Innovator Highlight: Bruce Lanier, Founder of MAKEbhm

Name: Bruce Lanier

Company: MAKEbhm

About MAKEbhm

Conceived, designed, and developed by ArchitectureWorks Lead Architect Bruce Lanier, MAKEbhm has been embraced as a gathering place for people who believe that good design, original ideas, and collaboration are the foundation of the creative community.  MAKE blurs the boundaries between makerspace, art co-op, and incubator while also challenging notions of the types of work—clean & dirty, noisy & quiet--that can co-exist under the same roof. MAKEbhm provides studio space, production facilities, and class offerings as the primary anchor of an Avondale-based 22,000 sf multi-use development that also houses retail space, professional offices, and an artisanal ice cream shop.   With professional-grade studios for woodworking, metal craft, ceramics, and printmaking, as well as a 3,000 square foot co-working space housing graphic designers, architects, journalists & attorneys, MAKEbhm is a hive of collaboration and creativity. 

Q & A

What has kept you and your company in Birmingham?

We moved here 17 years ago, so Birmingham is our home.  MAKEbhm is a Place, and it is rooted in a desire to support and grow our local capacity to make great things.  It doesn't belong anywhere else.

What do you think makes the Magic City, “magic”?

Beyond the moniker, I don’t think this city is particularly 'magical'.  I believe it is full of real people with real hopes and aspirations, and many of those people have committed themselves to making it a great place to live and work.  It’s a city built on grit, not magic. Birmingham is a city that has demonstrated an ability to reinvent itself based on changing times and circumstances.  That isn't always a pretty process, but it's proof of that grit.  This renaissance that we are seeing downtown and elsewhere in the city is driven by the same will to make this a great city.  But I don't believe in magic, so maybe I'm the wrong person to ask...

What's the most enjoyable project you're working right now?

Wow, there are several.  MAKEbhm is pretty much fully occupied with people working on really interesting things.  So now we are working on developing both introductory and deep dive learning experiences in our education platform.  Our VFA fellow Hanna Mills has grabbed that project and is already making some great strides in taking it to the next level.  So I'm really excited to see where we are in that arena this time next year.

I'm founding partner in Alabama Sawyer, a furniture start up that takes urban trees that come down in storms & development, mills the wood and turns it into beautiful products centered around sustainability and responsibility.  AlaSaw also benefits from an injection of VFA energy now that our Fellow, Maxen Haveles, has joined the team to focus on business development. The work has been well received locally, and we are growing a national audience, as well. So there are great things on the horizon as we start to scale that operation. 

And, lastly, on the facilities-development side of things:  now that we are settled into our Avondale location we are actively working on the next phase of MAKEbhm.  We will be taking many of the things we have learned over the last 3 years of working with our artists, artisans, & small businesses and apply them towards a new separate facility supporting a community of growth-oriented enterprises.  We have incubated some great businesses in our space, and we want to expand our offerings to them and others in Birmingham's product-oriented entrepreneurial ecosystem as these businesses continue to mature.  So imagine a bigger, more robust operation to complement our current operations.  That's what we are putting together.

What advice would you give budding entrepreneurs?

Start small, pay attention, and adapt.  Or, as my professor and mentor, Architect Sambo Mockbee, used to exclaim, "Proceed and be bold."

Headshot - Bruce Lanier.jpg