Contenders for 2020 Small Business of the Year Announced

More than 160 businesses and individuals are in contention for top honors at the 35th annual Huntsville-Madison County Chamber Small Business of the Year Awards.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Oct. 20 event will be a virtual presentation. It will be from 4-6 p.m. and fees are $25 for individual members and $50 for individual nonmembers.

The categories and contenders are:

Culinary Business of the Year

Emerging Business of the Year

Local “Creative” of the Year

Government Contracting: Professional Services of the Year

Government Contracting: Technology Business of the Year

Medical Practice of the Year

Nonprofit of the Year

Professional Services Business of the Year

Retailer of the Year

Service Business of the Year

Technology Business of the Year

Woman-Owned Business of the Year

Young Professional of the Year

Russell G Brown Executive Leadership Award

With a Heart of Gold, Colin Wayne and Redline Make Products of Steel

TANNER — Decorated Army veteran seriously injured in Afghanistan.

Redline Steel has produced some 5 million products from its 110,000 square-foot facility in SouthPoint Business Park.

Traveling the world as a fitness model.

Entrepreneur and steel manufacturing guru.

Humanitarian and philanthropist in line to receive Huntsville’s “Key to the City”.

A person can accomplish a lot in just 31 years. Ask Huntsville native and social media extraordinaire Colin Wayne.

His company, Redline Steel, is ranked 110th among the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America – and is the fastest-growing company in the state

. In addition, Inc. 5000 recognized Redline Steel as the No. 4 Fastest Growing Manufacturing Company nationally with a recorded growth increase of 3,215 percent from 2019 to 2020.

Quickly becoming one of the largest steel monogram companies in the U.S., Redline Steel is expecting to surpass $100 million in sales by the end of the year.

But, to Wayne, giving to the community is what moves him.

“I am an entrepreneur, but I have always been a humanitarian and philanthropist at heart,” he said.

Wayne’s journey to becoming a steel manufacturing expert has been nothing short of extraordinary.

He was seriously injured in a rocket attack eight years ago in Afghanistan and spent six months in physical therapy and recovery from lumbar fusion surgery on his back.

Transitioning out of the Army in 2013, he traveled the world as a fitness model gracing the cover of more than 50 men’s health magazines and promoting products for Under Armour and Nike.

Moving back to Huntsville in 2015, it was a fortuitous business transaction that led Wayne to steel manufacturing and eventually build Redline Steel into his own company in January 2016.

Colin Wayne makes a presentation to Huntsville Police Capt. Mike Izzo. (Redline Photo)

Since then, Wayne has paid his good fortune back to the local, regional, and national communities that have resulted in his success many times over.

His company donated $50,000 to the Huntsville Police Department and, in 2017, donated $25,000 to the American Red Cross. Redline Steel has also given back to Alabama farmers, veterans groups, schoolteachers, and truckers.

In the meantime, like hundreds of other businesses, Redline Steel has been adversely affected by the pandemic.

But, unlike hundreds of other businesses, he didn’t let it adversely affect his employees. Redline Steel employs more than 85 employees and based on current projections, Wayne expects that to reach over 100 by end of the year.

“When the coronavirus hit this spring, I doubled our workforce, and we did not lay anyone off, even during the worst of it,” Wayne said. “Then, to lessen the negative impact, I paid all our employees’ house payments in April.

“The coronavirus has been challenging because we have struggled like everyone else to find ways to combat it and keep going. It caused a lot of stress on the company’s growth because of the unknowns and we have had more unemployment the past couple months than we have had in over 50 years.

“People aren’t spending like they were before the pandemic, so we had to get creative to find different ways to monetize.”

He said now that almost every state including Alabama has mandatory mask requirements, they began getting a lot of requests for them through their website. They set up a partnership to make and sell face masks but – to him – that wasn’t enough.

“We donated over $4 million in products to provide support for essential healthcare workers and partnered with my friend, actress Megan Fox, to donate $3.2 million to medical support personnel and first responders,” he said.

