Step into Practice Works and, like most folks who enter the space, you’ll most likely take a deep breath as you feel your whole body begin to relax into the chic, serene vibe. The light, airy space exudes a sense of calm. It’s a place where one can focus and move at her own pace, which is entirely appropriate given that this cutting-edge coworking concept — the first of its kind — is geared toward holistic health and mindful living. The working, event and educational facility provides an environment where a diverse set of wellness practitioners can connect with clients and the greater community through its coworking spaces, one-on-one sessions, a wide array of classes, lunch-and-learns, workshops, special events and more.
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“Ultimately we want to build out the operational structure and technology that supports the shared workspace model for wellness professionals nationwide. This really isn’t being done anywhere in the country,” says Practice Works co-founder Meredith Calhoun. “One-on-one therapists are perpetually challenged by the inflexibility of real estate and isolation in their practice. And for the wellness-seeker, access to information about the therapists — like qualifications and availability — is difficult to navigate.”
Meredith’s co-founding partner, Becca Impello, knows the complex challenges faced by the solo healthcare practitioner and small business owner all too well. She’s been both. As a physical therapist and one of the pioneers of Birmingham’s burgeoning yoga-therapy scene, Becca began looking for a better way. “I decided that I was willing to put out more work and more risk in order to build something bigger, to create something new — a community that I thought would really serve the up-and-coming practitioners that I saw,” says Becca.
In the journey of building out a concept that would house and cultivate a flourishing community of wellness professionals, Becca began looking for a space to fit her vision. She was referred to Meredith, who, at the time, worked in commercial real estate for Corporate Realty. Little did Becca know, Meredith was looking for the next professional chapter in her career. As Becca explained her vision, a light bulb went off for Meredith.
“In hearing about the gaps she saw in the market, relative to the therapist, I couldn’t help but notice the opportunities for improvement as a client of therapists,” says Meredith. “We have such an open, entrepreneurial spirit in our town right now, especially toward women-owned businesses and innovative ideas, and I had just gone through Leadership Birmingham. I was kind of sipping the Kool-Aid, so to speak, about the opportunities that could be bubbling up in Birmingham. And that’s what gave me the guts to say, ‘OK, I know you think I’m your real estate agent and everything, but here are the other parts and pieces — like technology and operations structure — that would enhance and sustain what you want to create.’”
“It really was a very pleasant and fortuitous surprise,” adds Becca. The duo realized their skill sets were complementary and made the partnership official, adding a busy schedule of business development activities to their hunt for the perfect piece of real estate. After a lengthy search, they finally found a fabulous building right on the outskirts of Avondale.
“Our goals were to create common areas for coworking, community and classes, and private spaces for one-on-one sessions or focused workspace, all with a blend of spa-like relaxation and vibrant connectivity,” explains Becca. “Our design team of Hatcher Schuster Interiors and BILT in Alabama did a fantastic job of using existing features — like exposing the concrete floors and ceilings, cutting in six new windows to let light in and choosing furniture, colors and fixtures that create a welcoming and calming atmosphere. Our design team really nailed the look and feel we were going for.”
These days, an inspiring mix of folks utilize the space. Practice Works’ growing roster of wellness professionals includes yoga therapists, massage therapists, physical therapists, Pilates instructors, counselors, executive coaches, life coaches, nutrition counselors, craniosacral therapists, clinical herbalists, aromatherapists, integrative healers, meditation coaches, reiki masters and more. This diversity of practitioners naturally lends itself to exciting new collaborations and new clientele. The wellness-seekers who come into the space also benefit, as they are introduced to new forms of therapy that complement and enrich their personal growth. Solo entrepreneurs who want to benefit from the beautiful environment and its thriving holistic community can also use Practice Works’ coworking spaces.
Naturally, the classes offered are just as diverse and intriguing as the Practice Works community. “We manage an ongoing schedule of weekly and monthly classes and workshops that include all manner of self-care and self-development practices: yoga, meditation, Tai Chi, sound bath, Qi Gong. Our yoga classes are generally more therapeutic and accessible, with a restorative or resilience focus, versus being fitness or exercise-oriented.”
Members can access these classes as part of their package or at reduced rates. Other amenities include WiFi and printing, lockers, sound-masking in common areas, phone rooms, complimentary fresh fruit, Domestique Coffee and organic tea. Healthy food options are also available for purchase from local food partners such as Blueroot, Bitty’s Living Kitchen, Sunrise Baking Company and Harvest Moon Vegan. Practice Works’ practitioners enjoy professional development opportunities, as well as marketing support. Additionally, small and large classrooms and conference rooms, private treatment rooms and event spaces are available for rent. Events at Practice Works are quickly becoming a hot trend with business retreats, entrepreneur workshops, networking events, social gatherings, nonprofit board meetings and continuing education classes, all of which are taking advantage of the versatile facility.
Both Meredith and Becca relish seeing their vision come to life. “I think we’ve learned through this process that people are really ready to embrace a new approach to how they care for themselves. While there is so much good to glean from our competitive culture, sometimes the practices we choose are simply a reinforcement of an unproductive ‘rat race’ mentality,” says Meredith. “Practice Works provides space and classes to create new practices that restore and heal.”
Becca adds, “I love hearing practitioners get really excited about the possibilities that Practice Works opens for their practice. Being here and connecting to this supportive community for solo practitioners gives them a great deal of optimism and creative ideas. And I love when I see a few therapists talking over lunch or taking advantage of each other’s services for their own self-care.” Spoken like a true wellness professional.
Practice Works is located at 3613 6th Ave S, Birmingham, AL 35222. Hours are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday subject to class and events schedule. To learn more, call (205) 506-6100 or visit practice-works.com.