2 years ago

Alabama Business Spotlight: North Alabama Nonprofit Supports New Business Owners

By Lauren Naumcheff

Women around the country are starting their own businesses more than ever before. Opening a business is a risky and challenging feat, and according to Bloomberg, eight out of ten businesses fail in the first 18 months. However, women and men alike in Alabama have a resource for training and mentorship when starting and managing a business through The Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship.

The Catalyst is a Hunstville-based organization that serves as driver for economic growth and job creation by providing support for entrepreneurs and business owners in every stage of growth.

“We started 17 years ago with a single focus on women,” said Joanne Randolph, CEO of The Catalyst. “We believed Huntsville needed a place for women to go who wanted to start a business and needed guidance and support. After three years of due diligence, we were incorporated as the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama (WBCNA), a non-profit organization.”

Since its inception, The Catalyst has served over 21,000 individuals in Hunstville and surrounding areas. The organization began with basically no funds at all, but is now operating with an annual budget of almost one million dollars.

Randolph and her colleagues at The Catalyst have dedicated themselves to supporting and developing women in business, but after nearly two decades of experience, Randolph decided it was time for The Catalyst to expand its services. In March of this year, the organization was renamed to its current title as a part of their rebranding process. In addition to focusing on women, The Catalyst now provides services to startups, male and female entrepreneurs alike, established businesses, veterans, government contractors and innovative and technology companies. For more information on The Catalyst’s growth and rebranding, click here.

The Catalyst has experienced significant growth since its humble beginnings nearly two decades ago, however, the goal of Randolph and her team remains the same.

“Our success is based upon our client’s success.  Seeing individuals start and grow their businesses is what we are all about,” said Randolph.

The Catalyst manages three ongoing projects furthering this goal of serving business owners and entrepreneurs. The first is the Women’s Business Center, which serves as an educational and resource center for women interested in starting a new business or managing an existing one. Second, TechRich is The Catalyst’s project focusing on fueling collaboration between businesses. TechRich provides businessmen and women with networking opportunities as well as training services. Nascent, the third major project created by The Catalyst, offers support and mentorship to small businesses in rural areas.

In addition to ongoing projects, The Catalyst hosts training courses year-round for businessmen and women on topics such as goal setting, time management and managing teams. It also offers a wide array of online topics for busy professionals who cannot attend live events.

The Catalyst is an active member of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), a statewide business association dedicated to advocating for Alabama businesses and entrepreneurs of all types.
 
“I joined the BCA and serve on its Board of Directors because it is Alabama’s most well-respected business association. BCA is our business advocate and works tirelessly to ensure that business is effectively represented whenever and wherever public policy is made. They truly are the ‘voice of Alabama businesses,’” Randolph said when asked about The Catalyst’s involvement with the BCA.
 
The Catalyst has served as a driver for economic growth and job creation in the state, and North Alabamians have benefitted greatly from the efforts of Randolph and her team.

For more information on The Catalyst’s upcoming events, or to get involved in supporting the organization, please visit their website.


About the Business Council of Alabama: For more than three decades, the Business Council of Alabama has been Alabama’s foremost voice for business, standing up for Alabama businesses that are the job creators and innovators driving our state’s economy. Through this Business Spotlight Series, the BCA tells the stories of these businesses that proudly call Alabama home and in the process, we hope to show why we work hard every day making a sweet home for business. For more information about the BCA, please visit their website.


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7 mins ago

Van Smith scores impressive victory in Alabama’s HD 42 primary, advances to November general

Autauga County Commissioner Van Smith is the presumed winner of the Republican special primary election in House District 42.

The primary to fill the vacancy left by the the death of State Rep. Jimmy Martin (R-Clanton) occurred on Tuesday in parts of Autauga and Chilton Counties.

According to the Alabama Republican Party, unofficial results of the primary were as follows:

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Van Smith – 2,237 (56.85%)
Jimmie Hardee – 686 (17.43%)
Allen Caton – 622 (15.81%)
Shannon Welch – 390 (9.91%)

While provisional ballots will be counted on August 27 and the certification of votes will occur on August 28, a statement from the ALGOP stated that Smith is seemingly the Republican nominee for HD 42, impressively avoiding a runoff in a very competitive race.

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan said, “I offer my congratulations to Van Smith on his apparent victory in the Republican Special Primary Election for Alabama State House District 42.”

“While this district is considered a solid Republican area, we will not take anything for granted and plan to work hard to ensure we hold this seat,” she concluded.

