Posts

The Catalyst Center Going Remote; Providing Updates for Small Businesses

A Statement from The Catalyst

Like all of you, we have been closely monitoring the updates and impacts of the COVID-19 virus. We wanted to let you know that we will be operating remotely in the upcoming weeks in hopes of reducing the spread of this virus. We have been preparing for this over the past week to ensure that our clients will continue to receive prompt services.
Small businesses are a vital part of the U.S. economy. With the recent news and concerns of the coronavirus (COVID-19), The Catalyst is sharing the latest business resources, assistance and guidance. Please read the following important update to The Catalyst operations now in effect.
  • Workshops. Our workshops may be postponed or held online. If you have registered for an event, you will be notified directly on whether the event is being postposed or if there is an online option. For any questions please contact us at info@catalystcenter.org.
  • Coaching Sessions. Coaches are available to participate in remote coaching sessions via phone, email and video. This slow-down may be the perfect opportunity for you to fit in some personal development or business coaching! Please contact us at 256 428-8190 or info@catalystcenter.org or if you would like to schedule a coaching session.
  • SBA Guidance & Assistance for Small Businesses. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has posted information regarding loan programs and guidance for businesses: Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • CDC Guidance & Prevention Protocols for Businesses. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has issued COVID-19 guidance for businesses and is updating them as new developments occur.
Please refer to the following links for the most up-to-date information about COVID-19:
The health of small business owners, their employees and our network of volunteers remain our top priority.
The Catalyst is committed to providing the best services we can during this difficult time. We will keep you updated as resources and guidance become available.
Joanne Randolph
President & CEO

Strong Coffee, Strong Women Series: Sonia Robinson Shares her Journey

“Strong Coffee, Strong Women,” The Catalyst’s widely popular breakfast and networking event, features inspirational stories from successful businesswomen that focus on professional growth and successfully overcoming challenges along the way.

Sonia Robinson: “The most selfless decision you can make is to put yourself first. Try it. It will change you.” (Photo/Steve Babin)

This particular event was no exception as Sonia Robinson, a breast cancer survivor and the executive director at BIO Alabama, spoke to a sold-out, standing-room-only crowd.

Robinson was very candid about sharing her breast cancer survivor journey.

“I do not miss a chance to talk about my boobs,” she said.

In 2017, Robinson was at the peak of her high-intensity career: 36 years old, divorced and raising two boys, then 4 and 8. To Robinson, going for her routine gynecological exam was just that, routine; another self-care box to check off between meetings and an otherwise busy workday.

As the nurse did the manual breast exam, she suggested that Robinson get a baseline mammogram.

Robinson initially declined, thinking to herself, “My career was on fire. I was 36 years old and never had had a baseline mammogram. I don’t have time; I’ll do it when I’m 40. Had I waited until I was 40, my story would have been very very different.”

The nurse practitioner felt a palpable lump in Robinson’s breast and asked her, “Have you ever felt this?”

For Robinson, monthly self-exams were not on her radar, so the answer was “no.”

Even after the nurse practitioner sent her for a diagnostic mammogram, Robinson saw it as another item to check off the to-do list. She assumed that the lump would be benign and she would be back to work without skipping a beat.

When the mammogram was complete, the technician told Robinson the radiologist wanted to speak with her on her way out.

“I thought my radiologist just had really good bedside manner and stopped to chat with all the patients afterwards; she’s good, but not THAT good,” said Robinson.

The radiologist told Robinson, “It looks suspicious. I’ve already spoken with your gynecologist.”

The next step was a surgical biopsy. When her surgeon called Robinson to discuss the results, he said the words she never expected to hear: “Sonia, we have a little cancer.”

As she processed the news and discussed the treatment options, Robinson slowly walked to her bedroom and lay down on the bed.

Sensing the news was bad, her mother lay down beside her as the conversation with the surgeon continued.

The cancer was likely Stage 1. A double mastectomy or a lumpectomy with radiation would be the options given.

Before making a decision, Robinson wanted a better understanding of what she was dealing with. Her surgeon gave her four weeks to research, gathering as much information she could.

A sold-out, standing-room-only crowd hears Sonia Robinson share her incredible journey. (Photo/Steve Rabin)

“What does life look like on the other side of this?” Robinson wanted to know.

Robinson opted for a double mastectomy. During surgery, it was discovered the cancer had spread to one of the lymph nodes, which immediately put her into Stage 2, which became a game-changer.

