Danielle Smith, New Economy Initiative

It looks like the coffee shop is no longer the place to be for burgeoning start-ups. Entrepreneurs are now looking for something more. And, based on the success of Grand Circus and many other coworking spaces across the country, they’ve found it. The number of coworking spaces has increasing by 400 percent since 2012, allowing start-up geeks and the like to forgo getting locked into a lease and settle into a space that’s more affordable and cooler than any office most start-ups could afford.

According to a recent Forbes article, by 2020 more than 40 percent of America’s workforce will be freelance in one form or another, demonstrating the need for these creative spaces. Downtown Detroit’s Grand Circus —a tech community convener— is helping to make sure some of Detroit’s most promising entrepreneurs and freelancers have access to the space, collaboration and community to grow.

Grand Circus is our first partner in NEI Street Level – our effort to join in the region’s growing entrepreneurial movement by physically planting NEI staff in the middle of activity across the city. It is amazing to see them nurture amazing careers and help local businesses thrive from just a few floors of the Madison building.

When New Economy Initiative became a part of the Grand Circus community through NEI Street Level, we were eager to connect with entrepreneurs and better understand their evolution as a convener and teaching space. We jumped right in, hosting more than 50 meetings and events since October 2014, promoting co-working as a valuable tool for start-ups through the development of http://coworkingdetroit.com/, and by hosting co-working week last fall.

Little did we know that our partnership would expose us to so many other resources to share with entrepreneurs across the city, from coding and web development bootcamps to hack-a-thons and employment training. The downtown co-working space goes far beyond Wi-Fi, colorful conference rooms and, of course, the official mascot Grant Chirpus. It’s truly an innovation hub. And we’ve made connections beyond just promoting Grand Circus, we’ve had the opportunity to foster support of their Hacker Fellowship through the Adams fund of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan(of which NEI is a special project of), connect Grand Circus staff to opportunities to speak at events such as InFocus – Southeast Michigan: Narrowing the Gender Gap in Technology and co-host a number of events.In the end, we hope all players across the entrepreneurial world know a little more about each other’s work just by us, through Street Level, being on the ground in these spaces through our day-to-day work.

We look forward to continuing to bring attention to the work of Grand Circus and other co-working spaces, including Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation’sGrand River Workplace (GRW), our next Street Level stop. GRW is embedded in Detroit’s northwest side and we look forward to better understanding the needs of neighborhood entrepreneurs through our experience. Regardless of the co-working space, each offers a unique opportunity for business owners to connect, innovate and grow in ways that simply can’t happen at a coffee shop or home office.

With nearly half the nation moving toward freelance work in the coming years, we know that Grand Circus and other co-working partners are on to something great and we’re thrilled to contribute in our small way. We will continue to support co-working spaces throughout the city, starting with helping entrepreneurs choose the space that fits best via http://coworkingdetroit.com/, a website designed to help connect entrepreneurs to the work spaces in Metro Detroit that meet their specific needs.

Are you an entrepreneur? What would your ideal coworking space look/feel like? Tell us @NEIMichigan or email Danielle at dsmith@cfsem.org. Sign up for NEI news and updates at www.neweconomyinitiative.org.