Bamboo Detroit co-founder Amanda Lewan shares advice for women entrepreneurs looking to start or grow a company in Detroit.
By Amanda Lewan
Right around the peak of the recession I moved back home to Metro Detroit. That summer I got a job working at D:hive, a welcome center for the city, and this exposed me to the entrepreneurial community in Detroit. It wasn’t long before I realized how many wonderful women were leading equitable and inspiring change in the city.
I started to attend networking events where I met many of my friends, partners and mentors today. When I saw other women speaking on their work it opened up a door for me. I thought, “Maybe I could start a company too.” Soon after, I started Bamboo Detroit, our city’s first co-working space. We now are nearing 20,000 square feet of collaborative work space and helping over 250 companies to start and grow or land and expand into downtown Detroit.
The journey of entrepreneurship is not easy, whether you are a man or woman. We all need help along the way. Here are a few tips to consider if you are looking to start or grow your company in Detroit.
Get connected to your tribe. Networking helped me realize that I was an entrepreneur. As a woman leader or business owner, you need to surround yourself with other leaders. Having other founders to turn to makes it easier. You can call each other for advice and support. How do you find your tribe? Check out free business events and workshops hosted around the city. Events are often listed on meetup.com, news sites or publications. Or, pop into a co-work space near you that offers networking and inspiration.
Learn from other powerful women. As women, we have unique challenges and obstacles we face. We might be the only women in the room, on the panel or speaking at a large event. I found listening to other women’s stories helped empower me to be confident and clear on my entrepreneurial path. In Detroit, we have a lot of women’s network groups, such as the Detroit Women’s Leadership Network, where powerful women gather and support one another.
Don’t hold back. Often, as women entrepreneurs, we’re busy balancing a lot of responsibility. If you are like me, you might often put others first. Don’t hold back on your goals and your vision. Don’t sacrifice your time too much for other tasks. You have to have a strong vision and stay persistent to reach your goals.
Use resources for you. In Detroit, there are a lot of specific programs that can help you grow. One great women’s program that I went through is called the Inforum inGAGE Master Class. In this class, a group of women entrepreneurs gather for one full Saturday a month to work on their business and leadership skills. It was invaluable. Our group still keeps in touch and supports each other’s ups and downs. I learned how to be a better negotiator, how to sharpen my hiring and operational skills, and so much more. Take a look at Inforum and consider a class that might be good for you.
Use resources all around you. Not only are there a lot of great resources specifically to help you grow as a woman leader or entrepreneur, but there are also a ton of resources in Detroit. If you’re looking to start a retail store or expand your offices check out Motor City Match, which offers grants to open a physical space in the city of Detroit. If you’re growing your revenue and want to start scaling there are programs like the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program at Wayne State University free of charge. There are also workshops and programs at Bamboo, TechTown and through nonprofits such as Build Institute.
Bamboo is proud to help support women entrepreneurs and leaders creating positive changes in the city. We are now a community of over 65 percent women entrepreneurs, many who are running companies and supporting one another. We hope to see you start and grow in Detroit too!
Amanda Lewan is an entrepreneur and award-winning writer. When she’s not spending way too many hours working, reading, writing, planning events and growing her company, she’s at home in Detroit hanging out with her rescue pack of pups. Find her at Bamboo Detroit or her writing at amandalewan.com. Her work has been featured in Forbes, ABC 20/20, NPR and more.