From its 110,000 square-foot facility in SouthPoint Business Park just off Interstates 65 and 565 in Tanner, Redline Steel manages all manufacturing and fulfillment coming from their online retail store. In its first four years in business, they have moved some 5 million products. Their mostly steel-based products include personalized and monogrammed gifts, home décor, jewelry, children’s items, and accessories.

Colin Wayne takes a selfie with President Trump after a ceremony in Washington.

This year, President Trump invited him to the White House where he awarded Wayne with a signed commendation plaque. They also took a selfie together and Trump bought an American flag from his company’s Patriotic Flag Collection.

More recently, he was nominated for the 2020 Russell G. Brown Executive Leadership Award in Alabama for Small Businesses and will be receiving Huntsville’s Key to the City recognition for his charitable community involvement.

In August, Redline Steel launched three nonprofit campaigns.

“I look for causes whose missions align with my values and beliefs,” Wayne said. “My five-year-old niece was recently diagnosed with cancer and the Olivia Hope Foundation specializes in pediatric cancer.

“She is currently in remission, but she is still on oral chemotherapy and it is very difficult.”

The Olivia Hope Foundation was created in honor of 11-year-old Olivia Hope LoRusso, who lost a 15-month fight with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Redline Steel is offering exclusive home décor pieces with every donation. For information, visit oliviahope.org.

“We are also launching a campaign with Midnight Mission,” he said. “They feed the homeless and, of course, that is important to me because 70 percent of homeless people are war veterans.”

In August, a long list of Hollywood celebrities teamed up with Habitat for Humanity to promote a social media campaign called #Hammertime. Redline Steel became involved by making a special steel hammer to send to every person who donated $25 or more.

“And Habitat for Humanity,” he said. “They are a much larger organization obviously, but they are also a Christian organization that helps people in need to build homes.”

Women Honoring Women Event Going Virtual

In a sign of the times we are in, the 2020 Women Honoring Women event is going virtual. And the event slated for Sept. 17 is reaching back to its past in this format.

“We have an opportunity to introduce a new aspect of the Women Honoring Women event,” said event chair and Women’s Economic Development Council Foundation Board Member Vicki Morris. “We are going to take the event to a virtual format, and we are going to enlist the help of a few former honorees.

“They will be our inaugural doyenne group.”

A doyenne is someone who is knowledgeable or uniquely skilled as a result of long experience in her field of
endeavor. The list of doyennes are former Women Honoring Women honorees. They include Cathay Anderson, Penny Billings, Sybil Cleveland, Joni Green, Sherry Kolodziejczak, Kim Lewis, Shelia Nash-Stevenson, and Alicia Ryan.

The WEDC Foundation has set a goal of $100,000 to support its scholars program, which also provides mentors to aid women in their professional development.

For information, visit wedcfoundation.org or the WEDC Facebook page.

 

Publix to Anchor The Market at Hays Farm

One of the most prominent vacant retail developments in the Huntsville metro area is getting a $23.5 million investment, it was announced Friday.

Publix Super Market will serve as the grocery anchor for the Market at Hays Farm (formerly Haysland Square) development, according to developer Branch Properties.

“This is an exciting development for South Huntsville and a welcome announcement for all those residents who have eagerly hoped for a revival of the Haysland Square property,” said Mayor Tommy Battle. “This is also what happens when the city invests wisely in infrastructure that promotes planned growth and development such as the $60 million spent on the South Parkway ‘Restore Our Roads’ project, the new Grissom High School, and the new Haysland Road Extension and greenway.

“We applaud the Hays family for seeing the promise of South Huntsville and for their investment in its success.”

The Market at Hays Farm boasts more than 150,000 square feet of small shops and junior anchor space available in addition to multiple outparcels to serve the needs of the growing South Huntsville community. 