Smith was endorsed by the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), Alabama Farmers Federation and Alabama Forestry Association in the primary.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Birmingham’s new Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema is ready for its premiere

The new, permanent home of Birmingham’s Sidewalk Film Festival will open its doors this weekend, just in time for this year’s event.

Chloe Cook, executive director of the Sidewalk Film Festival, said the 11,500 square-foot facility is not complete, but is far enough along to be used as a festival venue this weekend.

“After the festival we will go dark for a week,” Cook said. “Then we will have a soft opening Labor Day weekend before our grand opening September 13-15. We’re very excited.”

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Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema a dream come true from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The cinema, located in the basement of the Pizitz building on 2nd Avenue North, features two 89-seat theaters and an education room for special events. Outside of the festival week, it will function very much like a typical movie theater, operating seven days a week on a year-round basis, screening the latest independent feature films on one of two screens.

“We’re excited to have something slightly larger than a jewel-box movie theater, but not a huge multiplex-type facility where we can carefully curate the programming for our community,” Cook said. “When I took the job in 2009 I did not imagine this would come to fruition. I really think a lot of redevelopment in the north side of downtown Birmingham has happened around our annual festival and it continued happening to the point that we felt like the timing was right to pursue this project and fill that cultural void.”

Cook said the $4.9 million facility would not have happened without the generous support of a variety of contributors.

“We have been so fortunate to receive generous support from our corporate community, including Alabama Power (Foundation)Regions BankBlue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, as well as our foundation community,” Cook said. “We’ve seen support from the Hugh Kaul Foundation, The Stephens Foundation, The Daniel Foundation, but we’ve also seen a lot of individuals who are not people who could start a foundation but they can send in a check for $250 or $25. That’s been really rewarding.”

To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Center and Cinema, visit MakeMovieMagic.com. To learn more about the Sidewalk Film Festival, visit SidewalkFest.com.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

SchoolFest sets the stage for Alabama children

The following is the latest installment of the Alabama Power Foundation’s annual report, highlighting the people and groups spreading good across Alabama with the foundation’s support.

 

Plato said art imitates life. Oscar Wilde said it was the other way around. It’s an argument that continues. However, one art form brings us face to face with the connection between art and life, perhaps better than any other: theater. It’s here people act out stories, hoping their audience forgets for a moment that it’s all make-believe. Were it not for the SchoolFest program of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival (ASF), many Alabama children might never be exposed to the magic of theater.

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Every year, 40,000 students attend SchoolFest in Montgomery. From the professional actors to the costume and set design, the productions are the same as those presented to other ASF audiences. Thanks to grants from the Alabama Power Foundation and others, ticket prices are discounted and many schools attend for free, exposing students from all walks of life to art.

For some, it’s an experience they’ll never forget. For others, like Emily Prim, it’s life-changing. Prim is assistant wardrobe supervisor at ASF. She remembers distinctly when the “theater bug” bit her. “I was in seventh grade at St. James School in Montgomery. We had a field trip to SchoolFest, where we saw ‘James and the Giant Peach.’ I remember it so well, because there was a Ferris wheel on stage that was the peach, and I thought that was so cool. I was sorta thinking about theater, because of shows we had done in school and stuff, but when I came to see ‘James’ here, it made me start thinking that this is something I could do after I graduate,” Prim said.

Prim’s experience is what ASF is all about. Executive Director Todd Schmidt put it this way: “It’s really a bedrock of our mission at ASF, which is to create communities through transformative theatrical experiences. It’s a lot of kids’ first introduction to theater. It’s important to do that, especially in this time of continued cuts in arts funding.”

Shakespeare Festival’s SchoolFest puts the arts at center stage for Alabama students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Just in the past year, students have seen productions of “The Sound of Music,” “Romeo and Juliet,” “Our Town,” “Steel Magnolias” and “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.” The latter featured 24 students from Montgomery Public Schools in the cast. Schmidt chooses shows that are appropriate for audiences of all ages. SchoolFest builds many of these productions around school curricula.

“We put our programming out to schools, and then they select what they think is relevant to what they’re doing and what they want their kids to be exposed to,” Schmidt said.

What started decades ago as productions appropriate for students has continued to expand. In addition to SchoolFest, ASF offers educational programs. There are theater classes for adults and children, and summer theater camps for students. ASF has hosted a series of conversations that are tied – at least in part – to the shows. U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell spoke alongside a cast member from “Four Little Girls: Birmingham 1963.”

“These are not about our productions, but they focus on themes of the productions,” Schmidt said. “There’s one coming up that talks about women dealing with glass ceilings, working in fields normally dominated by men, which ties somewhat into the production of ‘Steel Magnolias’ and a new production, ‘Into the Breeches.’”

