Tiffany Martin started her career in education in New Orleans, teaching as well as managing the operations for a startup charter school. Then came the huge shift in her career that changed it all. She started doing personal training and group fitness classes, and once she clipped into a bike for the first time, she fell in love. Now the founder of Ignite Cycle in Pepper Place, it is only fitting that Tiffany is passionate about forward motion despite uncertainty or fear. She’s also a big fan of compassion, female entrepreneurs and avocados. We are delighted to introduce Tiffany Martin as today’s FACE of Birmingham!
Where did you grow up and, if you are not a Birmingham native, what brought you to Birmingham?
I grew up right outside of Seattle — in Bellevue, Washington. I made my way to Birmingham via Los Angeles, New Orleans and Boston. In August of 2017, I moved here with my husband and two kids, for my husband to start a school called Build UP.
You just launched Ignite Cycle this year in the Pepper Place Entertainment District. What was it like to go out on your own as an entrepreneur?
I’ll be completely honest: This journey has been filled with fear and uncertainty. Going into this, I knew my strengths — I was a good instructor, had professional experience training groups and a background in operations. That is just a small portion of the skills I knew I would need to run a successful business.
That said, Birmingham is so entrepreneur-friendly — it’s a great city to start a business when you have no idea what you’re doing, because there is so much support. There are tons of people and organizations ready to cheer us on! I went through Create Birmingham’s program CO.STARTERS and got a ton of help from REV Birmingham. I have been so surprised and encouraged by the depth and breadth of support available to entrepreneurs here.
Once I’d signed a lease, I hired our manager, Sara, whose skills complement mine beautifully — we make a stellar team. Between the two of us, there were still a ton of gaps in the skill set needed to make this happen, so this journey has been full of learning. I’ve borrowed books, picked people’s brains, boldly asked for help — the process has been humbling in the best way.
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs, especially females, looking to build their own dream business?
Momentum is real. One of my mottos has been “Forward Always.” Another local female business owner recently called it “making the path by walking it.”
Fear can be paralyzing, but you can’t let it stop you. Once you stop, it’s so much harder to get moving again. If all you can do is take one step — complete one little task within the overwhelming project, make one call to ask for help, whatever it is — do it! I have found that when I am moving forward, the people and things around me continue in that direction as well.
What is most challenging about your job?
We officially opened in March of this year, and we are finally at a place where the daily pace of startup life is beginning to slow down. Learning and planning took a backseat to doing for the last few months.
The people. We’ve set out to help our riders have a healthier, more grace-filled mindset. Our riders have shared with us that they no longer workout to punish or drastically change their bodies — they ride with us because they know they’re going to feel stronger and more capable, all while having a great time!
We had a rider say that she’d never felt comfortable in her own skin until she started riding with us regularly. Another rider said that when he used to have a hard day at work he would go out for a drink. Now he comes to Ignite. Tons of riders who said they didn’t want to wear a crop top now buy them every time we get a new design in — not because their bodies look totally different, it’s because they feel different. The change is from the inside out.
What is your favorite thing about Birmingham?
I love how connected it is. Not only does it take an extra 30 minutes to get through the grocery because of all the friends and acquaintances I run into, but it’s also made getting Ignite started so much easier than it would have been in a larger city.
Favorite Birmingham eateries?
It’s well-known within Ignite that I cannot pass up queso and “margs” from Cantina. When I have more than 15 minutes to enjoy a meal, I am obsessed with the 5-grain salad from The Essential for lunch. My favorite evening spot is Automatic — love the food, love the vibe.
Do you have a mentor or role model, and if so, what have they taught you?
My husband works in education in underserved communities, and he often says, “A kid can’t be what a kid can’t see.” I believe the same is true of adults.
In Boston, I instructed at a female-owned boutique cycling studio, and the CEO, Jess Fracalossi, has been a huge inspiration to me. Seeing her boldly step out to fill a need in a market (her studio, The Handle Bar, was one of the first cycling studios in Boston; last I checked, there are now more than 30 in the Metro Boston Area), totally crush the branding, personnel and overall execution — all with little business experience — was what I needed to believe I could do it too.
A piece of advice she gave me before I moved here has become part of my philosophy: “Don’t let fear stop you.”
If you could go back 10 years, what advice would you give yourself?
It won’t always be like this. When you experience challenges, endure them and learn from them — they will pass. When you’re flying high, relish it — this moment will pass too. You’ll feel so much more free when you stop resisting where you are, and when you embrace what is right in front of you.
What might some people be surprised to learn about you?
I loathe the term “fearless leader.” I have felt fear at nearly every turn in this journey. I am not fearless, and I have yet to meet a truly fearless leader. I am courageous. I am strong. I am a badass. I am not fearless, nor do I believe that the absence of fear is a sign of success. I believe it is a sign that you are too damn comfortable.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
As great as Ignite is, and as trite as it may be to say — without a doubt, my greatest accomplishment is within my role as a mom. My kids are kind and generous, and they love to help others. Seeing them show empathy to those around them lights me up more than anything else.
What are your must-have style staples?
My gold hoops and a solid sports bra
Any guilty pleasures?
Nope — I like to enjoy everything guilt-free.
What is your best piece of advice?
Love and kindness can get you a lot further than just about anything else.
Besides faith, family and friends, name three things you can’t live without.
A good sense of humor, dry shampoo and avocados
Thank you, Tiffany! And thank you to Eric & Jamie Gay of Eric & Jamie Photography for these fabulous images of Tiffany!
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