It started off as a girls night in for four friends and ended with a business plan.
Miracle Bailey, Bria Baker, Drew Breedlove, and Olivia Holt were enjoying pizza and wine when the conversation shifted to planning their own respective businesses and a larger conversation about building generational wealth. The four of them — all creatives with their own entrepreneurial pursuits ranging from design to yoga — lamented the lack of a space for them. So they created BLK Space, a coworking space (both digital and physical with real-life experiences) catered to Black creatives and entrepreneurs like themselves.
“When starting a business you always have to answer a problem. And we started BLK Space by answering our own problem,” says Bailey, who is BLK Space’s chief marketing officer. “We needed the space literally for us. So when we say for us, by us, we mean it.”
The quartet of 22-year-olds, who all met during their senior year of high school while participating in Midnight Golf, all bring their respective talents to the table: Bailey, who was set to move to Chicago for a job in global sales at LinkedIn before the pandemic “forced a gap year” on her, is good at communications and sales. Holt’s expertise lies in design. Baker, who works at York Project, is also a designer as well as experienced in business outreach. Breedlove specializes in outreach and communication.
After the night of pizza and wine, they immediately got to work on planning their first event in August, BLK Wall Street at JesMia Lofts in Pontiac featuring Black vendors. In October, they held their second event, Busy Brunchin’, a workshop featuring speakers Don Dudley, marketing manager of Foot Locker Detroit; Autumn Kyles, co-founder and CEO of Detroit Dough and Proxie; and Armond Rashad, owner of Jabs Gym in Eastern Market, who all spoke about starting your own business, building relationships, and managing finances.
Since they don’t have actual space yet — not to mention the surge in COVID-19 cases makes it extremely challenging to gather and work in person at the moment — the BLK Space team is working on establishing their virtual space and fostering community through digital memberships. There will be different levels of membership based on what customers are looking for. One of the services will be the possibility of being randomly partnered up with a fellow member to work on things together. They’re also working on a directory of freelancers and business owners.
They’re also looking for a physical space, either downtown or a central location, despite the pandemic.
While they are still working out the pricing, one thing’s for sure: They want to make BLK Space accessible, especially for the creative clientele they’re catering to because a “$500 a month” desk is not feasible for some.
“That’s sometimes people’s rent,” Bailey says. “We want to make sure as a creative you have the space to come and work and don’t have to break the bank to do it.”
Wherever they land, the vision is to infuse their culture in the physical space and having it reflect that, literally, with a “Hall of Fame” wall.
“I'm really inspired by this idea of black representation within America, and being able to see famous Black icons, regardless of the industry, whether that's entertainment, business, science, and then like also having that reflect in mirrors,” says Holt as she explains her design vision for BLK Space’s brick-and-mortar aesthetic. “So as you're looking in the mirror, you're also looking at all these other iconic figures … and there’s that feeling of being equal to seeing yourself on the wall with someone who was considered as great, or someone who was so impactful to this industry. So we really want to incorporate those nuances there.”
There isn’t a lack of coworking options in Detroit but the BLK Space team says they are fulfilling a specific need in their community while being inclusive in their approach. And as Black creatives themselves, “there's a lot of value in being surrounded by people that look like you and have the same experiences as you,” Holt says. “We're trying to hone in on that, and really focus on that demographic of people and saying, ‘Hey, we're here, and we look like you and we have the same experiences and we know the same nuances as you.’”
And they’re already thinking bigger.
BLK Space could go “global,” Baker says. “Of course, it’s a Detroit thing, because we're here, this is where we reside, and where we were born and raised. But I do feel like, it could be something much bigger than this, like it could grow.”
Bailey adds, “I think that's why we're able to answer our own problem. … this is the market that we've known for all our lives. And once we hone in and perfect it here in our hometown, we’ll be able to multiply elsewhere.”