Lonny Harrison, director of theater at St. James School in Montgomery, has been bringing students to see productions at ASF for 21 years. “We have some students who, up to the point they’ve hit SchoolFest, have never seen a live production outside of a school play. This definitely helps get them more into the arts.

It seems like kids respond differently to every show, but whether it’s something that’s the most amazing thing to them, or something that makes them think more critically, it at least makes them think about it. When we left ‘Romeo and Juliet’ the other day, kids were saying, ‘Let’s do some Shakespeare!’ I had to tell them, ‘Small steps.’”

Harrison has a long history with SchoolFest. He saw stage productions at ASF when he was in school. His experience echoes that of many Alabamians. Were you to poll the state, you’d likely be amazed at the number of people of all ages who’ve shared the marvel of live performance in a theater at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.

In Alabama, it’s a generational thing. When it comes to the art imitating life vs. life imitating art question, perhaps Shakespeare got it right when, in the second act of “As You Like It,” the character Jaques said, “All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”

The parts being played by the men and women of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival are a rich and vital service to the people of our state. These are the people who transform our children, who show them a new and lively way to understand stories, and life – its comedies and tragedies. These are the “players” who expand the minds of our young people, and show them a world that lives within their own ability to imagine.

For more information on the Alabama Power Foundation and its annual report, visit here.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

18 hours ago

Aderholt’s advice for Alabama’s 2020 U.S. Senate candidates: ‘Make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president’

Although it is still the early going of the 2020 U.S. Senate Republican primary election campaign, U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) has some advice for the handful of candidates seeking the GOP nod.

When asked what he saw as important to him and his constituents in Alabama’s fourth congressional district, he said it was support for President Donald Trump.

In the 2016 presidential election, Trump dominated Aderholt’s district by winning more than 80% of the vote and was the only district in the country to break the 80% threshold.

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“They’ve clearly got to make sure that they make it very clear that they’re supportive of the president,” Aderholt said. “I mean, this president has as much support of any since I have been in office. I have never seen a president that has the support this president has. He has, everywhere I go, people are very optimistic that they are very positive about what he is doing. And they’re optimistic about the future. So I would first of all — they need to let their constituents, future constituents that are voters, know that they’re someone who would stand with the president.”

“As someone who is in another branch of government, we always want to make sure we don’t do just exactly like the executive or the president wants to do regardless of who it is,” he continued. “The Founding Fathers wanted the different branches to be a watchdog on each other. But, as I have seen from this president, the things that he is doing is consistent with what the voters want and what has been good for America. I’m fully supportive of this president. I think they need to communicate they’re supporting the president. I think that is probably the biggest thing right now. Alabama is a very pro-life state, and I think they need to communicate that, which again is consistent with the president’s message.”

Aderholt also suggested the Senate candidates should be supportive of Trump’s efforts to renegotiate NAFTA.

“I am also getting the feedback that the Mexican-Canadian trade agreement that the president is trying to negotiate — to redo NAFTA, people are very supportive of that,” Aderholt added. “But again, the president has been very supportive of these issues. What the president is doing, I’m very supportive of. I don’t see any issue as far as supporting what the president’s issue is.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

19 hours ago

Georgia-based Colonial sues contractor over Alabama spill

Georgia-based Colonial Pipeline Co. has sued an Alabama contractor over a spill that threatened gasoline supplies along the East Coast three years ago.

The pipeline operator contends faulty work by the Birmingham-based Ceco Pipeline Services caused a crack that spilled at least 250,000 gallons of gasoline in rural Shelby County in September 2016.

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The spill shut down a major pipeline for weeks, tightening gasoline supplies along the Eastern Seaboard.

The pipeline carries fuel from Houston to metropolitan New York.

With headquarters near Atlanta in Alpharetta, Colonial Pipeline filed the federal lawsuit Friday seeking an unspecified amount of money.

Ceco Pipeline Services has not filed a response in court, and general manager Luke Hotze declined comment Monday, citing the lawsuit.

Hired to replace coatings that protect the pipeline’s exterior, the contractor failed to adequately replace dirt around the pipeline after maintenance work, the suit said.

The failure left a void beneath the pipe, which bent as it sagged.

The bend caused cracks that led to the breach, according to the suit.

The failure cost Colonial Pipeline lost income, plus money spent on repairs and cleanup, the lawsuit said without specifying an amount.

The lawsuit said Colonial Pipeline transports an average of 100 million gallons (378 million liters) of refined petroleum products daily through a system that includes more than 5,500 miles (8,850 kilometers) of pipeline.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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