Birmingham is literally lighting up innovation-- their LED installation Birmingham Lights is taking requests from nonprofits and institutions to change the light colors in historic downtown train stations to bring awareness to causes. Empire State Building wha?

The lights are just one initiative out of REV Birmingham, an economic development organization that stimulates business growth and improves quality of life in Birmingham’s City Center, now aptly named the “Innovation District.” Their business growth programs, like Co.Starters and The Big Pitch, offer funding, mentorship, and education to small businesses like East 59 Vintage & Cafe – a collaborative community space.

Freelancers inspired to build their businesses in this city can certainly find the support they need: the Innovation Depot, a business incubator, is launching the first Birmingham Innovation Week later this month to celebrate the inventors, investors, and entrepreneurs helping to ignite growth.

Of course, coffee is a key ingredient to great ideas, and Birmingham has plenty of great places to get amped about entrepreneurship. The Red Cat’s Pepper Street location is right next-door to the Rotary Trail and Railroad Park- two awesomely transformed public green spaces- for those looking to run to their morning espresso. Revelator, Seeds Coffee Co., O’Henry’s, and Octane are also fan favorites.

“I think what makes the freelancer scene in Birmingham unique is that there is so much change happening. Not just change in the freelance market but change within the city. It seems more people are willing to launch out now and just try” describes SPARK Birmingham leader Jestina Howard, professional freelance makeup artist and founder of Aware Cosmetics & Makeup Services.

With her co-leader T. Marie King, a Program Administrator for educational art outreach programs, Jestina leads Spark out of MAKEbhm, a gathering point for people who share a bond founded on the belief in the integrity of good design, the power of original ideas, and the satisfaction of making the imagined real. It’s the perfect setting for SPARK, where freelancers gather each month to exchange ideas and advice about freelance life and meet their “co-workers.”

August’s event brought together consultants, business mentors, fitness experts, and digital marketers to discuss branding strategies and the value of email to building your network. If you’re in Birmingham, AL during next month’s SPARK week, be sure to drop in to meet the crew!

On September 7, we’ll be discussing “How to protect your IP with basic contract clauses.” RSVP on the Eventbrite. At the very least, you’ll get some great suggestions for how to spend your time in Birmingham!


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