When the oncologist told Robinson that chemotherapy was to be scheduled, “I told him, “No,” said Robinson.

She advised the audience, “We are to question; we are to ask, to research. Y’all have to fight for your health.”

Robinson still believed that everything would be ok without chemotherapy.

“I felt that maybe I should have Dr. Harriman just ‘clear the margin’ and I do nothing, no chemo,” said Robinson. “As the words left my mouth, I thought how irresponsible that was.

“I had an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old. I wanted to be their mommy for a long time. When you’re given a diagnosis like this, it’s not just you, it’s we.”

After four weeks of research and consulting the medical community and breast cancer survivors, “I was told, ‘Sonia, you’re in a gray area’,” said Robinson. “You have to be happy with the decision that you make. Ultimately, I made the decision to move forward with chemo.”

Once the decision was made, Robinson threw a “Shave Party,” inviting forty of her closest friends and family members. The event included a champagne toast and a bouncy house for the kids.

After her head was shaved, she reveled in the new look.

“Try it, shave your head,” said Robinson. “It changed my life.”

Then, there were reconstruction decisions, such whether to keep one’s nipples or get tattoos. Robinson decided to keep hers. “Nipple tattoos, it’s a real thing, y’all,” said Robinson. “I want y’all to look at these,” as she sent images to friends, male and female, to get honest feedback. “Our boobs are so important to us as women,” said Robinson. “I really needed that feedback. I was 36 years old and single.

“Had I been older, I may not have made the same decision.”

Robinson’s fourth and final round of chemo came just 6 days after her 37th birthday. That came with the expectation that life would return to what it was, pre-cancer.

“Chemo is over, Sonia is well,” said Robinson. “That’s when the real work started.

“In order to be your ultimate self, guess what you have to do? Put yourself first. The most selfless decision you can make is to put yourself first. Try it. It will change you.”

 

 

 

Joanne Randolph Cited as Champion at Annual Entrepreneur Awards

Joanne Randolph has been known to champion entrepreneurs in this area.

Joanne Randolph is honored with Champion Award now named after her. (Photo/Steve Babin)

Now, she can officially be known as the champion after receiving the Entrepreneur Champion of the Year Award at the fifth annual Entrepreneur Awards ceremony and luncheon.

Randolph, the founder and CEO of The Catalyst Center, has been at the forefront of entrepreneurship and small business ownership while leading the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama and The Catalyst Center.

“I have loved working with entrepreneurs over the last 25 or so years,” said Randolph. “Many of you are in this room. I’ve celebrated with you when good things happened and I was saddened when they didn’t.

“We learn so much more from our failures; which is why many very successful entrepreneurs have a failure or two under their belt.”

Randolph planned to retire in 2019 but The Catalyst board appealed to her to stay on, for just one more year.

“Joanne has been with The Catalyst, formerly the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama, when we were just an idea,” said Leigh Christian, project manager for TechRich at the Catalyst. “She has led our organization for 20 years and has coached, counseled, and championed hundreds – maybe thousands – of entrepreneurs through the years. The Catalyst staff and Board of Directors chose this year to honor Joanne as not only the Entrepreneur Champion of the Year for 2020, but of all time.

“In honor of this, we are renaming the award the Joanne Randolph Entrepreneur Champion Award.”

The award was the grand finale to the event at The Stone Center and wrapped up this year’s Innovate Huntsville Week.

Kevin Hoey, Chairman of the Board of the Catalyst, provided opening remarks and Kenny Anderson, the Multicultural Affairs Officer for the City of Huntsville, served as the emcee.

Here are the 2020 winners of the Entrepreneurial Awards:

YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Caleb Wortham, owner of Caleb’s Cookie Cutters.

This award is given to a school-aged entrepreneur who started their entrepreneurial journey at a young age and is working toward their dream.

When Caleb was in the first grade, he became fascinated with design and technology after listening to a TED Talk on 3-D printing. He was so inspired, he asked his parents for a 3-D printer for Christmas, along with saving up his own money to help them purchase the printer. Enrolling in Mindgear Lab and Endeavor Learning Lab, Caleb learned everything he could about 3-D printing technology.

Caleb’s older brother Joshua started Peaceful Pastries when Caleb was 10. Helping out with the bakery, Caleb soon realized that cookie cutters can be costly. Additionally, Joshua often received unique cookie orders that often required special shapes. To meet the needs of his brother’s successful business venture, Caleb collaborated with Joshua to become Peaceful Pastries and Sweets Bakery largest custom cookie cutter supplier.

EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Chanda Davis, founder and owner of Chanda Davis Real Estate and Superior School of Real Estate by Chanda.

The Catalyst Entrepreneurs of the Year. (Photo/Steve Babin)

This award is given to an entrepreneur that’s been in business for less than 3 years and has a proven track record for sustainability with room for growth.

After leaving a successful career as an educator, Davis entered the world of real estate. After 3 years of being a full-time agent and two years of teaching real estate classes, Davis decided to establish her own company. Along with Chanda Davis Real Estate, a flourishing real estate company with over 60 agents, Davis’ Superior School of Real Estate by Chanda boasts one of the highest passing rates in the state.

CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Lady Vowell Smith, owner and founder of The Snail on the Wall bookstore.

This award goes to an entrepreneurial venture that focuses on the retail, arts, entertainment, or culinary industry and has a proven track record for sustainability.

As a book aficionado with a Ph.D. in literature, Smith is no stranger to books. Smith felt there was a lack of small independent bookstores North Alabama —a place where readers and authors could meet and share ideas.

Beginning with a pop-up store at Randolph’s Under the Christmas Tree market in 2017, she has formed a large, loyal customer base by recommending books through social media. Her store has hosted pop-up bookstores at local businesses and has brought bestselling authors to Huntsville for events. Says Smith, “The spirit of entrepreneurship is embracing experiments and new ideas, and when local businesses brainstorm together, it benefits the community as a whole.”

NONPROFIT ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Anne Caldwell, CEO of Greater Huntsville Humane Society.

The Nonprofit Entrepreneur of the year is a new category for 2020. Although different than for-profit ventures, nonprofit leaders still require an entrepreneurial spirit to grow and develop their organizations.

Caldwell’s life and career path changed forever six years ago, when she adopted Randy, a terrified little Chihuahua from Huntsville Animal Services. Caldwell said she was astonished by the problem of overcrowding at the shelters and became involved with several animal welfare organizations before taking on her role as CEO at the Greater Huntsville Humane Society last year.

Through a variety of innovative programming, Caldwell has increased the number of adoptions, lowered length of stays and return rates, in addition to cutting costs and raising donations.

FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Amber Yerkey James, founder and CEO of New Beginnings Family Law.

This award is given to an outstanding female entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region. The winner of this award will be submitted to the Small Business Administration’s Small Business of the Year Award National Award by the Women’s Business Center.

In 2012, almost six years after starting her own law practice James realized that she wanted to do something more than just process divorce and custody cases, she wanted to make a difference in the lives of her clients and in her community.

New Beginnings Family Law works with clients  to plan for life following divorce and other family law situations. The goal is for clients to have the knowledge, skills, and insight to truly have a new beginning.

VETERAN ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Kris McGuire, founder and CEO of Victory Solutions.

This award is given to an outstanding military-veteran entrepreneur in the North Alabama Region.

A packed house at the Stone Center was on hand for the fifth annual Entrepreneur Awards. (Photo/Steve Babin)

As one of the first women assigned to the Air Force Special Weapons Center’s maintenance squadron at Kirtland Air Force Base during the Vietnam War, McGuire understood the importance of supplying the military with effective systems and supplying troops with the right tools. In 2006, with this experience in mind, McGuire started Victory Solutions to help save the lives of soldiers.

McGuire’s success has resulted in having some 130 employees and subcontractors working on projects ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to missile defense to missions to the moon. She attributes this success to a continued focus on supporting fellow veterans, women, and other small businesses.

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Sandra Brazelton, president and CEO of Advanced Innovative Management Solutions

Awarded to an entrepreneur who has been in business for over three years and has a proven track record for sustainability, strategic direction, future growth and community involvement.

Brazelton’s journey has been one of overcoming obstacles, including gender and racial barriers. While working as an engineer, Brazelton started a real estate business. When buying her first two houses, she was steered to low-income areas. This experience fueled her mission to build a business that would educate, empower, and help others while building generational wealth.

Her goal is to leave a legacy in business and in character that would make her children proud. Her daughter, Alex, is also her business partner, helping to create a legacy.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Jerry “JD” White, owner and president of JD Productions, Inc.

Al.com hosted a link on social media for this award. The winner was selected by voters.

After reading books on the topic, coupled with hands-on experience by working the audio/visuals at a variety of events, White finely honed his skills. White said collaboration has been lost in the entertainment industry; he believes that JD Productions will revitalize the entertainment industry, making it a better place to do business.

Coming from a variety of backgrounds and business ventures, there were 68 finalists competing for the nine categories. These entrepreneurs represented 11 communities and 21 ZIP codes in North Alabama. 46 were women, 22 were men.

Combined, they provide jobs for 2,269 employees; in 2019, they accounted for more than $270 million in economic development dollars across North Alabama.

Nominations Open for Fifth Annual Entrepreneur Awards

The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship is accepting nominations for the fifth annual Entrepreneur Awards – a culmination of the 2020 Innovate Huntsville Week events. The Entrepreneur Awards recognize and honor the skill and courage of entrepreneurs to develop a business from an idea.
“The Catalyst is excited to host the fifth annual Entrepreneur Awards as culmination of Innovate Huntsville Week,” said Tracy Junkins, Women’s Business Center Project Coordinator for The Catalyst. “This event honors and recognizes the talented entrepreneurs within the community. The Entrepreneur Awards is where entrepreneurs come together to celebrate one another’s successes in building up the unique community of North Alabama.”
Award categories include: Entrepreneur of the Year, Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, Creative Entrepreneur of the Year, Female Entrepreneur of the Year, Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year,  Youth Entrepreneur of the Year, People’s Choice, and Entrepreneur Champion of the Year.
Nominations close Jan. 21 and may be made at www.innovateHSV.com. The winners will be announced at the Entrepreneur Awards ceremony Feb. 28.
For information, visit www.innovateHSV.com or www.catalystcenter.org.

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.

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.

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

For information, visit catalystcenter.org

Annual BIG Marketing & PR Event Slated for Oct. 29

All local marketing and PR rock stars out there: Looking for new tools to sharpen your craft?

Would you like to discover better ways to effectively promote a business venture while enjoying an opportunity to network with others in your wheelhouse?

The seventh annual BIG Marketing & PR Event is where you want to be Oct. 29.

Presented at the Jackson Center, the event is a day-long experience focused on providing strategy-driven marketing and public relations idea and information.

Debra Alfarone, an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and CEO of Debra Alfarone Media, a Washington, D.C.-based video coaching firm, will present the Lunchtime Keynote.

In her presentation, “How to GTFO Your Own Way So You Can Create Anything!”, Alfarone will address the labels and limitations inferred by others and hackneyed storylines people often place on themselves, challenge participants to take inspired action, and create the positive energy needed to attract the right people and opportunities at the right time and place.

Entrepreneurs, small business owners, marketing and PR professionals, nonprofit organizations, and government contractors can benefit from breakout presentations on content management, digital marketing and advertising, modern media myths, creative visual storytelling, how to use video to build brands, and how human resources and marketing can join forces for recruiting.

A networking after-party at Rocket City Tavern will cap off the day’s events.

The BIG Marketing & PR Event is sponsored by Red Sage Communications and co-hosted by The Catalyst and the North Alabama chapter of the Public Relations Council of Alabama.

To register, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-big-marketing-pr-event-tickets-70543578743#

 

Alana Parker of Rocket City Drywall Wears Many Hats

A wearer of many hats, Rocket City Drywall owner Alana Parker shared her triumphs as well as her challenges to a packed house for a recent Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship series “Strong Coffee, Strong Women” breakfast at the Stovehouse.

“I’m the president, but I’d like to say that I’m also the vice president, secretary, and janitor on demand,” she said.

Alana Parker, owner of Rocket City Drywall. (Steve Babin/Huntsville Business Journal)

Parker is also a recipient of three small business awards – the 2018 Female Entrepreneur of the Year, the 2019 Alabama State Small Business of the Year, and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2019 Small Business Person of the Year.

Rocket City Drywall is one of two Drywall companies in Alabama and the only locally owned and operated supplier in North Alabama. Currently, there are six drywall suppliers in the marketplace in the U.S.

“A lot of people think my competitors are Home Depot and Lowe’s,” said Parker. “They are my customers. The big competitors are much scarier.”

Not only is Parker the youngest owner of a drywall supplier in the United States, she is the only woman in a male-dominated industry. Parker was born in 1985, around the same time her grandfather started  Rocket City Drywall. Originally, the company was on Church Street, where the city’s transportation hub currently sits.

