Week 1 Blog Post by Katerina of Team LOVA
Suddenly, MAP wrapped up, our first year of business school came to a close, and our Open Road @ Ross trip began. We started the journey on Sunday evening in Detroit, over noodles at Ima with our sponsor, Ian. During dinner, we heard about Ian’s experience as an entrepreneur and as a leader in his church and community. He explained that just a year ago, he’d started working for the Grandmont-Rosedale Economic Development Corporation. This had been a big change for him, as he runs his own coaching company and had been an entrepreneur previously. As a part of his new role, Ian oversees the Grand River WorkPlace, an affordable coworking space serving local entrepreneurs. The space serves almost 30 businesses but is highly dependent on grants. Ian asked us to study Grand River WorkPlace’s operations and recommend ways to increase revenue, helping the coworking space to be a sustainable enterprise.
Throughout the week, we worked with Ian, as well as the coworking space’s manager, BrieAnn. As a lifelong Grandmont-Rosedale resident, BrieAnn is embedded in the community and committed to its growth and development. We also had the chance to speak with some of the entrepreneurs that are GRW members. There was Ken, a leader of Friends of Fathers, as well as Tony, a coach for the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council. We noticed that many of the businesses — including theirs — revolved around coaching and consulting, providing support for the community, by the community. Many of the business owners described the space as a positive, supportive and collaborative environment. Our team noticed that the GRW represented more than a collection of desks and offices. For members, the GRW was a reflection of their dynamic neighborhood.
Another exciting part of the GRW was a pop up shop, designed to allow community members and local business owners to test their concept in a brick and mortar setting before committing to a commercial lease. The featured entrepreneur, Akeya, owned Ariya’s Apparel & Accessories.
The coworking space allowed Akeya to further her dream of providing “modern modest” clothing for women. We had fun exploring her store and trying on clothes. Here’s a photo of our teammate Hana modeling some of her favorite purchases!
Throughout the week, we made a target customer profile, did competitive analysis, talked to folks at neighboring coworking spaces, and devised a monetization strategy. All of our research culminated in a final presentation in which we presented ideas for new types of membership as well as additional marketing channels. To help the GRW track new sales leads and acquire customers, we also created a user guide to their CRM system. One of the week’s highlights were Ian’s nuggets of wisdom, which we’ve found ourselves repeating already! A few of our favorites include, “the riches are in niches,” and “no money, no mission.” The first quote refers to defining your customer base and developing a key target market. The second refers to the fact that without adequate and sustainable funding, an organization can’t fulfill its mission. We are super grateful to Ian and BrieAnn, who served as our sounding boards throughout the week and made our work was useful and relevant. Here is a photo of the full team with Ian and BrieAnn after our final meeting on Friday: