“You need to make hay when it rains.”

I first heard this axiom — in that instance, in connection to a business in high-end consumer goods — in my early days as a lawyer. Simply put, the goal is to make your money during the good times, knowing that the rain necessary to make the crops grow will not last forever. The year was 2005 and the residential boom was in full bloom. But all good businesspersons, like all good farmers, know that good weather or good externalities do not last forever, and there was a recognized sense that the boom would, at some point, bust. And, of course, it did. The real estate bubble popped, dragging the company’s revenue down significantly. The cycle had ended.

Start-ups, however, tend not to be subject to the same cycles. Start-ups are often founded in downturns, knowingly entering that market with the intent to position themselves on the upturn. Start-ups seize on market opportunity, an inherently offensive position: the defensiveness required in a downturn is an afterthought. You simply cannot simultaneously start a business and be defensive; the efforts are incongruous. Start-ups are fused with the eternal hope that they are building something bright for the future.

That kind of optimism, of course, bounds freely today. The pandemic accelerated certain trends in innovation, and entrepreneurs are now rushing to capture those trends. Though many larger businesses faced ruin in 2020, the importance of small and medium-size businesses is now abundantly clear.

There has, fortunately, been a good deal of great news for Birmingham businesses in 2021 so far:

This is a good time for start-ups and an exciting time for Birmingham. Yet when you talk to people who have worked in this ecosystem for a while, you get a sense of caution. The question on everyone’s mind is how long will it last? Future prediction is, of course, impossible. However, it is becoming clear that long-term trends, specifically the shift to an innovative economy, will continue, and that shift will create a focus on start-ups and the entrepreneurial economy. Nonetheless, the foreboding notion that these good times will not last remains.

So First Avenue is cautiously putting our foot on the gas. Our job is to empower the entrepreneurial economy. Indeed, we have adopted this – “empowering the entrepreneurial economy” — as our new motto. To do so, we continue to find new ways to serve our entrepreneurs. We work in an ecosystem that is incredibly generous with its time and resources, and now, with a communal focus on the entrepreneurial ecosystem, entrepreneurs have an abundance of resources. 

We have found ourselves in a position to help entrepreneurs capitalize on these resources, navigate through the myriad of programs, and recognize the good and the bad. In an ecosystem built on a “give first” mantra (a mantra which we too embrace), we have also found that professionalizing services is a necessity. Free stuff is good, but nothing is completely free. As a for-profit organization built with a mission to accelerate private goods, we help by being a professional service provider dedicated to bolstering Birmingham’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.

First, you hopefully saw our StoryBrand announcement. Originally developed by Donald Miller, the StoryBrand seven-part framework invites your customer into a story to clarify and amplify your message. Whether you’re starting from scratch or reviewing existing materials, First Avenue can show you how to make the most of your communications to grow your business and increase sales. With a StoryBrand Certified Guide, you’ll design your website to reflect the key elements of the StoryBrand framework, craft a one-liner and explanatory paragraph, develop content offers to generate leads, and write and implement a sales funnel to grow your company.

Second, we continue to develop The Structured Start-Up. The Structured Start-Up is an online learning platform designed to help you position your start-up for success by focusing on what matters the most. First Avenue knows how busy entrepreneurs are. That’s why we designed The Structured Start-Up to help entrepreneurs focus on the principles and practices most essential for the success of your start-up. We’ve learned a lot from over twenty years of working with entrepreneurs, and we distilled this knowledge into a platform based on strategies proven to succeed across industries. The Structured Start-Up will help ensure your business’ success by demonstrating competency in key areas and aspects of business, from marketing to HR to KPIs.

Finally, First Avenue Ventures Life Science Fund I¹ will soon announce an initial close.  While we don’t want to steal their thunder, we are proud to be part of Birmingham’s only active early-stage life science fund. From the First Avenue perspective, the formation of a fund represents a significant achievement that further enables us to work with entrepreneurs.  What we have found in our work is that while successful entrepreneurs will always find a way to greatness, capital is a key ingredient in achieving that greatness. First Avenue is excited about this development.      

[1] First Avenue Ventures, LLC (“FAV”) is a consulting company, does not provide financial advisory work, and is not a registered investment advisory. Navigate Private Fund Partner LLC (“NPFP”) is registered investment advisor affiliated with the Securities and Exchange Commission and provides financial advice on a limited basis, including financial advisory work for and on behalf of First Avenue Ventures Life Science Fund I. NPFP is affiliated with the principal of FAV.