“I learned how to drive a forklift at age 8, this was before OSHA,” laughed Parker.  “We were right on a rail line. I used to climb the stacks of drywall in the train cars.

“Drywall is separated by smaller pieces, called dunnage. My job was to collect the dunnage and throw it off from the train car. As for gender role division of labor, my grandfather never let me know anything different.”

Parker was raised by a single mom in Raleigh, N.C. , but spent her holidays and summers with her grandfather here in Huntsville.

“As soon as school was letting out, my granddad would be there to pick me up for the summer,” said Parker. “My visits to Huntsville slowed down a bit in high school, when I got a car and a boyfriend.”

Parker graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2007 with a degree in English writing, but went to work for her grandfather.

Then, in 2008, the reality of working at a small business in the building industry hit … hard.

“In 2008, Huntsville was the first market to get hit with by the recession, but it was also one of the first to recover,” she said. “Rocket City Drywall took a $600,000 loss in 2010. People say that I was born with a silver spoon, but I was given a silver spoon with a $600,000 price tag on it.”

This setback forced Parker to reach out into the community.

“I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m smart enough to figure it out with help,” said Parker. “The first thing I did was reduce the company from a $6 million company to a $3 million company. This raised a lot of eyebrows.”

Now, she owns the company.

“I bought the company from my grandfather in 2016,” said Parker. “I got an SBA loan. It’s a lot of paperwork, but it provides access to capital when there are limited options.”

Rocket City Drywall had always been a residential construction supplier, but Parker had decided to expand the business to include a commercial division.  Parker spent five years developing the commercial line when tariff restrictions created a volatile market atmosphere, which made supplies often inaccessible.

“I was ready to roll out the commercial product line, but I had to sit back a year and watch and see how people reacted to the tariffs, to see how suppliers were treating customers,” said Parker. “There was no pricing security, how were suppliers going to react? Taking that year to evaluate the market was the best thing I’ve done for the company.”

As the presentation came to a close, Parker added personal bits of insight.

“I am optimistic to a fault,” said Parker. “I’ve never seen a problem that doesn’t have an answer. Stay motivated with faith and family, believe in what you’re doing. Know that sometimes, it’s going to come out of sheer stubbornness.

“The next step is just around the corner.”

breakfast at the Stovehouse.

“I’m the president, but I’d like to say that I’m also the vice president, secretary, and janitor on demand,” she said.

Parker was a speaker for the The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurshipseries “Strong Coffee, Strong Women.” She is also a recipient of three small business awards – the 2018 Female Entrepreneur of the Year, the 2019 Alabama State Small Business of the Year, and the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2019 Small Business Person of the Year.

Rocket City Drywall is one of two Drywall companies in Alabama and the only locally owned and operated supplier in North Alabama. Currently, there are six drywall suppliers in the marketplace in the U.S.

“A lot of people think my competitors are Home Depot and Lowe’s,” says Parker “They are my customers. The big competitors are much scarier.”

Not only is Parker the youngest owner of a drywall supplier in the United States, she is the only woman in a male-dominated industry. Parker was born in 1985, around the same time her grandfather started  Rocket City Drywall. Originally, the company was on Church Street, where the city’s transportation hub currently sits.

“I learned how to drive a forklift at age 8, this was before OSHA,” laughed Parker.  “We were right on a rail line. I used to climb the stacks of drywall in the train cars.

“Drywall is separated by smaller pieces, called dunnage. My job was to collect the dunnage and throw it off from the train car. As for gender role division of labor, my grandfather never let me know anything different.”

Parker was raised by a single mom in Raleigh, N.C. , but spent her holidays and summers with her grandfather here in Huntsville.

“As soon as school was letting out, my granddad would be there to pick me up for the summer,” said Parker. “My visits to Huntsville slowed down a bit in high school, when I got a car and a boyfriend.”

Parker graduated from the University of North Carolina in 2007 with a degree in English writing, but went to work for her grandfather.

Then, in 2008, the reality of working at a small business in the building industry hit … hard.

“In 2008, Huntsville was the first market to get hit with by the recession, but it was also one of the first to recover,” she said. “Rocket City Drywall took a $600,000 loss in 2010. People say that I was born with a silver spoon, but I was given a silver spoon with a $600,000 price tag on it.”

This setback forced Parker to reach out into the community.

“I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m smart enough to figure it out with help,” said Parker. “The first thing I did was reduce the company from a $6 million company to a $3 million company. This raised a lot of eyebrows.”