Branch Properties has developed and owned more than 45 Publix-anchored shopping centers around the Southeast and worked in collaboration with Tailwinds Development, which has built more than 15 Publix-anchored centers over the last 20 years.

“Publix has always been a pleasure to work with, and we value our relationship with them,” said James Genderau of Tailwinds. “John Hays and his family, who have owned the property for over 50 years, were truly the reason we made this deal happen. John is a gentleman and man of his word”

Branch Properties Executive Vice President said, “The city’s development staff of Shane Davis (director of Urban and Economic Development), Kathy Martin (city engineer) and Jim McGuffey (manager Planning Service), were rock solid and always had their doors open for us. This team was led by Mayor Tommy Battle who really had a vision for South Huntsville  … We appreciate what (he) has helped us accomplish here”

Since June 2018, South Huntsville has seen $75 million of private investment. The Hays Farm development will include single-family homes, apartments and townhouses to complement retail businesses and a nine-acre city park.

“The much-anticipated Market at Hays Farm is the first of many great things coming to Hays Farm and the South Parkway,” said South Huntsville Main Business Association Executive Director Bekah Schmidt. “We welcome the new Publix to the South Huntsville community and look forward to small businesses and additional anchors coming to the Market at Hays Farm.”

Demolition will begin immediately with the center scheduled to open in the fall of 2021.

33 Huntsville-Area Businesses on Inc. 5000 List of Fastest-Growing Private Companies

To say that the Huntsville area is a hotbed of successful small businesses is an understatement.

Some 30-plus companies have been named to the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies in America. Visit https://www.inc.com/inc5000/2020

The businesses range from the unsurprising government services and engineering categories to manufacturing, real estate, financial services and food and beverage.

Redline Steel, which is based in Tanner in east Limestone County, was the highest ranked among the local and state companies on the annual list by Inc. magazine.

The manufacturing company comes in at No. 110 with a growth of 3,215 percent over last year.

Started by military veteran Colin Wayne, Redline Steel is the nation’s largest steel monogram company and is the No. 4 ranked manufacturing company on the Inc. 5000 list.

Here is the list of Huntsville-area businesses on the Inc. 5000 with their ranking, percentage of growth over last year, industry and location.

Huntsville area Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Private Companies

110 Redline Steel, 3,215%, Manufacturing, Tanner

981 Aleta Technologies, 470%, Security, Huntsville

1,139 Cintel, 397%, Government Services, Huntsville

1,340 Shearer & Associates, 332%, Engineering, Huntsville

1,423 Crossflow Technologies, 312%, Government Services, Huntsville

1,585 Freedom Real Estate & Capital, 273%, Real Estate, Huntsville

1,890 Linc Research, 223%, Engineering, Huntsville

1,896 Hill Technical Solutions, 222%, Engineering, Huntsville

1,986 R2C, 213%, Government Services, Huntsville

2,136 Matt Curtis Real Estate, 196%, Real Estate, Madison

2,338 EngeniusMicro, 179%, Government Services, Huntsville

2,344 Cortina Solutions, 178%, Government Services, Huntsville

2,347 Simulation Technologies, 177%, Government Services, Huntsville

2,401 Corporate Tax Advisors, 173%, Financial Services, Huntsville

2,417 Integration Innovation (i3), 171%, Government Services, Huntsville

2,426 MartinFederal, 170%, Government Services, Huntsville

2,483 nou Systems, 166%, Government Services, Huntsville

2,580 Summit 7 Systems, 159%, IT System Development, Huntsville

2,766 IronMountain Solutions, 145%, Government Services, Huntsville

3,002 Hometown Lenders, 131%, Financial Services, Huntsville

3,382 Noetic Strategies, 111%, IT Management, Huntsville

3,404 Cornerstone Detention Products, 110%, Construction, Tanner

3,419 3-GIS, 109%, Telecommunications, Decatur

3,464 Trideum Corp., 108%, Government Services, Huntsville

3,536 Sentar, 104%, Government Services, Huntsville

3,898 Bevilacqua Research Corp., 91%, Government Services, Huntsville

4,198 WordSouth, 80%, Advertising and Marketing, Rainsville

4,221 Mission Driven Research, 80%, Government Services, Huntsville

4,313 Torch Technologies, 77%, Government Services, Huntsville

4,397 Monte Sano Research Corp., 74%, Government Services, Huntsville

4,464 nLogic, 72%, Government Services, Huntsville

4,501 CFD Research Corp., 71%, Government Services, Huntsville

4,929 Yellowhammer Brewing, 56%, Food & Beverage, Huntsville

 

