“The people at SPARK went out of their way to help us. They created connections, invited us to events, identified spaces, and sources of funding.”
When setting out on a new venture, businesses can benefit greatly from having a connected and reliable advocate. Ann Arbor SPARK was that resource for the DO:BETTER three-person team — Christina Collins, Danielle Milner-Brehmer, and Jon Eslinger — as they took an entrepreneurial leap-of-faith and opened in Ypsilanti their own creative studio, specializing in brand development and strategy. From clients to real estate, the business development team at SPARK introduced the DO:BETTER team to the community where they put down stakes.
The group first heard of SPARK when they were working together “at a more corporate joint,” as Jon describes it. Once they decided to set out on their own, Danielle had a conversation with a SPARK team member, curious if there were any resources that might aid their transition. As it turns out — there was a lot SPARK could do for them, and it all happened one introduction at a time.
The DO:BETTER team were flexible when it came to a location for their new business and considered a variety of areas including Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Lansing. It was during this time that SPARK introduced the team to individuals around Ypsilanti, a progressive community just east of Ann Arbor. When the team was looking for office space, SPARK introduced them to local realtor Tyler Weston, who according to Danielle “became an early friend during the process.”
“We were nomads for the better part of a year,” described Jon. “We did a bit of coworking at Tech Brewery in Ann Arbor and met with clients at SPARK East a few times.” Danielle added, “There were a lot of coffee shops — any place with Wi-Fi and strong coffee, you would find us there for a bit. Cultivate Coffee and Tap House was especially welcoming as we pitched to clients amongst the sounds of the espresso machine.”
Another SPARK-facilitated introduction between the DO:BETTER team and Angela Barbash resulted in one of the studio’s early clients with Ypsilanti-based and SPARK East tenant, Revalue. “The same community-centric values that motivated Danielle, Jon, and Christina to launch DO:BETTER guide Angela and the team at Revalue,” said Jennifer Olmstead, Ann Arbor SPARK business development director. “I introduced Danielle to Angela because I sensed they would have a lot in common. It was serendipitous that it also resulted in a business partnership.”
It was another SPARK-led introduction that eventually led DO:BETTER to their offices across from the Eastern Michigan University campus. “Jennifer never gave up on finding something that worked for our needs,” said Danielle. “She’s energetic and resourceful, and has a core sense of integrity that creates trust and purpose for growth in the community.”
The DO:BETTER office features an open, collaborative workspace. “This is the way we work, not just together but with our clients and the community,” explained Danielle. “We don’t need big offices — that’s not how we see ourselves, and that’s not the way we want the community to see us.”
In addition to Revalue, the DO:BETTER client portfolio includes Tinkertech, Pitch Ypsi, and others in the Ypsilanti community — as well as entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout southeast Michigan. According to Jon, “Ypsilanti really is the best environment for our venture. The community spirit suits our drive and motivation, our culture and values.”