This year, the Ann Arbor SPARK East Innovation Center will be celebrating 10 years in downtown Ypsilanti. It seems only fitting that the professionals at Sensei Change Associates — SPARK East’s first tenant — are the visionaries behind Back Office Studio, the newest Ypsilanti coworking space.
“I really needed a place for my business to grow beyond SPARK,” said Dr. Diana Wong, Sensei Change CEO and president. “When I started to look at what was available, there really wasn’t a landing space that felt like an extension of the culture and sense of community fostered by SPARK East.”
Leading the project on behalf of Back Office Studio co-owners,
Diana Wong, Wayne Millette, and Sun Chao, was John Newman. “In my past, I worked
for Borders on the construction and design side helping open stores,” said John.
“I had done a lot working with old buildings and renovating them into something
new, looking at blueprints, and working with contractors and architects.”
The renovations at Back Office Studio were extensive, including
a stunning new façade with expansive windows that look onto Washington Street
and add a bright and open feel to the two-story workspace. Today, you might
have a difficult time even recognizing the property before work began, which
had been bank owned and vacant for five years. According to John, “It was with support
from the City of Ypsilanti, the DDA, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation,
and Ann Arbor SPARK that we were able to break the property’s cycle of dilapidation.”
Jennifer Olmstead, Ann Arbor SPARK director of business development, guided Back Office Studio toward local and statewide grants as well as encouraged them to apply for an Innovate Ypsi grant through SPARK and the Washtenaw Office of Community and Economic Development. “When creating the grant, it was our hope that it would help foster business investments and job development within the 48197/98 area codes,” Jennifer explained. “Back Office Studio is an exciting development for the entire region, providing affordable office space for growing businesses in the heart of downtown Ypsilanti.”
Dr. Wong agrees, “I want to contribute to the continued
revitalization of this community, so if we can help build other businesses,
they’ll be providing local employment, helping the area thrive. I see Back Office
Studio as part of the next phase of Ypsilanti’s startup ecosystem. A space for
revenue positive companies who are ready to grow and hire talent.”
Olmstead to explore joining Ypsilanti’s growing business community.
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