A small-business ceremony recognizing general excellence and a recent startup weekend event foreshadow a beehive of similar activity, for the month of April and beyond, with an intensity Mobile has perhaps never seen before. Sources say this is the result of a focused citywide effort initiated in earnest around 2014 to raise the bar on local entrepreneurship.

Last week, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce recognized 3 Echoes Productions as its 2017 Small Business of the Year. The company and two other finalists — Altaworx Technologies and Waite’s Cleaners — were honored at a reception held at the Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel in downtown Mobile.

3 Echoes Productions manages every aspect of the video production process, offering clients a one-stop shop for these needs. Since its founding in 1997, the company has grown into a full-service local firm with a team of 20 employees.

Last year the firm renovated its facility, adding an edit suite and offices and converted a former warehouse space to an indoor studio. Investments also included new cameras, lighting and other production equipment.

Its financial growth has been fueled by work for a number of new clients, from local businesses to national brands such as Broan, NuTone, Carrier, Generac, Titebond and Yellawood. Additionally, weekly syndicated home improvement television program “Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford” is a client.

Andy Newton of Southern Light was also honored by the chamber as Outstanding Entrepreneur for 2017. Newton co-founded Southern Light in 1998, a fiber-optic based telecommunications company serving government agencies, businesses and wireless carriers. The company designs, constructs and operates roughly 6,100 miles of fiber optic networks in the Southeast.

Last weekend also saw the successful completion of 2017’s Startup Weekend in Mobile, a semi-annual three day challenge for budding entrepreneurs interested creating startups. It was held at The Steeple, 251 St. Francis St. in downtown Mobile.

The event was billed as part business pitch competition, part educational experience and facilitated by Techstars and Google for Entrepreneurs. Ten participants attended group sessions and worked feverishly with coaches in a team environment to create new businesses from scratch over the course of the weekend.

Sunday evening culminated in a pitch competition for contestants in front of a live audience weighing in as well as a select group of judges evaluating proposals. When the dust settled, grand prize winner was Looga, second place was awarded to PiqPiq and third place went to Scrubs for Change.

Looga was designed by a creative group from The Alabama School of Math and Sciences. It is a foreign-language app designed for children ages 2 to 7. The prize package for the team included free co-working space at The Exchange, free logo design, free legal support and an $895 ticket to Inc. Magazine’s GrowCo conference.

Some of the other upcoming entrepreneur events taking place this spring include: Minority Business Accelerator, April 4 to June 6; New Venture Competition, USA Melton Center, April 7; Rural Sourcing Inc. Hackathon, April 7; Alabama Launch Pad, April 27; Emerging Leaders, April to November; and 1702 Mentoring Workshop, TBA.

Commercial real estate moves
Low Brim Brewing held another “Brew and Stew” equity crowdfunding session for potential investors recently. The 10,000-square-foot space located at 116 W. Laurel Ave. is adjacent to the Foley Area Chamber of Commerce and near the epicenter of town square.

According to co-owners Jacob Waters and Patrick Burke, both from the area, six types of home-brewed beer will be offered for patrons. Distribution relationships with local restaurants are currently in place and expanding. To date, the area has welcomed Foley’s first microbrewery with open arms, per Burke, a former Anheuser-Busch certified sales rep and team leader in charge of developing the local area network.
The space will also offer a private tasting room for new product rollouts upon opening in November. Some $650,000 will be invested into the site for renovations, $500,000 of which is anticipated to be raised via equity crowdfunding.

In total, outside investors will control 49 percent of the new company with no single shareholder owning more than $5,000 worth of stock. The capital hopefully will be enough to transform a former deer urine collection and storage facility for outdoor sportsmen into a high-end microbrewery for locals and tourists.

“With a 17.4 percent return on investment, voting rights, sales growth between 25 to 30 percent annually and an estimated profit margin of 74 percent, this can be a good opportunity for people to invest back into the community,” Water said.

ASF Intermodal LLC has leased 6,890 square feet of space at 2010 W. I-65 Service Road South, inside the White-Spunner Construction Building. Allen Garstecki with JLL worked for the landlord. Steven McMahon with Inge & Associates represented the tenant.

 Marl Cummings with Cummings and Associates recently leased 1,200 square feet of retail space to Gulf Coast Vapes, located at 98 Oaks Shopping Center on Moffett Road in Semmes. He also reported leasing 1,200 square feet of retail to Fun Co. Gifts, located at 5646 Old Pascagoula Road in Tillman’s Corner. 
New entertainment district in Fairhope
According to a news release, the city of Fairhope is considering creating a second entertainment district sometime this year.

The city’s Industrial Development Board is finalizing a proposal for a second industrially zoned property to be located on and south of Nichols Avenue to complement downtown Fairhope. The area would be an incubator for start-up and micro-businesses, according to board chairman Bob Gentle.

Artists, food and beverage vendors and sustainable agriculture such as weekly farmers markets were some of the businesses proposed at the City Council meeting to populate the new district. Fairhope’s Downtown Merchants Association has already approved of the expansion plans, per a news release.

As a first step the city would be asked to install sidewalks and street lighting in the area. Improvements to the Greeno Road crosswalk and suitable signage would also be needed.

The Fairhope Roasting Co. coffee shop and bakery, already on Nichols Avenue, and the Fairhope Brewery across from Greeno Road would be included in the new district.