South Huntsville Businesses Receive Facade Improvement Grants

There will soon be a new look to some South Huntsville businesses.

Nearly a dozen small businesses will be able to improve their storefronts, facades and even landscaping thanks to Façade Improvement Grants, the South Huntsville Main Business Association announced.

Business owners applied for the grants, sponsored by Redstone Federal Credit Union. The businesses demonstrated how the improvements to their storefronts would affect the overall appearance, quality, growth and vitality of the South Huntsville district.

The grants provide up to two-to-one in matching funds for 11 projects ranging from $800 to $4,000. The total economic impact is $184,000 in the South Huntsville community.

“The Façade Improvement Grants are contributing to a positive business environment in South Huntsville,” said Bekah Schmidt, executive director for the South Huntsville Main Business Association. “Through the grant, we are encouraging the revitalization of buildings and supporting business improvement. We look forward to seeing these projects completed over the next six months, and greatly appreciate our presenting sponsor, Redstone Federal Credit Union for making this all possible.”

The grant program is part of South Huntsville’s participation in the Main Street Alabama, a statewide effort to build stronger communities through effective downtown and neighborhood commercial district revitalization. South Huntsville was designated a Main Street Alabama community in June 2018.

The following businesses and or shopping centers will be utilizing the matching grant funds to complete façade renovations, building enhancements, or landscape improvements.

  • Angel’s Island Coffee Shop
  • Apollo Animal Hospital
  • Bubby’s Diner
  • Das Stahl Bierhaus
  • Earth Touch Garden Center
  • Eleanor Murphy Library
  • 8200 Memorial Parkway
  • Off the Rack Boutique
  • Main Street South
  • Sabghi’s Jewelers
  • Village Center

For information, call 256-701-2290, email bekah@shba.biz or visit southhuntsvillemain.org/façade.

The Catalyst Receives Grant for Small Business Training Program

As Huntsville and Madison County continue to grow, there’s been an exponential surge in small business development over the past several years.

Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims: “More qualified workers increase the quality of life in our community.” (Photo/Lori Connors)

Here in North Alabama, small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures have been welcomed with open arms.

Economic development is essential for community growth and stability. To that end, the U.S. Small Business Administration recently awarded The Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship a $350,000 Management & Technical Assistance Program grant.

“I’m delighted to come here and participate,” said SBA Deputy District Director L.D. Ralph at the announcement hosted at Drake State Community and Technical College.

“We are excited about this endeavor,” said Drake State President Dr. Patricia Sims. “The overall, overarching goal is to meet the workforce needs and those needs are growing. We are part of the workforce solution.

“More qualified workers increase the quality of life in our community.”

Over the past 21 years, Ralph has enjoyed a strong affiliation with the Catalyst Center, then known as the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama.

“It’s been a long-term, beneficial relationship,” he said.

The program’s assistance encompasses a wide spectrum of services to include one-to-one customized coaching, business training, and networking/matchmaking opportunities. A key goal of the program is to help firms compete for federal, state and local contracts as a prime contractor or subcontractor.

To participate in the free training program, small businesses must be:

  • Owned and managed by economically and/or socially disadvantaged individuals
  • Located in areas of high unemployment or low-income
  • Certified 8(a) participant or HUBZone small business
  • Economically disadvantaged and woman-owned

Resources are provided through SBA’s network of strategic partners, including The Catalyst, Drake State Community and Technical College, Neighborhood Concepts, Regions Bank, Redstone Federal Credit Union, and Live Oak Bank.

Drake State will provide a certificate program in Entrepreneurship. Neighborhood Concepts and Redstone Federal Credit Union are partnered to provide loans through the Business Assistance Microloan Program.

Live Oak Bank will provide support to 7(j) companies relative to mergers and acquisitions and growth through contract mobilization. Regions Bank will provide facilities, coaches and assistance designed to reach low-to-moderate income entrepreneurs within North Alabama.

For information, visit catalystcenter.org

Huntsville Business Journal Sitdown with Success: Bill Roark

Sitdown with Success is a feature of the Huntsville Business Journal spotlighting local entrepreneurs and their path to success and advice for future entrepreneurs.

It’s easy to see why employees on Torch’s campus, that is home to Torch Technologies and Freedom Real Estate and Capital, LLC, are so happy.

We sat down and spoke with Bill Roark, Torch’s co-founder and Freedom Real Estate’s CEO, and it was clear to see that employees are a top priority of the 100 percent employee-owned companies.

Bill Roark on his key to success: Good people. I’ve been able to surround myself with really good people. (Photo/Steve Babin)

And it is because of the employees and management’s vision and direction that Torch Technologies was one of the Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in America, according to Entrepreneur Magazine, and on multiple selections on the Inc. 5000 list recognizing the Fastest Growing Private Companies in the U.S.

How did you get started in the business?

