Domi Station gives entrepreneurs a place to build their businesses in pandemic

Domi Station administration is led by Executive Director Robert Blacklidge (left), Associate Director Kara Holbert (center) and Community Manager Dacia Williams.
Photo by St. Clair Murraine

By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook Staff Writer

When the graphic design company that Julia Holly worked for closed, she made a decision that put her in a growing class of entrepreneurs.

Not having a job was unnerving, she recalled.

“I didn’t want to go through that again,” said Holly. “I wanted to just do it on my own time.”

Domi Station, a business incubator located at 914 Rail Road Avenue, turned out to be the fit that Holly was looking for to operate JH Creative, a graphic design studio. Since the incubator opened six years ago as the place for entrepreneurs to launch their businesses, Holly has been a client.

More than 40 businesses are anchored inside Domi Station, a handful as co-workers in enclosed spaces and others as hot desks that operate in the open space.

Since last summer, Domi Station has been operating under a new administrative staff. Robert Blacklidge came on as Executive Director, Kara Holbert is the associate director and Dacia Williams is community manager.

Surprisingly, growth has been steady during the pandemic. In part, Blacklidge attributed that to the large number of individuals who didn’t return to their jobs when the coronavirus forced layoffs in 2020.

“We are absolutely seeing a large amount of individuals looking for resources to help start up businesses,” Blacklidge said.

Entrepreneurs can set up at Domi Station for $250 to start using the building. The monthly fee afterwards is $150, then after six months the cost drops to $100 if the business stays that long.

But not everyone who starts a business does so brimming with confidence, said Williams. Even with the many resources that are available, they are tentative.

 “A lot of people have trouble committing to the program,” she said, “but we try to help.”

Some of the resources come through partnerships with Florida A&M and Florida State. Domi Station also partners with the Big Bend Minority, Capital City Chambers of Commerce and Leon County government through its Office of Economic Vitality. 

Additionally, last fall Domi Station announced it received funding from the US Small Business Association’s Growth Accelerator Fund Competition program.

The grant will be used to increase the number of scholarships available to enroll women entrepreneurs focused on clean energy and technology into our incubation programs, according to a release announcing the funding.

Domi Station also started a partnership with Veterans Florida primarily to reach veteran entrepreneurs in the local community. As part of the agreement, Domi Station plans to  set up workshops and networking opportunities to encourage veterans who want to own a start-up business.

“Domi Station has established itself as a top resource for entrepreneurs in the Big Bend area,” said Joe Marino, Executive Director of  Veterans Florida. “This partnership provides more veterans the tools to launch and grow their businesses alongside other entrepreneurs.” 

According to Domi Station, 181 startups and 223 entrepreneurs have operated out of the incubator since its inception. The businesses have attracted $18.3 million in investment, created 942 jobs that generated $39.4 million in wages for an economic impact of $109.5 million. 

With the SBA grant and the Veterans Florida partnership, Domi Station hopes to increase participation in its entrepreneur program. They’re even thinking longevity, said Holbert.

“They can stay in the program for a long as they want and we will make sure that we cater the information for where they are at that moment,” said Holbert. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all necessarily because we can definitely cater to different levels of success.”