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CoLab Aims to be Creative Connection

Tom Flanigan

A Tallahassee advertising agency is opening up its workspace to other creative types. The founder says the idea is to have an incubator where everyone from recent graduates to seasoned pros can work together.

Samantha Strickland is the CEO of The Pod Advertising. Her agency is located in the Park Centre Building at the corner of Park Avenue and Marriott Drive. And since the whole building was undergoing a massive facelift anyway, she had an idea for a big chunk of her firm's sixty-five hundred square feet of the ground floor.

"Over the past five years, and we just celebrated our fifth anniversary in January, we have hired so many freelancers and contract workers with specialized skills that it was really important to us to extend our footprint and allow us room for growth, but also to really empower the creative community," she said.

Strickland's concept actually came as the result of a story that aired on NPR's All Things Considered a few years back about a different kind of incubator for entrepreneurs. Strickland says that led to the creation of CoLab at the Pod.

"So we're with the creative community, those graphic designers, those web programmers, photographers, those people who are individual entrepreneurs, or who might have one or two people working for them, but they have clients all over. So yes, we are an incubator for the creatives and the goal is to inspire creativity and collaboration because creatives are inspired by one another."

The CoLab consists of a large open concept office space, along with some more traditional closed offices. An in-house Catalina Cafe will keep complimentary coffee and other goodies flowing. Strickland is also partnering with The Bean Team, headed by Charles Musgrave.

"We provide accounting services to entrepreneurial-type firms including creative people that will be joining us here at the CoLab," he said.

Musgrave added these kinds of services and counsel are especially important to those who can be pretty clueless in those areas, even though brilliant in others.

"That (creative) side of their brain works really well," he smiled, "But they struggle with the accounting side, the back-office side and the business side of running their business. So that's what we're able to help them and educate them and work along side them as they grow their business."

It's expected many using the CoLab will be recent graduates and other younger professionals. And they'll have the opportunity to work with more seasoned folks, such as Rich Smith with the Critical Design Group.

"I've got about 10 years experience in graphic and web and print and those areas," he said. "And I've been in several different markets. I came to Tallahassee from Atlanta."

For Smith, it's a chance to grow his own business while sharing his expertise with others.

"Now I'm looking for people to collaborate with, so I knew right away when this venture popped up on my radar and I got some more information and details on it, I knew that was what was missing for me."

And CoLab founder Samantha Strickland sees an eventual critical mass of talent becoming a community resource.

"The local community; non-profits, associations,businesses, can actually know there's this place that they can contact and get in touch with members who are the creative class of our community."

The CoLab at the Pod was holding Facebook live discussions about the project on Friday, 5/13. The official grand opening for the facility was set for that evening from 5:00 until 8:00.