When Kim Lee started learning more about the concept of co-working spaces she quickly realized that Birmingham-area entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers needed a place where they could work and collaborate with others without signing a long-term lease. And eventually, Lee realized she should be the person to create such a space.
“My undergrad is in business and I have a master’s in counseling,” Lee says. ” As I studied and researched co-working more, it became clearer to me that my background is actually perfect for this is a business concept.”
And so the Forge was born.
Forge, which celebrated its grand opening on September 5, 2017, is a state-of-the-art co-working space located at The Pizitz in downtown Birmingham.
“For decades, The Pizitz was known as the central hub of downtown that brought people from all walks of life together and since the revitalization was completed earlier this year, the building once again evokes that same power,” Lee says. “There is no better destination for a co-working space in Birmingham than The Pizitz.”
Lee wants the Forge to be much more than a place to work. She hopes Forge also will give members a sense of community that will help them thrive.
“When you are starting a business, home always seems like a great place to start because it is free,” Lee says. “But at some point, every business owner starts to feel the pain of isolation, either on their bottom line, in productivity, in new leads or the lack of creativity that comes with no interaction with other people. Forge is not just a space for people to work. Forge is also a community of like-minded workers who are dedicated to growing their business and who want to surround themselves with people who desire the same. I am very excited to bring this option to Birmingham. I believe that it will boost the ecosystem for small and growing businesses in Birmingham. As our Forge community grows, the resources, support, and relationships for entrepreneurs and small business owners will grow.”
Lee says she’s seen the need for and benefits of collaboration in her own entrepreneurial journey.
“When you work for a company with other coworkers, small collaboration happens all the time: What do you think about this logo? or What are your thoughts about the best way to reach a larger audience? When you are on your own, this does not happen and it can be a real struggle,” Lee says. “I have lived this struggle over the last two years as I have built Forge, working at home, by myself. Last fall I participated in Co.Starters, hosted by Create Birmingham and Rev Birmingham. Our cohort was made up of people starting businesses in industries including from food and beverage, marketing, hotel, beauty. This was the first time I had been able to really discuss and collaborate about Forge with those outside of my family and close friends.”
Lee says her Co.Starters experience was invaluable, largely because of the community it offered.
“Co.Starters helped me to objectively look at my business plan and get the feedback of others,” she says. “We went through every single step of the business plan! It was also really helpful to think through this with other businesses and apply what they are learning and working through in their business to my own.”
Lee continues to collaborate with other local companies and organizations including Happenins in the Ham and Bham Now.
“I am very proud to have been a sponsor for both Sidewalk Film Festival and Women Who Code and look forward to continuing to support Women in Technology,” Lee adds.
Lee moved to Birmingham in college to attend Samford University where she met her husband Murray, who is a Birmingham native. After graduating from Samford, the couple moved to St. Louis to attend Covenant Theological Seminary but then moved back to Birmingham to plant Cahaba Park Church.
“Although I am not from Birmingham, it is definitely home to me!” Lee says. “It is truly an honor to bring a business to Birmingham that I believe can have a great impact on the city and make Birmingham and even better city to live, have a family and grow your business.”
On Monday, September 25 at 5:30 p.m. See Jane Write will host The Art of Collaboration at Forge. During this event, attendees will have the opportunity to network with fellow women writers and bloggers and participate in a brief workshop on collaboration led by yours truly.
This is a free event, but registration is required. Learn more and register at sjwforge.eventbrite.com.