Tag Archives: interview

The Baking Bandits plan to open brick and mortar space after winning REV Birmingham’s first ever “Big Pitch”

The Nest Birmingham open houseSaturday evening, November 8, saw The Baking Bandits win REV Birmingham’s “The Big Pitch” —  a first-time business plan competition sponsored by PNC Bank. Ten businesses vied for a $10,000 prize (with an additional $5,000 audience choice award presented by AL.com and given to The Magic City Spool Bus, a mobile sewing studio concept) and received business coaching and mentoring throughout the process.

Kristen Farmer Hall and her fellow bandits, daughters Emma and Eleanor, sat down to discuss everything that’d happened in the past year on October 30 in their new event space, The Nest, in Birmingham’s Avondale commercial district. This interview took place one day after the initial mentor pairing for The Big Pitch, a week before their first public appearance for the competition and as the Bandits were celebrating a year of baking. Emma watched videos on a smart phone while Eleanor read from a book while Kristen talked about the whirlwind that’s been the last twelve months.

“I’m thrilled with the way it’s been received. What started out as baking lessons turned into a one-week pop-up shop, which turned into a spring, summer and fall of sell-out farmers markets,” said Hall. “This week we celebrated our one-year anniversary and we’re thinking about opening a brick-and-mortar, so it’s been an unexpected journey.”

It’s a journey that started as a labor of love. “I started baking with [my daughters] on Sundays. For me, baking has always been about sharing. Baking and sharing and being comfortable in the kitchen has always been therapeutic for me. I recognized that for most people the kitchen is not therapeutic and it’s a stressful place. I wanted to start the girls young, and in the kitchen, and cracking eggs, and making a mess.”

The fruits of their labor led to another dilemma with a simple solution. “When you make cookies, you have cookies all over your house. So we started packaging them up and delivering them to friends and neighbors and became known as the Baking Bandits.” It’s also led to cookies and other baked goods (including galettes and scones) being available at Lucy’s Coffee and Tea as well as two of the city’s newest eateries — Bottle & Bone and Revelator Coffee.

The adventure has now brought them to a space in the Avondale Bricks that’s already received rave reviews as it’s hosted everything from an event during the city’s second annual Design Week to wedding receptions. The space, selected after a sixteen-month process, is one that allows for Hall to think about the possibilities and opportunities. “Interestingly enough, I chose this space in Avondale for the Nest, but it happens to be a brilliant location for a bakery,” she said.  “In the last few months, there’s been such a food renaissance here in Avondale, it really is a perfect addition to the neighborhood. We had nightlife, entertainment, and bars, and we’ve now grown a lunch into dinner crowd, but we still don’t have breakfast and before lunch,” she continued. It’s part of a renaissance taking place throughout the city, and one that Hall credits in part to “the entrepreneurial spirit of Birmingham coming back” and to “a lot of us who have dreams and skills and desires” being given the opportunity to pursue them.

“It still requires hard work… a great business idea, and it requires you solving the problem, but it can be done, and it’s exciting too that Birmingham is really supporting and excited and taken to the renaissance.”

Hall has pursued other artistic endeavors, including (and most notably) Spark Design Studio, a project featuring handmade glass jewelry and housewares that led to an appearance on HGTV back in 2009. She points out that those efforts — and her previous career in fundraising — have prepared her for this latest chapter. “I feel like I’ve really found my niche,” Hall says.  “It’s a combination of chemistry, creativity, marketing and so many other things that I love.”

The culinary creative is also participating in the first class of Co.Starters, a new nine-week offering from Create Birmingham (formerly the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham) in partnership with REV Birmingham and MAKEbhm. “[The program] has been incredible because basically it takes you through that business from an idea to reality and you have to face hard truth and the hard numbers,” said Hall. “It’s also not your traditional business plan experience either. It’s taking you through a lot of the emotional side of things, and that’s helpful.” she continued.

During the conversation, Hall spoke of the hope she had for the space if The Bandits were awarded the prize money.

BakingBanditsFanPagephoto“I definitely love the idea of being a community spot, for people to come and enjoy life, work, and other things.” She continued, “I’ve talked to freelancers and other creatives… stay-at home moms, working moms — it’s a really broad group of people who live in Crestwood, Avondale, Forest Park, Woodlawn — to just kind of become a nest. As I envisioned The Nest, the bakery was never part of the original vision, but it all kind of works together.” It also brings with it a whole new set of questions. “The idea of opening a brick and mortar bakery is an interesting one in terms of ‘Do I want to have a single location that people come and get Baking Bandits?’ or ‘Do I have want to have the full experience here at the Nest and then you’re able to get it elsewhere?’,” said Hall.

All of the recent opportunities have led Hall to take a day by day approach to the future, though it definitely received a boost last night as a result of the win. When asked about how plans for the bakery would proceed if she won, Hall said, “…depending on what happens [with the Big Pitch], I would say 3 to 4 months — probably a shortened timeline just because we’ve already located a space; we already have a space; the space is actually already built out completely for a cafe except for our kitchen in the back. We’ve have elements for it, but we’ve got some work to do back there. We’re sort of poised for a relatively quick turnaround.” After all, they’ve been able to test the market for a year now. It also means she’s been able to realize something few get an opportunity to enjoy: “It’s interesting, the two things that I love, baking and events, can all be in one space.”

