Birmingham businesses Fowler Davis LLC and Weld for Birmingham are coming together to create Break to Educate, a quarterly workshop where local business owners can network and learn from one another.
The first Break to Educate workshop will take place June 16 and will feature six guest panelists, including Barbara Fowler and Jeff Davis, co-owners of Fowler Davis LLC, and Heather Milam Nikolich, co-owner and general manager of Weld for Birmingham. The panel will focus on topics such as marketing, advertising and digital communications.
A Q&A session will follow the panelists’ presentation, allowing the audience to ask specific questions and receive advice from the panelists and other audience members. Davis said it’s an opportunity for “down and dirty talking about how they operate their business.”
The idea for Break to Educate developed from networking. Fowler and Davis teamed up with Nikolich after realizing how essential relationships are to their own small businesses.
Fowler said she was looking for a way to bring together different types of services for her clients. Break to Educate will “bring those companies together to connect them and empower all of our community,” she said.
Fowler, Davis and Nikolich recognize the importance of small business connections and believe Break to Educate will increase those relationships around Birmingham. “We understand the challenge of entrepreneurship. We understand how important it is to maximize your reach to your audience members, and we wanted to share some of our knowledge to many of our prospects and clients,” Nikolich said.
Joe Smith, a panelist and the chief operating officer of Smith Printing Services LLC, plans to share personal experiences with the audience in order “to provide mentorship and to help start-up companies.” He hopes his experience as both a buyer and a broker will allow him to not only showcase what Smith Printing Services LLC can do for a client, but also refer that client to other businesses that can meet their needs.
These needs are changing as technology becomes more ingrained in business practices. Social media platforms and other technologies have altered the way businesses interact with their customers. “You know we really didn’t know how to use Twitter efficiently five years ago, certainly as a business,” Nikolich said.
Another panelist, Alice Gordon, CEO and executive problem solver of Skye Connect Inc., also noted how social media has changed the business landscape. During the upcoming Break to Educate session, Gordon will speak about crisis management. “They [the audience] will gain some real life insight on how to survive and really how to survive in the environment that we’re in. Social media, people’s opinions, everyone now is a journalist with their phone which has totally changed the way businesses and customers engage,” she said.
Fowler also agrees that the business world is changing. “We’re ready to do things differently. And let’s use that innovation and technology and the resources that we have in Birmingham that are vast and varied and be able to bring them together for the good of our community,” she said.
Birmingham has seen an upsurge in local businesses popping up around the city. According to Nikolich, one of the goals of Break to Educate is to remind the community of the importance of local business growth.
Buddy Palmer, a panelist and president and CEO of Create Birmingham, is a huge supporter of “hyperlocal” businesses. “We feel very strongly that with the momentum and energy that’s so palatable in Birmingham right now, that it is to a large degree being led by small business owners and creative industry,” he said. During the workshop, Palmer will talk about the creative industry sector and how Create Birmingham can help “both commercial and nonprofit creative work and early stage entrepreneurs.”
Panelists said that Break to Educate will propel the small business growth in Birmingham as it allows for networking and educational opportunities. “Everything is in timing, I believe, and this is a perfect timing for Break to Educate because of the growth that’s happening in Birmingham,” Smith said.
Future Break to Educate workshops will feature panelists with varying areas of expertise. Fowler said topics could include subjects such as nonprofit management, starting a new business, and handling finances.
Ultimately, Fowler, Davis and Nikolich want workshop attendees to leave having learned something useful. “The main thing for us is, at the end of the day, if anyone who comes to it and they take something back that they feel could really change the course of their business, then I think we’ve been successful,” Davis said.
They hope to see Break to Educate grow each quarter as small, local businesses come together for a couple of hours to discuss the challenges that entrepreneurs face everyday. Fowler encourages anyone thinking about starting a business to attend the workshops.
“We’re just excited that this is an atmosphere that creates an opportunity for our community to learn, network, encourage one another and collaborate together,” she said.
The first Break to Educate workshop will take place Thursday, June 16, from 8:30-11 a.m. at Vulcan Park and Museum. Registration and networking will begin at 8 a.m. The fee is $10 in advance (preregistration) or $15 at the door. Visit the Break to Educate Facebook page (facebook.com/BreaktoEducate) for more information.