girls are nice to each other for no reason, putting aside all the insecurities and jealousy, and just be raw with one another. That is what I am most passionate about and hope my blog displays that with every post.

Q: Why do you think blogging has become so popular for cities like Birmingham?

I have been blogging for almost three years and I am still a baby at it. I think the way readers and followers like to get their information is by seeing others display it or try it out and blogging does that. I also think people like to follow bloggers who are interesting and give them entertainment.

Q: How do you think the skill of blogging can help young college journalists?

It is a great way to explore yourself and writing styles that you may want to adopt or try on. It also challenges you and keeps you accountable, especially if you have followers who expect you to post!

Q: How have you seen the blogging community grow in Birmingham?

The Birmingham blogging scene is still growing and it’s fantastic. Ther

e are communities such as Birmingham Bloggers and Home Grown Bloggers that have gatherings and conferences that allow bloggers from all over the south come and learn techniques and ways to grow your blog. It is a great way to learn and meet people that can support you!  

Link to Jessica’s blog: http://www.southerndailybrunch.com

 

Birmingham Barons Opener

The Birmingham Barons had a rough season opener, losing to the Jacksonville Suns 6-1 last Thursday.

The team played the opener in Jacksonville and stayed the weekend, playing five games in all. The Barons won one of the five games against the Suns.

The Suns, with a 57-81 record for the 2015 season, proved to be too much for the Barons’ opening game.

The Suns scored the first point, and the Barons’ first baseman, Jake Peter, had a home-run in the second inning. This was Peter’s first professional baseball game.

The teams remained tied 1-1 until J.T. Riddle of the Suns had a three-run home run in the third inning. The next inning was scoreless, and in the fifth inning the Suns gained the last game point.

They will play their first home game tonight, against the Tennessee Smokies. First pitch will be thrown at 7:05 p.m. For ticketing information, call (205) 988-3200.

Pepper Place is Back

Birmingham’s favorite farmers market is back on Saturday, April 9th. It is open from 7 a.m. to noon rain or shine.

Pepper Place began in 2000 in provide a connection between family farmers and the people of Birmingham, Alabama. Since then is has grown from a few tents to over 100 tents spread across parking lots and streets around Pepper Place. The market has hosted around 10,000 people every Saturday at the height of the season.

All of the vendors are based in Alabama and are the actual growers, joined by their family members and friends.

Shoppers can expect bedding plants, herbs, lettuces, asparagus, and strawberries to be in season for the spring and as it gets closer to summer blackberries, blueberries, peaches and mushrooms. Alongside of the fresh produce market goers can find bakers and cooks who serve food to eat and take home, from breakfast food to dessert. As well as food, Pepper Place hosts Alabama artists, artisans and craftspeople with unique items to decorate with or give as a gift.

The address is:
2829 2nd Avenue South
Birmingham, Alabama 35233

A list of vendors can be found here:

http://www.pepperplacemarket.com/vendors/