 

 

Athens-based Pimentos to Open At Stovehouse’s Gaslight Alley

After 25 years as an accountant, Teresa Brodie had to decide what to do next.

Keeping her current position would mean moving to St. Louis — something she knew she didn’t want. She is an only child and wanted to stay close to her parents in Athens.

That’s when she says God stepped in to choose for her. She would leave her desk job behind and purchase Pimentos gift shop in Athens.

“Making the leap from a corporate job to owning a gift shop seemed natural,” said Brodie. “My parents were entrepreneurs and I grew up with an appreciation for people operating their own businesses. It was personal—meaningful. Pimentos offered me the chance to stay close to my family and make my dream of entrepreneurship a reality.”

Now, six years after purchasing the business, Brodie and her team have decided to open its next location at Stovehouse’s Gaslight Alley shopping district.

“Stovehouse has been my dream location for some time,” Brodie said. “Once I saw advertisements for the property, I began visiting the site every few months to keep an eye on progress. I’ve wanted to be there before the first restaurant even opened.”

Pimentos opened its doors in March 2004 on the square in Athens. The owner, Shannon Bryant, wanted to develop an oasis for people looking to relax and converse while shopping for the perfect gift.

After years of building Pimentos into a well-known Athens landmark, Bryant stepped down to spend more time with her family.

And Brodie saw the opportunity to carry on her vision and purchased the store in 2014.

“I’ve always wanted to own a shop like Pimentos,” Teresa smiled. “We try to offer much more than unique gifts; although, that’s our specialty. When we get a chance to speak to our customers about what they’re looking for, we begin to know them on a more personal level. We know most of our customers’ children, spouses, friends, and big life events because we build those relationships with each visit. Our guests ultimately become our friends. That’s my favorite part of the retail business.”

During its first 10 years, Pimentos also opened a location at Hampton Cove. Stovehouse, however, will be the first expansion in 16 years for the business; the store is expected to open late this fall or early winter.

“Gaslight Alley is going to be an incredible opportunity for us for many reasons,” Brodie said. “We are most looking forward to becoming a part of the on-campus community. For instance, we can show up at the offices on-site and bring candles and small gifts so they can get to know us.

“We can help them find a gift and have it beautifully wrapped for their loved one by the end of the workday.”

The Catalyst Adapts to 21st Century to Meet the Needs of Entrepreneurs

What happens when an entire business model designed to assist entrepreneurs and small business owners on a personal basis is challenged by a large-scale pandemic?

Well, in the case of The Catalyst Center, it gets up, dusts itself off, rolls up its sleeves and shifts gears.

Agility: It’s the entrepreneurial way.

By taking a proactive stance in the midst of change and uncertainty, The Catalyst team walked the talk with its adaptability and flexible approach. Not only did they quickly adjust to the ever-changing landscape, they developed an enhanced business model in the process, allowing them to continue operations – and to expand their reach in the process. 

“One of the biggest challenges has been, is that our funding is from the Small Business Administration,” said Sandy Edwards, director of operations. “And we have to show all the good things that we do. “We’ve got to collect the data: Are we creating jobs? Are we creating new businesses?” 

Thanks to advances in technology, The Catalyst recently rolled out its new eCenter, an online data management portal. This system is designed to streamline back-office efficiencies, such as the registration and follow-up processes for workshops and special events. It also benefits clients by helping them effectively manage their profiles, sign up for programs and connect with a business coach. 

