The New York Times shared a tale this week of coworking gone wrong. But a growing network of coworking spaces in Detroit shows that, with the right attitude and a bit of luck, the coworking experience is still overwhelmingly positive for creatives, entrepreneurs, and innovative small businesses.
The concept of co-working is still new to eastern Michigan. On any given day at Bamboo Detroit, around twenty or more people will work inside of our shared creative workspace, but the city has historically struggled to shift from a manufacturing-based economy to a creative economy, and co-working has only recently started to gain popularity.
Today there are about a dozen co-working spaces in Detroit, many enlivening historic buildings that previously sat empty. About a year ago, our team cleaned up a 3,600 square foot space downtown, added warm colors and new furniture, and built a brand around strength and growth by naming the space after the fastest and strongest growing plant: bamboo. Fast business growth in a bankrupt city was something we thought our community needed most, and we’ve grown rapidly.
One year in, we’ve been able to foster a collaborative community that includes over fifty members, many of whom are independent creatives, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. We’ve also built a city-wide network that encourages cross-pollination among all of the coworking spaces inDetroit.
Here’s how we’ve done it:
We host a monthly business health check-up to nip problems in the bud.
We like to say that we aren’t just co-workers; we’re a family. Everyone is encouraged to share their work and voice their struggles. The monthly business health check-up is an open discussion where members can address challenges and share insights.
We empower members to host workshops where they can share their ideas and skills.
In a shared workspace you often have a diverse community of backgrounds and skills. We often have members teach small workshops on all types of skills and topics. This can really foster creativity and help other businesses inside your space grow.
“I joined a co-working space because of the energy,” said Bamboo member and Founder of Endless Crowds, Roger Mensah. “It seemed better than working alone at home — it pushes me to do better when I see peers working hard. One of the biggest benefits has been utilizing the expertise of other in the space. The truth is you really learn every day.”
We show a lot of positive support.
We believe in celebrating little victories, especially at our happy hour events. One Bamboo member, Brian Hudson, the founder of Templar Games, said that this has been a key benefit of working at Bamboo: “I feel motivated by just being around others at the space who are enthusiastic about their passions.”
We seek to make connections throughout the wider Detroit community.
It’s not just about fostering collaboration inside of your space. We’re always asking our members what they need, and introducing them to those inside and outside of our workspace. Tim Yow, a coworker and independent SEO marketer, said that co-working helped lead him directly to new partners and clients. We always invite all members of the community to our networking and educational events, and we’ve also created Co-Lab Detroit, a travel network between Detroit’s shared workspaces. There are so many talented people out there, and there’s a lot more fun to be had when you join forces with others in the community.