As the entrepreneurial community in Grand Rapids continues to grow, several organizations have stepped up to match ambitions with the facilities and opportunities to achieve them. Whether you need tooling to develop your product, are ready for retail space or are simply looking for an affordable office to work out of, Grand Rapids has plenty to offer.
The Geek Group
The Geek Group is a membership-based nonprofit maker space that provides members with access to their facilities located at 902 Leonard st NW. The building, once a YMCA, houses 43,000 square feet of lab space dedicated to lasers, audio visual, chemistry, woodworking, computer, high voltage, machine, robotics, prototype, RC aviation, vehicular labs, tool labs and more. For entrepreneurs that are in the development stage, the Geek Group provides everything needed for prototyping, small-to-medium product runs and, if desired, the anonymity needed to do it.
“The people that come here are doing advanced research and development,” says Geek Group president and founder Chris Boen. “They don’t want the world knowing what they are working on, because it’s not out for public yet.
The Geek Group holds free tours every Saturday and has regular classes for members and non non-members.
The Factory is one of about 15,000 registered co-working spaces in the country. What is a co-working space, you ask? A co-working space is a community work space for independent entrepreneurs, freelancers and small businesses. The Factory is centrally located at 38 West Fulton, and is complete with gathering areas, conference rooms, Skype rooms and a full kitchen for members to utilize. The most valuable asset of The Factory is community. Instead of working remotely and suffering the isolation that comes with it, The Factory allows individuals, micro businesses and ideas to thrive through the support of a built in network of 90+ members.
“I have seen small businesses start here,” says Rob Macy, a community manager at The Factory. “I have seen entrepreneurs grow here.”
Along with regular member lunch outings and clock-out-early beer Fridays, The Factory is open to members and non-members alike every Wednesday morning from 8-9:30am for Coffee with Creators.
Another membership-based maker space in Grand Rapids, GRMakers is outfitted with all kinds of equipment to aid their members in building whatever they dream up. With CNC machines, a 3D printer, metal and wood working shops, a laser cutter, printing plotter, vinyl cutter, embroiderer, screen printer and more, the 8,000 + square foot space at 401 Hall st SW, suite #185 also has a gathering area and office facilities for members.
“We have an emphasis on entrepreneurial growth here,” said Samuel Bowles, one of the founders of GR Makers.
All three membership tiers–Tinkerer, Innovator, Resident–come with 24/7 access and lessons on how to use the equipment.
When The Dwelling Place started leasing commercial space in the South Division Corridor (also referred to as the Avenue for the Arts) 35 years ago, they implemented a policy only to rent to businesses that would contribute to the positive growth of the neighborhood. The result is a tight knit, supportive community that welcomes both the seasoned business owner and emerging entrepreneur alike.
“These are incubator spaces,” says Dwelling Place Neighborhood Revitalization Specialist Jenn Schaub. “Businesses can come in, explore what they want to do and use our space to tweak their model.”
The Dwelling Place offers live/work space at income base and market rate. Ranging from 850 to 1,500 square feet, all of the spaces have loft style ceilings, hardwood floors and plenty of natural light. Along with having an aesthetically unique space, there are other benefits to renting from Dwelling Place. Shop owners have the option of participating in Avenue for the Arts shows and events– like First Fridays, a monthly event that invites the community to shop, eat and drink along the corridor. Avenue for the Arts also offers a business class twice a year that focuses on how to provide resources and grow business potential for creative entrepreneurs.