“We wanted to make sure that our clients have the best experience that they can and that we’re doing everything we can to help them from the conceptual idea of a startup to moving on through in every stage of their business life,” said CEO Lisa Davis Mays. “We really want to make sure that our small businesses are having the best possible user experience at The Catalyst, and what does that look like? It looks like streamlining the way we collect data.” 

These past several months have been a “baptism by fire” for the Catalyst’s new executives – each with less than a year under their belts. Leigh Christian, Tech Rich project manager began in Octobe; Operations Manager Sandy Edwards in November;, and Jennifer Stewart, the Women’s Business Center project manager, in March; Davis Mays is the newly minted CEO. 

For Davis Mays, it’s been especially noteworthy. Taking the helm May 1, was already filling the oversized shoes of retiring CEO Joanne Randolph. 

“I have learned there are categories of curve balls,” said Davis Mays. “Regular curve balls, flaming curve balls, and COVID curve balls. Regardless, I am getting great batting practice.

“We’re creating good margin for what’s really important, which is relationship building, and coaching and training. And helping our clients take steps toward surviving, thriving and succeeding.”

Visit catalystcenter.ecenterdirect.com

 

 

Offbeat Coffee Opens at Redstone Gateway

It may look like a couple of cargo containers dropped off at the side of the road near Redstone Gateway.

And, in fact, it is.

But it’s also the new location for Offbeat to Go, a drive-thru and walk-up coffee shop from the owner of Campus 805’s Offbeat Coffee Studio.

Inside the repurposed cargo containers, Offbeat to Go offers cortados, cappucinos and lattes, as well as teas, cereal milk lattes and baked goods.

“We could not have found a better opportunity than Redstone Gateway which is creating a place where people want to work and we want to serve those people,” said owner Kyle Husband. “We’re excited to get our coffee in the hands of people working at the Arsenal, Redstone Gateway and the surrounding areas with speedy drive-thru and walk-up service.”

James Lomax, Redstone Gateway’s director of asset management, said the office complex is excited about the opportunity for Offbeat to Go.

“Offbeat to Go adds an amenity that will serve current and future tenants at Redstone Gateway,” he said. “This homegrown company is just another testament to the economic impact of Redstone Arsenal.”

‘Best Places to Work’ Awarded Virtually

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the cancellation of events and activities, the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber went virtual this year for the annual Best Places To Work Awards,

The event, presented by Synovus, was originally scheduled for April 15 in the Von Braun Center North Hall, but was postponed due to the pandemic.

The results are based on employee surveys. Results are tabulated by Quantum Workplace and were kept confidential prior to the event.

The winners are:

Micro Category (10-24 employees)
GOLD: Phased n Research, Inc.
SILVER: Cortina Solutions, LLC
BRONZE: River Tree Insurance Services, Inc.

Small Category (25-50 employees)
GOLD: KODA Technologies, Inc.
SILVER: Matt Curtis Real Estate, Inc.
BRONZE: Crossflow Technologies, Inc.

Medium Category (51-100 employees)
GOLD: Thompson Gray, Inc.
SILVER: Hill Technical Solutions, Inc.
BRONZE: Brockwell Technologies, Inc.

Large Category (101-250 employees)
GOLD: Avion Solutions
SILVER: IronMountain Solutions
BRONZE: Simulation Technologies, Inc.

X-Large Category (251-plus employees)
GOLD: Intuitive Research and Technology Corporation
SILVER: Modern Technology Solutions, Inc. (MTSI)
BRONZE: PeopleTec, Inc.

Independent Radio Voices Facing Budget Struggles to inform Listeners

If Wes Neighbors is reading the tea leaves correctly, independently owned local radio stations might have a bright future if the coronavirus doesn’t cause much more financial headache.

Neighbors, a financial consultant by trade, owns 97.7 The Zone that carries sports talk and live events such as Auburn football, UAH basketball, and high school games. He said the trend he sees is moving in favor of local content.

