Detroitisit has partnered with Ford Motor Company to bring you stories about the individuals, businesses, and organizations working to take our city into the future. In this multi-part series, we hear from leaders, innovators, founders, and stakeholders on ways they integrate their missions and knowledge in the image of the city’s landscape.
Detroit is the Motor City. Its very foundation is rooted in collaboration. Detroit is also mobility, tech, big business, and startup entrepreneurs embedded in the community, coming up with innovative solutions to evergreen problems. Playing off this collaborative ecosystem has become crucial for those attempting to revitalize the region, most notably by Amanda Lewan, Co-founder of Bamboo Detroit.
Located amid the backdrop of the almost completed Book Tower and other new developments taking place in downtown Detroit, Bamboo Detroit may seem like any other coworking space, ripe with opportunity, but inside awaits a hub for community collaboration. With new developments being announced almost every week, Detroit is ever-changing, and Bamboo Detroit aims to be a significant player in the game.
Providing Detroiters with ways to hone entrepreneurial skills, opportunities, and a welcoming workspace in which to succeed, the coworking space has set itself apart from the more corporate spaces of the world. Along with a robust line up of speakers programs, Bamboo also offers offices, private desks, and ample coworking spaces.
FORMING BAMBOO DETROIT
Bamboo opened it’s doors in 2013, shortly before the development boom hit Detroit. Amanda Lewan, CEO and Co-Founder, expressed that at the time, there was a primary need for collaborative working spaces in Detroit.
“When Bamboo started, it was just a basic need for a collaborative workspace in downtown Detroit,” shared Lewan, during a short talk. “We were four friends, and we had nowhere to go work on ideas. So at the time we opened, there was nothing down here just yet; it was August 2013. And we had all these ideas we wanted to work on and needed that space, and also like a welcoming community to support us to launch new and fresh concepts.”
Freelancing, and coming across the ever-present struggle that is working from your own home, Lewan set out to create a welcoming workplace that almost feels like a home away from home.
“I was freelancing, I was a content writer, and I had worked at a startup for a couple of years, shared Lewan. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew I did not want to work from home to do it, and so bamboo was kind of born both from that need Downtown for affordable community spaces and me personally knowing that I couldn’t freelance from home, isolated, and really grow my business.”
Aiming to play the role of an affordable community coworking space, Bamboo Detroit has grown since 2013, expanding to a new floor while remaining committed to the community it aimed to support since its beginning.
GIVING SPACE TO A COMMUNITY
Walking into Bamboo Detroit, there’s an onslaught of vibrant green colors and soft lights, creating a contrast between a dreary corporate office space and the feeling that something’s different here.
“Everything about us, from the way you walk in and you feel really welcomed and supported, to the culture and the coworking space which is really cozy, but still modern and flexible to the actual way we curate our events really take a focus on our community,” shared Lewan.
“I think what Bamboo does and at the core of what we do, is it’s not just about the workspace. It’s about the community and the programming and making sure that you as a small business owner or founder can connect with other people to help you. Oftentimes, learning from people who are in it with you or just a step ahead of you,” she continued. “So if you’re that small team of three to five, and you’re looking to scale, or raise money, where do you go? We often have a lot of those speakers, those mentors here at Bamboo, and the network that we’re building.”
Another matter touched on by Lewan during the talk with her was how the name of the coworking space acts as a metaphor for the role it plays in cultivating small businesses and ideas in Detroit.
Bamboo is a great name for us because the plant actually starts as a seed and takes a few years to sprout, and once it does, it grows very quickly,” shared Lewan. “So we thought, what a great metaphor for a new idea or a new company. Coworking spaces can be those great cultivators of an environment for new ideas and new companies. We have flexible offices, but it really is a space for growth, and it stands out.
Ending 2019 and going into 2020, Bamboo Detroit hosted several community-focused events aimed at providing those interested in starting a business with entrepreneurial skillsets needed to do so. Bamboo programming shares the opportunity to hear from business leaders from around the United States, creating an opportunity you don’t get with every coworking space.
“We’ve hosted probably like 50 events throughout the year, including special programs like pre accelerators and partnering with full fledge accelerators,” shared, Lewan. “As we go into 2020, we let our customers and our communities weigh in on what they want to see and what they need. That way, we’re constantly fresh and evolving, and they always have a say in what’s happening here. That makes it very unique to have that approach and that mindset.”
“When you think of Detroit, you think of, for lack of a better word, grittiness or industriousness. Maybe you think of our street art and our diverse community. But, a plant doesn’t usually come to mind, so I think it sort of sticks out and makes us think differently.”
Lewan also mentioned the Ford Motor Company and the work being done in the Corktown Neighborhood as a good example of investing in a community, stating, “I think, also the way they’re [Ford] engaging the local community has been very effective, I can’t wait to see what comes out of that, and for the design and the actual space come to life. I think it’s going to make a huge impact, and the future of Ford needs to be built here.”
Rounding out the talk on the topic of the future, and what she wants to see more of in Detroit, Lewan shared, “I would say access to more big speakers, big thinkers. We just had a great speaker from Silicon Valley, a native Detroiter, who wanted to give back, so we invited him to mentor with the founders and host a talk, a fireside chat. So the more events we do, the more we can help expose the Detroit community to resources, talent, opportunity. We just partnered with General Assembly; they’re a national school that does tech and digital training. They’re hosting programming and events here so anything we can do to expose the greater Detroit community to opportunity and resources and new ideas, I think that’s what we can contribute”