TEDx attendees, organizers hope to forge Birmingham’s future

Thursday evening approximately 100 people gathered at the Avon Theater in Birmingham’s Lakeview district to take part in the city’s first ever TEDx event. Those presenting at TEDxRedMountain decided to use the event’s theme “Forge On: Galvanizing Ideas for the Future” to look at the events of April 27 while talking about how the region can and will move forward.

Event organizers Sarah Robinson and Jamie Sandford took some time to talk about the event shortly after it finished. We also had a chance to talk with Patrick Morris of UA Greek Relief.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lGTTcLbOl9A?hd-1&w=640]

The seven original 18-minute presentations made during the evening (including talks by James Spann, Alabama Poverty Project executive director Kristina Scott and Jefferson County EMA‘s Mark Kelly) will soon be available for viewing at the event’s official website. There’s already another TEDx event currently scheduled for September (yes, September, they confirmed they’re moving the date back last night).

Incidentally, the last speaker of the evening, Scott Pierce, is today’s subject for It’s Nice to Have You in Birmingham – head on over and check it out.

It’s Nice… returns with Edwin Marty

Edwin MartyEdwin Marty has dedicated the last ten years to helping metro Birmingham understand why organic food is important to its future.

After seeing Molly Folse’s post in March announcing his resignation from Jones Valley Urban Farm (it happened earlier this month), it made sense to interview him as the next subject of the “It’s Nice to Have You in Birmingham” video series hosted over on Dear Birmingham. We’ve previously featured an interview with Sharrif Simmons, founder of the BAAM Festival.

The idea behind the series is to talk with those that are doing things in Alabama’s Magic City about the project in addition to issues facing the region.

Marty’s departure has been written about in recent months by both Birmingham Weekly and The Birmingham News. Incidentally, if you don’t click through to see the video, you may want to at least learn about where he’s headed next

BAMA Rising benefit concert announced for June 14

BAMA Rising Concert logoRandy Owen and Teddy Gentry of Country Hall of Fame band Alabama were among those present at the BJCC Arena Club to announce BAMA RISING, a benefit concert for Alabama tornado relief taking place at the BJCC Arena on June 14.

Proceeds will benefit the BAMA RISING Fund for statewide tornado recovery being maintained by the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham (CFGB). Randy Owen and CFGB president Kate Nielsen shared the following comments after the conference. You’ll also hear comments from Birmingham mayor William Bell and a personal story from Owen shared during this morning’s announcement.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dC1Dv-zHlwY?hd=1&w=625]

This is the third fund being administered by the CFGB for tornado recovery efforts; the first ones were announced on May 5 just before the identity of the winner of the Prize2TheFuture idea competition was unveiled. The band contacted civic leaders in Birmingham a few days after the April 27 tornadoes offering to help with raising awareness and funds for relief efforts.

Among the acts they’ve reached out to to participate in the fundraising event: Rodney Atkins, Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley, Kellie Pickler & Darius Rucker. Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks have also committed to the event. They plan to announce more acts via the event website as they are confirmed.

Jefferson County… on the BBC

Official seal of Jefferson County, ALThe BBC World Service’s Business Daily decided to take a look at Jefferson County’s sewer debt situation as an example of the issue of potential municipal and county level bankruptcy.

One statement of note during yesterday’s interview with Jefferson County Commission president David Carrington when asked if the county has come close to bankruptcy(at 5:23 in):

I guess, if you look at $3.2 billion – or $4.2 billion with the debt that we can’t afford to pay, I have to be in all sincerity that we are  bankrupt, right now. We can’t pay our bills. We’re just not in bankruptcy. We’re going to have to restructure our debt or we will be in bankruptcy.”

Times are already tight at the County Commission as Carrington’s chief of staff, Pascal Caputo, made his first drive to Montgomery to essentially serve as the county’s lobbyist during the legislative session. ABC 33/40 reported that the daily trips are a result of the $129,000 contract for a county lobbyist being eliminated.

Dan Sartain = NPR Song of the Day

dan sartain. fishplums/FlickrBirmingham’s rockabilly export Dan Sartain has landed the fun distinction of having a track off of his latest album, “Dan Sartain Lives” – “Walk Among the Cobras IV” picked as NPR’s Song of the Day for December 22.

The accompanying piece refers to Sartain as “an old-fashioned kind of cool” channeling  “the raw quality of surf rock.” Sartain did an interview with J.R. Taylor for a story in Black & White earlier this year, talking primarily about how much success he’s enjoying internationally, perhaps also hinting at what he hopes people actually get from the work he’s already put out there.

If you’ve made it this far down the page, you’ve got to head over to NPR and take a listen to the track off of what NME considers one of the most underrated albums of the year.

Photo: dan sartain. fishplums/Flickr

Todd Bates talk about Steve McNair’s legacy

I had the privilege to sit and talk with former University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide captain Todd Bates, a Heflin, AL native who signed as an undrafted free agent with the NFL’s Tennessee Titans in 2005.

Bates was honest about his personal experience with former Titans teammate, quarterback Steve McNair, sharing his thoughts on what McNair’s legacy might be in light of his tragic and untimely death on Saturday in Nashville.

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