Now, she owns the company.

“I bought the company from my grandfather in 2016,” said Parker. “I got an SBA loan. It’s a lot of paperwork, but it provides access to capital when there are limited options.”

Rocket City Drywall had always been a residential construction supplier, but Parker had decided to expand the business to include a commercial division.  Parker spent five years developing the commercial line when tariff restrictions created a volatile market atmosphere, which made supplies often inaccessible.

“I was ready to roll out the commercial product line, but I had to sit back a year and watch and see how people reacted to the tariffs, to see how suppliers were treating customers,” said Parker. “There was no pricing security, how were suppliers going to react? Taking that year to evaluate the market was the best thing I’ve done for the company.”

As the presentation came to a close, Parker added personal bits of insight.

“I am optimistic to a fault,” said Parker. “I’ve never seen a problem that doesn’t have an answer. Stay motivated with faith and family, believe in what you’re doing. Know that sometimes, it’s going to come out of sheer stubbornness.

“The next step is just around the corner.”

Entrepreneur Awards Cap Innovate Huntsville Week

Every March, Innovate Huntsville Week is a weeklong, jam-packed event filled with networking, support, collaboration, and the celebration of the entrepreneurial spirit that’s alive and well in the area.

Innovate Huntsville connects entrepreneurs and innovators with local resources to build solid networks and opportunities around Huntsville’s small business economy.

Innovate Huntsville 2019 kicked off with Ignite, the Huntsville-Madison County Chamber-sponsored mixer, providing an opportunity for participants to get acquainted. The week continued with the HudsonAlpha Tech Challenge, Engineer-to-Entrepreneur Tech Roadshow, Small Business Microloan Clinic, Entrepreneur’s Roundtable, the Angels of North Alabama Investment Forum, Urban Engine’s Co-Working Night, a Boost Pitch Competition and R.I.S.E. networking.

Capping off the celebration was the fourth annual Entrepreneur Awards luncheon, presented by the Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship, at the Campus 805 Stone Event Center.

This year’s winners are:

ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Lee Marshall, founder/CEO of Kids to Love. Awarded to the entrepreneur who has been in business for more than three years and has a proven track record for sustainability, strategic direction, future growth and community involvement.

“There’s an incredible pool of talent in Huntsville,” she said. “And I’m honored to be selected among so many great people doing amazing things in our city!”

CREATIVE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Rachel Lackey, owner and founder of Green Pea Press. Awarded to a non-technical entrepreneur whose focus is in
the retail, arts, entertainment, or culinary industry and has a proven track record for sustainability.

“I am excited and honored,” Lackey said. “Winning this award feels like a validation of all the hard work that I’ve put in and all the challenges I’ve faced up to this point.

“I appreciate the Catalyst including the creative sector among their honorees; so often we get overlooked in favor of tech entrepreneurism, but I think it’s important to recognize that creatives are the ones on the ground, so to speak, engaging and changing the culture of our community.”

VETERAN ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – LaBerrick Williams, owner of Jell’s 4 Ever BBQ. Awarded to an outstanding military-veteran entrepreneur in the North Alabama region.

“My ‘why’ stems from my late grandparents, Jell and Ever Scruggs, hence, my restaurant’s name – Jell’s 4 Ever BBQ – to carry on their legacy,” Williams said. “Their selfless service and delicious food brought the community together for years. Our intertwined logo J4E is a symbol of their union of 75 years and stands for family, love, togetherness and happiness. This is our ideology for the world.”

EMERGING ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Dr. Morgan L. Goss, Dove Family Health. Awarded to the entrepreneur who has been in business for one to three years and has a proven track record for sustainability with room for growth.

“I do what I do because there is an insatiable desire to see my own people thrive in health,” Goss said. “I desire for my own people have access to affordable, accessible and compassionate health care experiences.”

FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Edwina Musante, founder/CEO/president, Cortina Solutions. Awarded to an outstanding female entrepreneur in the North
Alabama Region. The winner of this award will be submitted to the Small Business Administration’s Small Business of the Year Award National Award by the Women’s Business Center.

Their mission is to serve God by serving the country, customers, coworkers, and community with excellence and integrity.

YOUTH ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Joshua Wortham, general manager of Peaceful Pastries & Sweets. Awarded to a school-age entrepreneur, in K-12, who has
started their entrepreneurial journey and business at a young age and is working toward their dream.
“I am a 14-year-old chef who enjoys baking people happy,” Wortham said. “As my bakery continues to grow, I’m even more convinced that entrepreneurs should continue to learn new skills, but also stretch their minds and hearts through collaboration and immersion in the community.”