Torch Technologies was founded in 2002 and I stepped down as CEO from Torch at the end of 2018. Torch and Freedom are sister companies and under the umbrella of Starfish Holdings for which I am chairman of the board. Freedom Real Estate was started, mostly in the beginning to be an alternative investment for the profits Torch Technologies was making. It was a way to diversify a little bit and it’s been very successful.

What obstacles did you face/how did you overcome them?

Early challenges were cash flow.  The company grew very quickly and started to hire people.  We had to have cash to pay them.  We initially used my home equity line of credit, but as the company continued to grow, we took on some angel investors.  We were fortunate to get good investors who were supportive of the company and were not invasive into the operations.

How are you able to keep your business relevant?

We are constantly updating and changing things to respond to a changing market.  Every year assess exactly where the company is.  We also look at where we want to be two years from now.  We then develop a detailed plan to make the changes to make that happen.

To what do you attribute your success?

Good people. I’ve been able to surround myself with really good people.

Early on, I reached out to a lot of folks I had worked with in the past that I knew who were good and those people knew others who were good. We generally get people who fit our culture that want to be here; that want to be doing what we are doing. The people and the culture are really what have driven us.

One of the key things is that everyone has a stake in the outcome.

Everybody is an owner. If the company does well, then they do well. There’s motivation for them to have the company do well.

When the employees are the owners, they benefit from the success of the company.

What is important to your company culture?

Being good stewards of the community.

That has been with us since the early days. We try to always give something back to the community and grow that as we grow. Some of the big projects that the company will take on are decided on the executive level, but we have created a community within the company that decides how to spend the company money.

Any employee can volunteer and help with Torch Helps, the employees decide which community charities are selected.

Several years ago, we considered leaving south Huntsville, but the mayor encouraged us to stay and asked us to help revitalize South Huntsville, so we did. We started buying buildings such as the Freedom Center and Office Park south.

We have spent close to $20 million revitalizing old buildings in southeast Huntsville and bringing them back to a premium where people would want to be in them again.

What advice do you have for future entrepreneurs?

Learn as much as you can about the business area you want to go into.

If you want to start a business in engineering, you will need to get a college degree, a few years of experience and get some customer relationships such that you have the influence to be able to bring the contracts to the company that you start and the experience to justify bringing in those contracts.

It’s important to build relationships with companies that can help you and with government personnel that would be willing to provide the funding.

Also, for decades, we had that belief that everyone needs to go to college to be able to do business. I don’t think that’s as true anymore. There are lots of good trades out there and there’s a shortage of people to work those skilled trade jobs.

 

 

 

 

 

Madison Chamber of Commerce Celebrates Best in Business 2019 Awards

MADISON — Tuesday night was sheer gala for members of the Madison business community as the Madison Chamber of Commerce and Good Samaritan Hospice of Madison awarded Best in Business 2019 awards.

More than a dozen businesses were recognized at the annual dinner and awards presentation at the Insanity Complex Entertainment Center.

The evening was capped off with Janine Nesin of Nesin Therapy Services being awarded the Excellence in Leadership & Service Award. Cassie Scott of the Quadrus Corp. was runner-up.

According to Pam Honeycutt, executive director of the Madison Chamber, the awards categories are evolving every year to better reflect the growth and diversity of the Chamber membership.

“We added arts, entertainment and hospitality categories to the awards this year, and we added a new Culinary Student Program sponsorship, presented by Earfinity,” said Honeycutt. “A $500 check was awarded to Madison City Schools Culinary Program instructor Monica Creekmore for their service to the Chamber throughout the year.”

The winners were Signalink for Best Business of the Year; Capital Management Services for Best Start-up Business of the Year; Mozaic Audio Video Integration for Best Small Business of the Year; and Union Chapel Christian Academy for Best Nonprofit of the Year.

Conditioned Air Solutions; Black Patch Distilling Co.; Air Essentials; and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of North Alabama took runner-up in each category respectively.

Daniel Kasambira of Hogan Family YMCA won Community Servant of the Year with Michelle Linville of Big Brothers/Big Sisters of North Alabama the finalist.

Health and Wellness Business of the Year went to Hot Yoga DeLux & Cryotherapy with Madison Health Mart Pharmacy taking second place. The Dessert Fork won the Culinary Business of the Year with Insanity Complex the runner-up.

Compass Physical Therapy took first place as Medical Practice of the Year; Conditioned Air Solutions won for Essential Service Business of the Year; and Signalink won Professional Service Business of the Year. Good Samaritan Hospice of Madison; Turf Tamer; and Two Men and a Truck were finalists in each of those categories.

In the new Arts, Entertainment & Hospitality category, iHeartMedia took the top prize while Insanity Complex was runner-up.

 

For Founder Larry Lowe, Fractal Brewing Blends the Old and the New

Leave it to an electrical engineer to select a math term to name his new business.

Fractal Brewing Project is ready to take your order. (Photo/Eric Schultz)

That’s what Larry Lowe did in branding the Fractal Brewing Project, which opened Sept. 18, in the building that once housed local craft micro-breweries Olde Towne and Straight to Ale but has been empty for the past two years.

