Taylor Peake knows there’s an advantage to being different.
As president of MotionMobs, a mobile first technology company based in Birmingham, she’s seen firsthand how building a diverse team in a male-dominated industry has helped her company grow.
“I encourage minority talent that’s diverse in nature with different backgrounds and thought patterns,” she said. “The most important thing I’ve done is grow my team and build such a strong team. There is a huge advantage in being different.”
And that’s made all the difference. MotionMobs consistently ranks as one of the largest software development companies and web design firms in Birmingham. In addition to extensive community involvement in the local tech industry, Peake was asked to testify last year before the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee on tax reform.
And, most recently, her company was named a finalist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Dream Big Awards in two categories, Women-owned Business Achievement and Community Excellence. MotionMobs will be recognized at the Dream Big Awards Gala, a part of the U.S. Chamber’s 2018 Small Business Summit on October 3 in Washington, D.C. The BBA spoke with Peake about the tech community in Birmingham and being a female entrepreneur.
Birmingham Business Alliance: What is MotionMobs?
Taylor Peake: I started MotionMobs eight years ago, 18 months after the inception of the App Store. In the beginning of the company, I spent a lot of time educating the market and other businesses on how more time would be spent on smart phones. It wasn’t [initially] widely adopted to be successful, so education was important in the early days. We do custom mobile app design, development and consulting. We are always looking for companies looking to grow their business or make it more efficient. The typical client comes to us with a problem in their business and says “this is what we’re trying to fix.” We figure out the best recommendations to put together. In some cases the software is building the entire company, and in some cases we are launching software to grow the business.
Our name comes from motion, or forward thinking, and mobs, groups of people working together. We put the name together, and it stuck. We’ve had the same name our entire eight years.
BBA: What is it like being a female business owner in Birmingham?
TP: Being a young female business owner has definitely had its set of challenges, as it does anywhere. We are a company born in Birmingham and we plan to keep the company here, and I had a strong group of mentors and business executives in the community that treated me and the company as a whole with open arms. If I needed anything, I could let them know. Birmingham does an incredible job with any startup or small business with executives being supportive and making themselves available to help companies grow. I took advantage of friends and mentors and that has been a big part of what has kept us here and what has helped make MotionMobs successful.
BBA: MotionMobs is being recognized for community excellence. How does MotionMobs contribute to community excellence?
TP: MotionMobs is heavily involved in the community. I sit on the board for REV Birmingham, BBVA Compass and I am a change agent for Southern Research and on the board for the Crisis Center. There’s a lot of activity involved in the tech community and in TechBirmingham, so all groups frequently get together and participate in the community. We have a lot of roots in the Birmingham community, and we are constantly looking at things in and out of the tech industry to get involved in. There’s almost too many to list – there’s always something going on.
BBA: What is the business climate like in Birmingham?
TP: The tech industry is really exciting. MotionMobs is eight years old, and in that time the tech startup community has changed so much. I started my company with several close friends who were a part of a group that also started and grew companies, and it has been wonderful. The tech scene in Birmingham has expanded drastically. Alabama Launchpad and EDPA pitch competitions have gotten bigger, and it’s cool to see events and activity grow so much and to see the growing number of startups here. The Economist recently ran a piece about how, for the first time, startups are starting to leave Silicon Valley. It’s cool to be a part of an environment that is growing a lot.
As for the business economy as a whole, everyone is doing really well right now, and that’s exciting. Having an economy where everyone is doing well and working with each other is really important to tech companies.
BBA: What makes you proud to be a Birmingham company?
TP: The first thing that comes to mind is how easy it is to contact and reach out to leaders and executives in the community to seek support and advice, and to just have strong mentors in the community that are really accessible and willing to give their time and energy to anything we’re working on. The accessibility in the community is huge for us. I’m also excited about everything growing in Birmingham – seeing our tech industry grow so quickly. We really want to be a part of that continued growth.
BBA: In 2016, you moved your headquarters to the Tower Building with the intent of it becoming a tech hub. Tell us about that.
TP: Yes, we purchased the building in December 2015. The building, originally built as Drummond Coal Co.'s headquarters, was 19 percent occupied when purchased. Now, the building is 80 percent occupied. We're excited about revitalizing the building and bringing additional companies in. We have one suite of executive offices on the 7th floor that is currently full. We have another executive suite with eight private offices opening October 1, and we're excited to add more tech companies to the building. Suture Health, SecurIT360, APEX Current, Plexamedia and, of course, MotionMobs are all tenants in the building.
BBA: What would you tell a struggling female entrepreneur, especially one in a male-dominated field, as you are?
TP: I have an information systems degree from UAB, and I was always surrounded by all males in my classes. As far as advice goes for a female starting a business in a male-dominated space, I knew what I was getting into, and I have a huge advantage of thinking differently. I encourage minority talent that’s diverse in nature with different backgrounds and thought patterns. The most important thing I’ve done is grow my team and build such a strong team. There is a huge advantage in being different.
You have to be really confident, know your space and keep your head down and focus on growing your business, not focusing on if someone thinks you’re strange for doing it.
MotionMobs is an investor in the Birmingham Business Alliance (BBA), and the BBA helped the company with the application process for the Dream Big Awards.