I Create Birmingham: Krysta Parsons

“Whether it is art, music, new restaurants, or local farmers, people are really starting to show their pride in the city and support the growth. And the way it all intertwines is inspiring.”

Name: Krysta Parsons
Occupation: Owner at Right Hand Chocolate Co.
Creative Industry: Culinary Arts

1. What does Creative Birmingham mean to you?
Creative Birmingham means community, support, and collaboration. In the past several years I have witnessed how there has been a lot of support for Creative Birmingham, and how much more people seem to be connected. Whether it is art, music, new restaurants, or local farmers, people are really starting to show their pride in the city and support the growth. And the way it all intertwines is inspiring.

2. What would like to see happen in Birmingham in the next 5 years?
More progress. The trajectory Birmingham has been on is great, but there needs to be continual support. I think the community is ready for more and willing to show up and support local and creative initiatives. There’s still room for art galleries, new restaurants and chefs, parks, educational programs, local clothing producers, and anything else that can make this place even more awesome. We just have to make sure that all the happy feelings we have towards all this progress is backed by our actions by shopping at these business and putting our money where our mouth is.

3. You just went through CO.STARTERS; can you tell us a little about the business idea that resulted from this?
I have officially started the process and the more plans I make and the more research I do, the more excited I am to launch Right Hand Chocolate Co. I’m pumped to start making hand-crafted, bean-to-bar chocolate! It’s free of the common big 8 allergens, with a focus on health, quality, sustainability, and community impact. It will be locally crafted, and one of the first stone-ground, bean-to-bar chocolates in the area. There is also a commitment to quality super-food combinations and herbal blends that bring an added health punch to this chocolate. I’m hoping to partner with some of my other CO.STARTERS in various ways as well. They all have amazing concepts and you should be on the look out for some awesome businesses popping up in the near future.

4. Your business idea actually changed through the process. How did CO.STARTERS help shape that?
Yes, in the end, after a lot of brainstorming and talking to various small business owners, I made a full circle to an idea that I did not even start CO.STARTERS with. I started with a partner and a totally different idea, but had trouble doing some of the exercises throughout the class because I just wasn’t sure of the vision and what I truly wanted. After meetings with friends, the course facilitators, and other small business owners, I started to think about an older concept I had put on hold from last year. I finally came to the conclusion that I had to go after it because it was true to what I wanted to achieve. I put in some serious work and pretty much re-worked the CO.STARTERS curriculum with this new/old idea.

The course really helped me to think about every step of the process and not just the end goal or the vision. It makes you challenge all of your previous assumptions. It forces you to think about the not-fun parts: money, legal status, taxes, etc. That was helpful because I now understand what it takes and how to proceed. The structure and weekly commitment are huge! Just having a project on your mind each week helps keep it relevant and forces you to stay on a schedule for progress.

The best part of the whole experience was by far the facilitators and the others in the cohort. Brooke Fleming and Mickey Millsap were the course leaders. These two were instrumental and you should be so lucky to chat with either of them. My other CO.STARTERS were a great sounding board and truly supportive. Collaboration and support are key.

5. What advice would you give to future CO.STARTERS participants?
Do it! It’s a great experience. I would say also, that to get the most out of the class, figure some stuff out before hand, like your actual business idea. I had an idea, I had MANY ideas, but wasn’t totally prepared because it is hard to focus in on one particular idea at any given time. The course helped me do this, but it could be helpful to figure out your priorities, maybe at least a few days before starting. However, it will all be challenged and likely change in the end.

6. What’s next for you?
Chocolate. I’m so ready for this. For me though, it will be necessary to make some upfront investments in equipment. I may start super small and purchase some equipment capable of really small batches. Otherwise, I am considering launching a Kickstarter to help fund the purchase of some slightly larger scale equipment. At the moment, I am absorbed with figuring out branding and research. I plan to start visiting companies that have very similar models in the region. I’ll be venturing to Austin TX to attend a conference later this month and should get a chance to talk with like-minded folks and get some feedback. I’ll definitely visit some chocolate shops out there that started small and are doing what I want to do. Oh and sample some chocolate while I’m there.

Photo by Daniel Drinkard.