Fractal, as defined by Random Word, is “a never-ending pattern in mathematics built from repeated shapes that are reduced each time they repeat.”

Sounds cool, even for those of us who have no idea what it means.

Cool also defines the renovated tavern at 3200 Leeman Ferry Road. The look of the place will be somewhat new to former patrons of the site under its old banners — the tap room has been relocated, Lowe brought in wood for tables and tabletops that was locally sourced, two large barn doors separate the tap room from the event area, for instance.

But, Lowe added, while he expects customers to make new memories, he also hopes the vibe the former tenants provided is the same. Olde Towne in the early 2000s and Straight to Ale some five years later were the first breweries in the city since prohibition ended.

“If there was ever a historic marker for craft beer in Huntsville, Alabama, it should be this building,” Lowe said as workers prepared to place signs on the building the day before the doors opened for business. “I wanted to try to preserve the building, try to preserve the old character of the trail blazers that came before.

“When I was going through the process and told people what I was doing, their eyes would sparkle and they’d say,’ You know, I met my husband there,’ or, ‘I had my baby shower there,’ or ‘I had my brother’s funeral (wake) there.’ There were so many good memories in this building and it was such a community place. That’s what I wanted to do. Give everybody a new experience but preserve the character of the old place.”

Lowe spent 22 years in the defense industry after graduating Grissom (Class of ‘93) and then Auburn (MS in ‘99, Ph.D. ‘01). He served as vice president at Huntsville’s GATR Technologies and was part of the executive team that put inflatable SATCOM antennas on the market.

Cubic Corporation bought GATR in 2016. Lowe said he “hung around for three years during the transition” but wanted to move on to something different. He had served as vice president at GATR under Paul Gierow, the president, and wanted to be in charge of his own business.

Fractal Brewing Project is open ready to serve its customers. (Photo/Eric Schultz)

“I was itching to try to do something else,” he said. “Watching Paul run the company, I was just kind of riding shotgun watching Paul make all the decisions. I had the itch to see if I could run my own business and being the one to call all of the shots.”

Professional brewer and retired Marine Brad “Robo’’ Robinson is on board after stints as brewmaster at four sites, including two in town. Tap room manager is veteran Justin Wenz. Fractal has event space, a catering staging area and is wired for conferences and live music.

Lowe said his staff is capable, allowing him to spend some time with wife Amanda and their three children. That doesn’t mean he won’t been seen at his new “Project.”

“I never found that you could be creative in your cubicle or the board room,” Lowe said. “Those aren’t creating meetings. I found the most creating environments were places like breweries where people gather and dig into the next problems and minds get creative.”

Fourth Annual MOMpreneur Event: Dig it, Water it, Grow Your Business

Running a successful business and being a full-time, 24/7 mom present unique challenges.

To help mom entrepreneurs effectively run their households and live their best life possible, all while operating a business, the Catalyst Center for Business and Entrepreneurship presents the Fourth Annual MOMpreneur Event.

Hosted Friday, Sept. 20, in the new I2C building on the UAH campus, MOMpreneur is designed to help business-minded moms connect and provide the resources to help small businesses grow. This day-long event features a wide assortment of presenters and panelists who will provide valuable insight, experience, and tools to help business owners shine.

Empowerment, encouragement, and education are just a few of the things that mom entrepreneurs will take away from this event. This is the event for you if you are:

  • Looking to gain inspiration and rediscover your “why?”
  • Wanting to refocus your goals and learn how to manage time to achieve those goals
  • Seeking to learn about technologies that will help you work smarter not harder
  • Committed to finding tools to help you manage and grow your business successfully
  • Eager to find time for yourself, to better focus on personal and business needs
  • Hoping to connect with like-minded mom entrepreneurs to share resources and business opportunities

In addition to breakout sessions addressing topics such as Business Relationship Building, Branding and Brand Management, Time tracking and Project Management, Goal Oriented Content Strategy, and Social Media, there will be guest speakers and a “Successful Moms in Business” Panel featuring:

  • Toni Eberhart – Strategic Communications Specialist at Mazda Toyota Manufacturing US and Urban Engine Board Member
  • Amanda Howard – Founder and CEO of Amanda Howard Sotheby’s International Realty
  • Dawn Pumpelly – Editor and Owner of “The Scout Guide – Huntsville”
  • Amber Gray – Owner, Gray Salon
  • Sonia Robinson – Executive Director of BIO Alabama and President of Dash Consulting, LLC

The afternoon will be capped by the “Happiest of Hours,” a networking happy hour where mom entrepreneurs can become better acquainted and discuss the takeaways of the day.

If you’re a mom trying to manage your home life and business venture, don’t miss this. For information and registration: http://catalystcenter.org.

The Catalyst is a 501-C-3 nonprofit and serves as a driver for economic growth and job creation in the Huntsville area.