7 reasons you need to know Rebecca Dobrinski, including FUNights Birmingham

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Rebecca Dobrinski helped bring FUNights to Birmingham.
Co-conspirators Scott Pierce, Jacqui Jones and Rebecca Dobrinski. Photo by Joe deScoise

Birmingham, meet Rebecca Dobrinski. For those of you who know her already, she needs no introduction. She’s making a big difference in Birmingham with Red Thread Consulting, FUNights Birmingham and Community Engagement Lunch & Learn at Forge. 

Plus, she has a drink named after her at Brennan’s Irish Pub, which we think is pretty cool. 

1—Rebecca Dobrinski is one of those people behind (and sometimes in front of) the scenes who’s making a lot happen in the Magic City

Rebecca Dobrinski interviewing Mayor Randall Woodfin.
Rebecca Dobrinski interviewing Mayor Randall Woodfin. Photo supplied

Originally from Chicago, Rebecca Dobrinski moved to Birmingham when she was in middle school. She left in 1996 for a sojourn in Orlando, Florida, and came back in 2003. She had a few things she wanted to do, including finishing her bachelors’ degree at UAB. Since then, she’s been deeply immersed in all things Birmingham.

We sat down recently at Forge to chat about her work and some of her Birmingham faves. 

2—Rebecca Dobrinski works at Forge, which means she has good taste in coworking spaces

Forge is a great coworking space downtown.
Forge is an awesome place to work. Photo from Forge via Facebook

What made you decide to work at Forge?

I had a great part-time job and some small projects on the side. But no work was getting done from my recliner. There was always something to clean or something else to do. 

I wanted to be able to stop and focus. So, I came down one day to check it out, and a year later, I’m still here. 

I love the collaborative atmosphere.  It’s friendly and it’s fun, but we all know we’re here to work. So many random collisions happen. It’s a great experience. 

3—She created Red Thread Consulting to improve relationships between businesses and nonprofits through awesome community engagement

Red Thread Consulting is Rebecca Dobrinski's consulting firm.
From Red Thread Consulting via Facebook

What about the work you do?

I’ve been working for nonprofits for the past 30 years, and I know a lot of the challenges they face. 

But I also understand how nonprofits create opportunities for people in our community to come together.

When our core team reincarnated TEDxBirmingham, we wanted it to be something that not only showcased people in Birmingham but also brought people in Birmingham together to talk about ideas and make connections.

I’ve been doing that on a larger scale with GlobalXplorer, too. We have an online platform that shows people from all over the world how to recognize potential archaeological sites from satellite imagery to create maps that allow archaeologists to better determine where to start looking for cultural heritage sites.

This way, countries can protect their cultural heritage from illegal looting, urban encroachment, and environmental erosion. Our work with local organizations helps provide educational and economic development opportunities at these sites.

Based off of these types of experiences, I wanted to help small and medium sized businesses organize their community engagement and philanthropy while helping nonprofits—and make the relationship between businesses and nonprofits flow better. 

A lot of times when you’re focused on making money, your engagement and philanthropy are important, but not as high a priority as closing a deal or making sure somebody’s paying their invoices. I come to businesses and help them take care of being a  “good corporate citizen.” 

4—When Rebecca thought of the name of her business, she got a sign

Red Thread Consulting helps bridge businesses and nonprofits around community engagement.
From Red Thread Consulting via Facebook

How’d you come up with the name Red Thread Consulting?

About 6-8 years ago, I read a parable called “The Red Thread.” The idea is that everyone’s connected to everyone they’re ever going to meet by invisible red threads, and that’s how people seem to know to come in and out of your life. 

I was so enamored with this, I got it tattooed on my hand. 

Then I started this company. When I went through Create Birmingham’s Co-Starters program, everyone said “that’s a great idea—what’s the name of your company?” 

Last Fall, I was working with the finalists for Rev’s Big Pitch and was attending the seminars they had to go to. There was one about branding and telling your brand story. I looked down at my hand and it occured to me: “Red Thread Consulting.” At the same exact moment, the projector above my head exploded. I couldn’t have gotten a bigger sign. 

This was in October 2018. I incorporated in January 2019. My first pivot has had to do with learning that community engagement doesn’t always mean  your general community. Sometimes it means coordinating volunteers or engaging with customers. Part of the work is defining community, then finding the best ways to engage that community. 

5—Rebecca Dobrinski and two friends started FUNights Birmingham

FUNights Birmingham is a quarterly night to learn about business failures.
Photo from FUNights Birmingham via Facebook

Tell us about FUNights Birmingham

FUNights Birmingham is the local affiliate of global movement. 

It was started in 2012 by a group of friends in Mexico City who were sitting around drinking mezcal and talking about what they’d screwed up in business. Now it’s in 80 countries and 300 cities all over the world. 

We joke that I roped in two of my friends to help out with this: Scott Pierce and Jacqui Jones.

Each speaker gets seven minutes to talk and ten slides, and we’re not in control of our slides. 

Right now it’s quarterly at the Birmingham Improv Theatre. This next one will be Vol. 3.

We’re really excited because nobody talks about failure. Everybody talks about success. We talk about huge companies that get bought, small companies get bought, but you can’t tell me they haven’t all failed once or twice. 

It’s good to learn from all of that. 

6—With Forge, she created the monthly Community Engagement Lunch & Learn series so people could get to know local nonprofits

Community Engagement Lunch and Learn Series is an event Rebecca Dobrinski partnered with Forge to create.
Photo from Forge via Facebook

After 30 years in nonprofits, instead of having one nonprofit I worked with, I wanted to help several. In partnership with Forge, I created Community Engagement Lunch & Learn. Local nonprofits come and talk about what they do and the services they provide to the community. 

  • Where: Forge
  • When: second Wednesday of the month, follow Forge and Red Thread Consulting on Facebook
  • Tickets: free, just sign up so they know how many people are coming
  • Parking: the deck at Forge is free for the first two hours, and the event is one hour
  • Lunch: brown bag (meaning, bring your own)

On deck: 

7—We can’t leave without telling you some of Rebecca Dobrinski’s Birmingham favorites

Favorite tattoo parlor: Sanctum

Sanctum Tattos is Rebecca's favorite tattoo parlor.
Sanctum Tattos and Comics is in Avondale. Photo by Sharron Swain for Bham Now

Favorite coffee shop:  Church Street Coffee and Books

Cal Morris and friends at Church Street Coffee and Books.

Favorite watering hole: Brennan’s Irish Pub

Rebecca's rhubarb sour - a drink named after Rebecca Dobrinski.
Check our Rebecca’s Rhubarb Sour. Photo supplied

Favorite restaurant

This changes all the time. I love discovering undiscovered places. The latest was a place called Tostadas that has a cauliflower tostada which is great for people who are gluten free like me. 

Favorite sports team: the Birmingham Bulls

Birmingham Bulls
Birmingham Bulls – Photo by Pat Byington, Bham Now

I asked Rebecca if she had any parting words for us, and here’s what she said: 

I am just a huge advocate of making sure you engage with your community. Volunteer. Donate. Do both of them responsibility. Ask around to find what you’re looking for, and support these amazing organizations.

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Author: Sharron Mendel Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference