Co-working space makes the move to the Madison Building
Right about now, it’s good to be Bamboo.
What began as a co-working space founded by four young millennials in August, 2013 that offered a downtown address, space and support to startups and other businesses that had the desire but perhaps not the funds to operate in what is quickly becoming one of ‘the’ growing business hotspot environments in the country, Bamboo is beginning the New Year on January 2 by moving to a new even more desirable location with twice as much space on the third floor of Sharon Madison’s Julian Madison building, located on Washington Boulevard.
So yes. It’s good to be Bamboo. And it’s good to be Bamboo in Detroit.
“We felt like Sharon shared a lot of our values, which is important long term for any business,” said Bamboo CEO Amanda Lewan. “And the location is ideal. Washington Boulevard is going under a transformation. And so is Sharon’s building,” which she says includes the sort of creative and entrepreneurial tenants that make them feel right at home.
“As rent rises, co-working in a way can also help keep things affordable for starting up, which is really important. People want to have a downtown address,” said Lewan.
The shared idea of making the benefits of downtown Detroit more available and accessible to small businesses is what created the bond, and a sense of mission, among the company’s founders, all of whom are from Detroit and metro Detroit. Lewan said the company has grown to 125 members, including a wide range of businesses from writers and photographers to a gluten-free pasta company.
“Bamboo started between four friends; it was myself and Mike Ferlito, who owned the building on Brush, Brian Davis, and David Anderson. The four of us came together from all different backgrounds. But we had a lot of ideas that we wanted to work on together, but we couldn’t find a place to work. The way we started was pretty much an example of being entrepreneurial and lean and bootstrapping. We found the space and just got together and tested it out. The space was on 1442 Brush near the Harmonie Park area. It was 3,000 square feet. So we just painted it, bought Ikea furniture, and said ‘Let’s test out the market and see if there’s enough people interested in co-working downtown.’ So then we just slowly grew with the community, building events.”
Lewan’s background is in marketing and writing, whereas Ferlito’s family background is in real estate/development (Ferlito is in charge of finances and is also in charge of the construction). Brian Davis also has a background in real estate as well as technology .Anderson brings a background in engineering.
“So when we got started there were two basic things we thought were missing; the flexible, affordable workspace downtown, and then also an inclusive community. We all come from different backgrounds, so from the beginning we were able to build this very diverse culture, and I think that makes it very unique. We’re not just focused on tech companies, we’re not for, like, young white tech guys. There’s no stereotype that fits us, and I think that’s really, really important. I think it’s more reflective of Detroit today and we hope to continue that inclusive culture.
Sharon Madison, owner of the Madison building where Bamboo has relocated and, as CEO of Madison Madison International, one of the relatively few black-owned businesses still located downtown, said she is extremely pleased to welcome Bamboo as new tenants, as well as the other new tenants that have been attracted to what her space has to offer. More than just a location, Madison said she views what she is trying to do as the creation of special and unique to Detroit’s business climate.
“Through Bamboo, which is a very diverse, multicultural example of what we’re talking about, they have a very diverse membership, and some really fine businesses have come out of that, including everything from Rocket Fiber to Ellis Island Tea. It creates a culture of collaboration, and we want to create a culture of collaboration inside the building as well.
“Our whole goal is to provide the infrastructure that gives people the information and the tools to be able to [succeed]. Our philosophy is that we have to create a culture to support entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial growth, really giving people hardcore information that they can utilize to help their businesses. We do that through programs, we do that through collaboration. So that’s what we’re doing here.”
“Our whole focus the last few years has been to position ourselves, and to be, a source of real light, information and success for up and coming entrepreneurs. What we had determined quite awhile ago that the missing link in all of this was any focus on African American-owned businesses. And as a woman, I also know that there is a great gap in the promise for African American-owned businesses and women of color.
“It’s a conscious vision, we’re not just leasing space. I have a physical structure that can actually be utilized as a base of support.”