ENTREPRENEUR CHAMPION OF THE YEAR – Joe Newberry, president/CEO of Redstone Federal Credit Union. Awarded to an individual who has a proven track record of championing for the entrepreneurial journey. This can be through volunteering, mentoring, investing, or collaborating.

PEOPLE’S CHOICE ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR – Mel Bowers, Mel B Enterprises. This award was determined by social media and overall community popularity.

“Being an entrepreneur has been a great adventure for me,” Bowers said. “Knowing that I set my own pace, create my own path, and that my future is extraordinary. I won’t make excuses, and never will I shun my hard days, they are what made me who I am.  There are no limits to what I can achieve.”

Strong Field of Small Business Owners Highlight 4th Annual Entrepreneur Awards

North Alabama entrepreneurs generate major business in the region while also creating jobs and opportunities for residents.

To salute their efforts and work, the Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship is hosting the fourth annual Entrepreneur Awards on March 1. The event is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Campus 805, 2620 Clinton Avenue.

The awards luncheon is the grand finale to Innovate Huntsville Week. Voting continues through Friday, Feb. 15. Visit www.innovatehsv.com/entrepreneur-awards.

“This event honors the skill, courage, and determination it takes to create a business from an idea,” said Katie Williams, Women’s Business Center Program Director for The Catalyst. “The awards focus on celebrating the talented entrepreneurs right here in our community and highlight their importance to our region’s economy.”

The top entrepreneurs were chosen by a panel of business leaders and entrepreneurs. There are eight awards to be presented: Entrepreneur of the Year; Emerging – Creative – Female – Veteran – and Youth Entrepreneurs of the Year, along with Entrepreneur Champion of the Year and People’s Choice.

“The Entrepreneur Awards aren’t just for aspiring business owners,” said Michelle Stark, a member of The Catalyst’s Board of Directors. “This event is for the community – those looking to invigorate their entrepreneurial spirit or connect with up-and-comers in our area.”

For tickets and information, visit http://www.innovatehsv.com/entrepreneur-awards/

Rebranded Organization Provides a ‘Catalyst’ to Start a Business

The Catalyst Center for Business & Entrepreneurship serves as a driver for economic growth and job creation in north Alabama by lending its expertise to small business owners at every stage of business development. By providing quality programming, business coaching, and networking opportunities, The Catalyst offers entrepreneurs and startups the tools they need successfully manage their businesses.

Originally founded in 2003 as the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama (WBCNA),  the organization rebranded itself in 2017 as The Catalyst to better represent its services and mission.

“We’ve grown to be more than just a woman’s business center,” said Katie Williams, project manager. “The Catalyst has multiple projects under one umbrella, all with a different focus.”

Those projects include:

WBC: The Women’s Business Center Project serves as a principal source of information and resources; offering in-depth business coaching, entrepreneurial training, small business development and networking opportunities to help women start, expand and successfully manage their businesses.

TechRich: The Technology Regional Innovation Cluster Project provides services to government contractors, innovative, and technology companies. The Catalyst assists in locating, filtering and facilitating business opportunities by encouraging collaboration, innovation, technology transfer, commercialization and contracting opportunities among technology businesses.

HUBZone Accelerator: The HUBZone Accelerator Project serves as a one-stop resource for HUBZone companies to grow, share resources and market their capabilities to prime businesses and government agencies.

HOPE2 for Winston County: The Catalyst’s most recent project initiative. HOPE2 assists with business services in economically disadvantaged communities in west Alabama. Partnered with Valley Innovation Alliance, small business start-ups and entrepreneurs receive much-needed tech assistance and coaching.

BAM:  A business microloan, focuses on giving entrepreneurs and small business start-ups essential financial resources to keep them on track, helping them to take their business to the next level.  This program is a partnership between Redstone Federal Credit Union, Neighborhood Concepts, and The Catalyst. Says Williams, “We’ve seen a big gap between business startups and banks, where there’s a need for financial resources, yet no past performance data available to qualify for business loans.”

The Catalyst offers a variety of business-focused workshops, seminars, and networking events. In partnership with RFCU, they host a series of business seminars in the Atrium on the Wynn Drive campus.

For more information, visit www.catalystcenter.org and www.redfcu.org/seminars