“I’m finding that people are ready to go back to the local shows,’’ said Neighbors, who also co-hosts The Drive with Steve Moulton weekdays from 5-7 p.m. “They want to hear their contemporaries on the air. I almost think it’s going in that direction.’’

In addition to 97.7 there are three other locally owned radio stations in Huntsville: Mix 96.9, owned by Penny Nielsen; WEUP-FM 103.1 and 1700-AM, owned by Hundley Batts Sr. and his wife Dr. Virginia Capers; and WTKI 105.3-FM and 1450-AM, owned by Fred Holland.

“It’s been a learning experience,’’ said Neighbors, a stockbroker by trade. “I thought I’d do a show two to three months and here I am.’’

Holland of WTKI is also an on-air personality and is the longest-serving talk show host in North Alabama with his first program airing on the station in 1992.

According to the station’s website, his 6-8 a.m. show “Talk Radio for Real Life’’ is “the evolution of talk radio from merely debating political theory to offering a vehicle for solutions to life challenges.’’

Holland had stints at other stations. He even did sales for two years.

But the urge to get back behind the microphone was too great and he took a show on WVNN. In 2010, he thought owning a station sounded good.

“I kept driving by this place (WTKI) and decided to make an offer,’’ he said. “They took it.’’

With three employees, including himself, and one part-timer, Holland said he’s a jack-of-all-trades at the station. But, he’s still going strong at 68 years old.

“I got the bug when I lived in Ottawa (Ontario),’’ he said. “The voice of the Rough Riders, Ernie Calcutt, he lived down the street. He gave me a tour of the station and I was hooked.’’

Holland said one of the biggest challenges of operating independently is his staffing budget. The station has just three employees, including himself, and one part-timer.

“Anything that needs to be done, like replacing the toilet paper roll, I’m the one who has to do it,’’ he said.

   Batts is the “Old Pro’’ among the local owners. He and his wife, Dr. Virginia Capers, bought WEUP — the state’s first black-owned station — in 1987. The couple has since added two more AM and one FM stations.

WEUP began broadcasting as a 100-watt AM station in 1958 from a trailer on the grounds of Syler Tabernacle Church with a mix of gospel, sermons, news, and rhythm and blues. It now broadcasts 25,000 watts from its building on Jordan Lane.

Batts, who also owns the Hundley Batts and Associates Insurance Agency, was inducted into the Alabama Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2019.

“I’m excited that someone would even put my name in as a candidate because I know the ABA does its research before they even give you a ‘hello,’ ’’ Hundley told the ABA at his induction. “So, I’m just tickled pink.’’

Neighbors said other than his relative lack of experience — he’s owned the station for just one year — budgeting is also a concern as it is for all independent stations. And not just during the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting stay-at-home order that recently was lifted.

“I would think one difficulty is the economics of scale,’’ Neighbors said. “If you’re a major station, there are deals you can make. If you’re with Cumulus you can get Tennessee football through Learfield and Learfield also has Alabama football. They might not have to pay as much for one or the other.’’

Another hurdle independents have to jump is they get very little advertising outside of the city from where they broadcast.

“We get some sales out of Guntersville and some out of Scottsboro and of course we love having those people,’’ Neighbors said from his downtown office not far from WTKI’s studio. “But our majority of sales come from a probably 10-mile radius of where I’m sitting right now.’’

In the midst of the pandemic, his station has lost some sales and has seen an economic downturn that mirrors the market — 35 percent from mid-March until the re-opening. He also said the station was working with advertisers during the current financial crises, his staff brainstormed ideas so they “wouldn’t have to talk about the virus every day,’’ and that some sponsors have “stepped up.’’

While acknowledging it was “hard to make money when there are no sports’’ Neighbors said his staff put in the necessary work to keep things moving forward.

“I wouldn’t say we’ve done well,’’ he said, “but I’m pleasantly surprised.’’