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What If Networking Looked More Like Collaboration?

By Amanda Lewan (Guest Blogger)

Spartans Helping Spartans Collaborate in Detroit

About a year ago, I helped created a collaborative workspace in Downtown Detroit called Bamboo Detroit. I never really thought I’d find myself in a historic Detroit building, calling myself an “entrepreneur.”

I’m one of those crazy people who knew when I was twelve years old what I wanted to do: I wanted to be a writer. After graduation, I put my Professional Writing degree from MSU to good work. My first job was at a start-up advertising agency. I was the third employee hired, and I helped grow the company from the ground up. I was introduced to the world of entrepreneurship. I absolutely loved it.

Today, I write about entrepreneurship for an online community I started called Michipreneur.com, and I help grow Detroit’s entrepreneurial community providing writing and marketing services to a variety of start-up companies downtown. I have my own full time writing business. Being a creative of any sort can lead you down this path, and for me it was absolutely the right direction.

It isn’t easy to break out from a company to work for yourself. The past few years have taught me a few valuable lessons. If you’re going to choose an independent path like freelancing or starting a company, you’ll likely want to lean on others for help along the way.

Here’s how I’ve learned to collaborate running my own business and through our community at Bamboo Detroit.

Lean on a Network of Professionals.

You can’t do everything on your own. Running a website, I’ve had to learn to ask for help with development and design so I can focus on my writing. I have a great network of developers, designers, and other writers I can reach out to for assistance. Sometimes I need to just ask a quick technical question, or I’m looking for help on a larger project. Most of these professionals I collaborate with I’ve met through networking and by asking for recommendations. Don’t be afraid to build your own network. At Bamboo Detroit, I’m lucky to have fifty professionals I can lean on.

Collaborate Inside Your Industry Too.

In Detroit, there are several new co-working spaces opening up. Because it’s a greater benefit for all professionalsin Detroit (our target customer) we helped create a coalition of spaces called ColabDetroit. Now, members can travel to other spaces three times a month for free. This is better for everyone in our community, not just our business. How can you grow your industry while serving your customer better? What companies can you collaborate with instead of directly compete? How will that ultimately help your business in the end?

Have Mentors and Access to Experts.

It’s great to continue to grow your skill set along the way, but you can’t be an expert at everything. Instead, have a few mentors or experts in your industry you can reach out to. I have a few wonderful digital media experts and mentors that I get to work once in a while and I always learn something new from them about social media or publishing. It’s been extremely invaluable. Though we have a few at Bamboo, we’re working on building a stronger mentorship network in Detroit. It’s vital to supporting entrepreneurs.

Along this journey, I’ve met some other great Spartans starting companies in Detroit and offering their own mentorship and expertise. We have a quite a few at Bamboo Detroit like Original Stix and Remake Detroit. It’s been a great experience working to collaborate together, and to also help a city that can only benefit from more collaboration and business acceleration.

Come visit us anytime if you’re in the area and interested in learning more about Detroit entrepreneurship.

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Amanda Lewan is a Spartan, editor of Michipreneur, and Co-Founder of Bamboo Detroit. You can find her online at www.amandalewan.com.

Like this topic? Check out the webcast on how to use Linkedin to build your network of Spartan collaborators. We will be hosting this on 07/10/2014 from 12:30 – 1:30pm EST. Register at www.alumni.msu.edu/professionalseries. It’s free! 

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Michigan State University.

 

 

 

 

 

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