Jasmin Barmore Detroit Free Press
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Jasmin Barmore reports, "BasBlue is a newly renovated mansion in the Midtown area [in Detroit] that is dedicated to bringing women together, from experienced professionals, to entrepreneurs and those who are just starting out in their careers."
When Nancy Tellem moved to Detroit in 2015 from Los Angeles, she made a commitment to herself that she wanted to do something to give back to the community. And after tooling around the city and meeting other women, Tellem said she realized that many of these "amazing ladies" did not know each other, nor did they have a space to meet.
So she decided that she wanted to help do something about that and provide a safe space for women to connect and get to know one another. Ironically, it was an off-putting encounter at a popular Detroit social club that really brought her idea to light.
"I was turned away because I was not dressed appropriately," she said. "And I thought to myself, 'this is really not the way to build a community, especially one that is filled with amazing women.' "
From that unpleasant incident, the idea for BasBlue was born.
BasBlue is a newly renovated mansion in the Midtown area that is dedicated to bringing women together, from experienced professionals, to entrepreneurs and those who are just starting out in their careers. The space is located on the corner of Ferry and John R streets. The gathering space is handicap-accessible, featuring a full-service cafe, several lounge areas, conference rooms, an event space and a health and wellness area. The home is operated completely by women and was founded by Tellem and a seasoned community executive and entrepreneur, Natacha Hildebrand.
"I built a community before that was across Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York and sold it to a British company," said Hildebrand, who is originally from Los Angeles. "And I know how much those communities meant to me and what it did for those cities, and how it created change and really helped.
And at the end of the day, we (Tellem and Hildebrand) thought that this could be an amazing thing to have in Detroit, where different groups of women could come together in a space that could exist here with the right mission."
At BasBlue, a 501c3 nonprofit, women from all walks of life are offered an opportunity to be a part of a membership club at much lower rates than other social clubs, Tellum said. For women 35 and younger, the yearly cost is $600 or $158 quarterly. For those ages 35 and up, the cost is $1,200 for the year or $315 per quarter. And for those who want to join but are financially constrained, the organization also offers scholarships and grant opportunities. A member match program is also offered for members that provides mentorship regardless of where a person is in their career. Additionally, if a woman just wants to be connected to someone else in the same field as them, the program offers that too.
"My role is to know everything about all the members" said Miah Davis, membership and community manager. "So, if I am just walking through the café cafe greeting people and I see two people who I think would be absolutely great to know each other, then I can pair them together."
The house, which once was home to the first president of the Michigan Telephone Company and the Heritage House children's museum, has three floors and a basement. Artwork created by the children from the Heritage House are currently being prepared to hang on the walls alongside the local pieces of art that are available for purchase. The flooring and staircases all are from the original woodwork of the mansion, with only minor updated in certain areas.
The entire first floor of the home is open to the public. It houses a library/lounge filled with books from local authors or stories about Detroit, a cafe — that also serves alcohol— powered by Detroit's own Marrow, with food prepared by Chef Kenna Dollete. A sitting space and patio for folks to enjoy their meal also is located on the first floor. And yes, men are allowed into the home too — they just aren't allowed to become members.
On the second floor, which can be reached by way of one of the two staircases or by elevator, there are four rooms decorated in vibrant colors, a small bar and two phone booths for guests to take a phone call. And midway to the second floor, a room big enough for four sits in the corner with a fireplace. The third floor of the home, Hildebrand said, is primarily dedicated to hosting larger groups and speaking events.
On every floor of the home, all the furniture is purposely positioned to face each other, she said. And restrooms are available on every floor. The basement houses the Wellness Center where women can work out, do yoga, shower and even breastfeed if needed.
"We want every woman here to have a sense of belonging," Hildebrand said.
Financial Literacy workshops and cooking classes, among other programs, also will be available to members once the house opens to the public Oct. 28. And Tellem, who is the wife of Arn Tellem, the Detroit Piston's vice chairman, says she really hopes that BasBlue will become a "home away from home" for those who join.
"I really hope that this house impacts the women who are members, from either a mentorship situation or just to help them in the trajectory of their career, and assure the women who are here that they really have a sense of support and that they can always come here for support."
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