April 12, 2019

Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan to Pilot Adult Memberships, Co-working Space in Detroit


This article first appeared in Crain’s Detroit on April, 12, 2019. Written by, Sherri Welch.

  • Boys & Girls Clubs to offer adult memberships, new Ponyride-branded co-working, incubator space
  • Pilot program will provide access to new youth amenities, including production studio funded by rapper Big Sean
  • Nonprofit will invest $500,000 in renovations to club on the Dick & Sandy Dauch Campus on Detroit’s west side

Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeastern Michigan is launching a new pilot membership model for adults, entrepreneurs and small businesses to provide sustainable revenue and expand its impact in the community.

The pilot marks a shift for the 78-year-old nonprofit, which has traditionally only offered memberships to youth.

With the new memberships, adults will gain access to spaces and amenities in the NFL/YET – Boys & Girls Clubs at the Dick & Sandy Dauch Campus on Detroit’s west side, when those spaces are not in use for youth programs.

Boys & Girls Clubs plans to invest $500,000 to renovate the location, adding the Ponyride-branded co-working space and creating “rooms” that lend themselves to career path exploration and development for youth coming to the club — and places adults can use when available.

When completed this fall, the rooms will include a music and video production studio funded by rapper Big Sean’s foundation, a barber shop/salon, a makers studio, test kitchen and gaming area with related career programs focused on technology.ADVERTISING

There will also be meeting space and a laundromat for community use.

The Dauch campus club will serve as a pilot site to launch the new adult memberships and co-working space, the new career pathway programs that were spurred by community interest and fee-based rentals of spaces in the building on Tireman Street, between the Southfield Freeway and Greenfield Road on the city’s west side.

“Part of our mission is to create a world-class experience for our youth, so we started talking with the community about what that would look like,” said Shawn H. Wilson, who joined the nonprofit as president and CEO four months ago.

Any great brand has to evolve to meet customers’ needs, he said, and the best way to do that is to listen to customers.

“What really emerged is an opportunity for Boys & Girls Clubs to be a youth and community development organization,” he said.

Other Boys and Girls clubs around the country have opened their buildings to adult members for use of areas such as the gym and pool. But the Farmington Hills-based nonprofit will be the first to offer a co-working and business incubator space, he said.

“We want to focus on getting the pilot off the ground … take the key learnings and hopefully expand to the rest of our clubs,” Wilson said.

Career pathway offerings and other amenities could differ from location to location when and if Boys & Girls Clubs expands the pilot to other sites, he said.

“Every community has its own priority … at another club, you might see a heavy focus on arts and culture with an arts studio, or maybe they want to go heavy on the trades. That’s the great part of this … we have an opportunity to introduce youth to multiple careers,” with varied offerings at different sites.

There are three separate Boys & Girls Club organizations in the region. The Boys & Girls Club of Troy and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland & Macomb Counties each operate separately from Boys & Girls Clubs of Southeast Michigan, the nonprofit Wilson leads.

That organization, which is now launching the pilot, has seven sites, currently, following the closures of three clubs in Shelby Township, Ypsilanti and Detroit last year. Wilson said a school site on the city’s east side is being considered for summer programming to replace the closed Detroit club. In all, the organization served 13,000 youth in the region last year.

Over the past year, the nonprofit has been working to put establish new leadership, freshen its programs and put in place a stable financial model following years of losses and internal issues that sparked high employee turnover.

Its finances for 2018 aren’t yet final, but it ended the year about break-even with revenue of $3.5 million, a spokeswoman for the nonprofit said.

It’s paid off its debt and is operating on a $5 million budget this year.

Much of the club’s past financial troubles were tied to its reliance on philanthropy, Wilson said.

“We have our doors open (for youth) from 3 p.m.-8 p.m. How do (we) maximize that facility during times kids aren’t there? That’s where we saw the opportunity to offer adults use of the club,” he said.

He projects the nonprofit could see another $300,000-$400,000 in revenue each year from adult memberships and facility rentals by the third year of the pilot.

The approach meshes with Boys and Girls Clubs’ mission, Wilson said. “It’s about helping youth climb up the economic ladder.”

Parents who are trying to start a business will now have a place to drop off their kids while they work on the business or a place to study if they are furthering their education, he said. Providing space for families to come for coaching and mentoring and to launch businesses directly impacts youth and their quality of life, Wilson said.

At the same time, the pilot adult memberships and co-working space will bring in adults and mentors who are currently building businesses, experiencing struggles and success. “That’s a whole different level of learning for youth,” he said.

To support the renovations and new programs, Boys and Girls Clubs has secured over $750,000 from United Way for Southeastern Michigan, the Sean Anderson Foundation and Phil Cooley, founder of Ponyride and Slows BarBQ.

A $100,000 grant from Big Sean’s foundation is supporting construction of the Sean Anderson Foundation Content & Production Studio, which will be equipped with everything needed for music and video production and also a production stage.

“From a career pathway standpoint, our youth will have an opportunity to learn about careers like lighting engineers and sound engineers … (or) get a chance to hone their craft … in front of the camera,” Wilson said.

When not in use for youth programs, the room will be open to a small business that wants to film a podcast or a nonprofit looking to film a public service announcement as part of a $40-per-month or $480 annual adult membership, Wilson said.

“We want to empower communities to explore careers and launch businesses in the entertainment industry,” Big Sean said in an emailed statement.

“My moonshot is to provide a space where the next Motown could be created in a neighborhood, just like the original.”

Another $100,000 from Cooley is supporting the Ponyride co-working space. Cooley helped design the space, but Boys and Girls Clubs will operate it, Wilson said.

Photo: Hiram Jackson

The model Boys & Girls Clubs is piloting at the Dauch campus club is a great way to look at the whole child rather than an expansion of mission, said Chairman Hiram Jackson, CEO of Real Times Media LLC and publisher of the Michigan Chronicle.

“It’s how can we become a more valuable resource to the community and use our buildings more efficiently? I think it’s a bold and thoughtful move that (Wilson) is trying,” Jackson said. “I like the fact that it’s a pilot so he can work out the kinks.”


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