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Launching Ambition Center MKE: Black-Owned Coworking Space in Milwaukee

As office buildings begin to slowly reopen, many People of Color (POC) prefer to either work from home or in spaces that make them feel safe.

Ambition Center MKE coworking space opened on September 20, 2021. The next day, the Ambition Center MKE Team and Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs invited the media and public to tour the space, learn how to become a member, and network (see here).

Located at 530 E. Vienna Ave., Milwaukee, WI, Ambition Center is the northernmost coworking space within the city limits.

Urban Milwaukee and BizTimes covered the grand opening and the event was photographed and streamed on Facebook by PWR FWD Media. A few days later, Fox6 covered the space as well.

Over 35 community members, business owners, and organizations attended the event (and some of those new connections are still thriving today). Before the grand opening of this coworking space, let's take a look back at how it came to be.

The Idea: Deciding to Start the Coworking Space

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, 30-year-old Marcell Jackson shifted from commuting in the office in Waukesha, WI, to working remotely at his shared home office.

As a project manager for a global technology company, working from home wasn't new to him and many of his colleagues. But as the days went on, he realized that work and life seemed to blend into one (without a separate space). As he inventoried coworking spaces in the area, he noticed a gap.

In Milwaukee, most of the shared office and coworking spaces are located downtown, near downtown, or in the suburbs that surround Milwaukee. After coworking at a few spaces but not finding a fit, he wanted to create a space.

He consulted with his wife, Rashidah Butler-Jackson, and decided to open a coworking space on the northside of Milwaukee. In December of 2020 he began touring commercial spaces. This new coworking space would create an accessible workspace for remote professionals, entrepreneurs, and freelancers to collaborate and transform our community.

This idea of shared working was not new to him. As a senior at Riverside University High School, Marcell dreamt of opening a space for entrepreneurs, as he put back then “like a business center, but under one roof.” That’s when the name of the space, “Ambition Center,” came to him. After he graduated college and visited his first coworking space in 2012, everything clicked!

The Market Research: Milwaukeeans Want Coworking Spaces with Parking

Nationally, the United States has more than 80 million square feet of flexible workspace—making it the global leader in terms of coworking real estate. The U.S. ranks eighth in the world in coworking growth per capita (link).

Locally, there are approximately 20 independently owned coworking spaces in Milwaukee, WI. According to LiquidSpace, 211 people were looking for office space in Milwaukee last month.

To gain more insights, Marcell connected with Athena Agoudemos, the Interim Director of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) Small Business Development Center (SBDC). They created a local research plan, and the SBDC provided national and regional data.

To gather local research on the “working from home” challenges, Marcell conducted a market feasibility survey and received 89 responses.

The Survey Results

This study showed that even though most respondents were working remotely and do not belong to a coworking space, over half are interested in joining one. Also, the top three amenities include high-speed internet, onsite parking, and private office space.

The Building

During his search for a space, he connected with Cuauhtemoc (or Temo) Rodriguez, a founding member of the BRIC coworking space, the former Business Manager of THE VIBE coworking space, and the current Business Specialist at Riverworks Development Corporation.

This connection with Riverworks led to the eventual opening location of the space inside the Riverworks Business Improvement District (BID) at 530 E. Vienna Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53212. This office space was previously operated by the Dairyland Bus Company.

The Color: Why is Everything Orange at Ambition Center MKE?

No, orange is not Marcell's favorite color.

Orange is the color of ambition and innovation. “Being made of yellow and red, orange gives the idea of light and heat. It is the color of pride and ambition” (link).

"This is perfect for the atmosphere we wanted to create in the space. When you enter Ambition Center MKE, you feel different."

Why Open a Coworking Space Right Now?

Today, we have an unprecedented opportunity to revolutionize work!

For corporate professionals, the power dynamic has shifted from employer-choice to employee-choice. This time is dubbed the great resignation because employees would rather resign than lose autonomy and flexibility in the workplace.

This has led to more organizations adopting a hybrid work model where you’re only

expected to be in the office for part of the week or given the option for employees to be fully remote.

Plus, the “work from home” model has proven to be successful and sustainable.

Coworking is the solution to professionals who are tired of working from home or experiencing social isolation or need the dedicated space to get work done.

On the business side, e-commerce is growing. Now that more entrepreneurs sell products or services online, business owners can set up and incorporate where they please. This amount of flexibility is great for small and medium cities.

Shared office space is ideal for entrepreneurs who want to connect with other driven and ambitious people in the city. The flexibility of terms and lower entry costs are the perfect way to keep expenses down while growing the business.

Why are Black-Owned Coworking Spaces Critical to Milwaukee?

Milwaukee is a unique city with over 600 Black-Owned Businesses (link)!

Yet, with the opening of Ambition Center MKE, there are only four Black-Owned coworking spaces within the city of Milwaukee.

Studies have shown that people of color (POC) have often experienced microaggressions in the workplace. “As office buildings begin to slowly reopen, it makes sense that many marginalized people would prefer to continue to work in spaces that make them feel safe” (link).

As organizations and companies work to make Milwaukee a region of choice and redefine Milwaukee as a top-ranking city for African Americans, we need more Black-Owned workspaces in the city.

When Can I Tour Ambition Center MKE?

We offer daily tours of our space. We are located at 530 E. Vienna Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53212. Use this link to book a tour today!

We offer private offices, general coworking space, a media room, event space, and conference rooms. The team would love to meet you!

Stay Ambitious!

-Ambition Center Team

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