Moving in: Selma native Michael Williams, who runs Blu Designs, organizes his office inside the Arsenal Place Accelerator Monday.  Williams’ business partner is Jessica Ervin Dunagan, who is also a Selma native. (Josh Bergeron | Times-Journal)
Moving in: Selma native Michael Williams, who runs Blu Designs, organizes his office inside the Arsenal Place Accelerator Monday. Williams’ business partner is Jessica Ervin Dunagan, who is also a Selma native. (Josh Bergeron | Times-Journal)

Accelerator’s business picking up

Published 8:23pm Monday, July 21, 2014

Business is good at the Arsenal Place Accelerator. 

The business accelerator opened five months ago with a roster of one — Selma Good owner Robert Armstrong. Now the accelerator is home to three businesses, with the fourth moving in on Aug. 1, said Dane Shaw, Arsenal’s board chairman.

With the fourth, the accelerator will include Armstrong, Blu Designs, Meghan Stewart Photography and Revival Coffee.

“I never had a doubt that it was going to work,” Shaw said. “I didn’t know how slow or fast the process was going to be and the kind of companies that were going to come in.”

Shaw said at the beginning he was concerned about simply getting the accelerator off of the ground, but now he is running into another problem — space.

Currently the accelerator has two open office spaces remaining in its building at the intersection of Alabama Avenue and Church Street. The accelerator will hear a business presentation Thursday, which could result in five of six spots being filled.

Shaw said prospective tenants present plans to a group that includes local business representatives and himself. The accelerator’s goal, Shaw said, is to boost entrepreneur’s ideas into a self-sustaining business within one year and also attract business from outside of the Selma area.

Blu Designs, run by Selma natives Michael Williams and Jessica Ervin Dunagan, moved in shortly after the accelerator opened and are also experiencing rapid growth.

The graphic design company opened one year ago at a different location, but Williams said having an easily accessible office in downtown Selma has proved invaluable. He said the company’s number of jobs has increased, mostly through word of mouth. One of his recent jobs was designing flyers for NFL player and Dallas County native Michael Johnson’s football camp.

“I think being around good people and building connections has helped out our business more than anything,” Williams said.

Blu Designs is located on Church Street, in the rear portion of the accelerator. On Aug. 1, Selma’s very own coffee roasting company — Revival Coffee — will move into a space next to Blu Designs.

Shaw described on Monday what the coffee company’s space might look like. A coffee bean roaster will utilize an old chimney. The opposite side of the room would be used to package the beans, Shaw said.

With so much activity, Shaw said the accelerator would purchase additional building space for tenants, if demand exceeds its current space.

The flurry of activity isn’t isolated to new business openings, as community organizations use the facility for meetings. The University of Alabama is also teaching a business class at the accelerator.

Clay Carmichael, a co-founder of Blackbelt Benefit Group, used the building’s conference room and said the accelerator’s expansion is exciting for Selma.

“I think we are all on the same page when it comes to trying to promote small and local business,” Carmichael said.

Selma-Dallas County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sheryl Smedley also talked about the potential for the accelerator, saying it offered a way for small businesses to grow.

“It affords them the space, economically, to build toward that next step of owning a store front on Highland Avenue or Broad Street,” Smedley said.

 

 

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