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Chelsea, MI 48118

Megan Torrance on fitting a business into a space too big for it

A few years ago, TorranceLearning was a crossroads. The education firm didn't want to leave its space in downtown Chelsea but didn’t fit into its current office. So Megan Torrance, the company’s CEO, took a gamble. She took over a huge space in her building and made it her own.

"We thought, 'Wouldn't this be great if this as ours?'" Torrance says. "We were ready to bust through the wall."

TorranceLearning has called the Chelsea Clock Tower home for years. Torrance and her team love it. It’s historic, lots of character, big outdoor space for meeting. When it came time to find a bigger home, Torrance didn't want to give up her access to grass, sunshine, and working in Chelsea’s most iconic structure for a few more square feet.

"It's a fabulous location," Torrance says. "It's easy walking distance to downtown. There is free parking. We had this awesome space we didn’t want to leave."

On the other side of TorranceLearning's office wall was a large empty space the developer hadn’t figured out what to do with yet. It had been used for storage and even a rehearsal space for the The Purple Rose Theatre Company at one time, but sat largely unused. The developer was thinking about dividing it up into office suites so Torrance beat them to punch and offered to take over the whole space.

"It pretty much doubled our space, which doubled my rent," Torrance says. "It was a big growth opportunity and a big opportunity I didn’t want to pass up."

That led to the creation of Clock Tower Labs, a 2,300-square-foot space that TorranceLearning uses for its own events and rents out on the side. The space is wide open and fitted out with a few extras here and there, like a mini-kitchen in the back and video studio in another corner.

"It kind of reminds me of a college dorm room where the students can rearrange the furniture whichever way they want," Torrance says.

The space is often rented out as a brainstorming space to local corporations, like Johnson & Johnson and Trinity Health. Other local groups use it, too, such as an African dance troupe. Torrance used that as an opportunity to teach her employees about working in rhythm and team building. It has also allowed her company to make a lot of connections with other companies and organizations it hadn’t had the chance to do before.

"It hasn't paid off financially yet," Torrance says. "But it does allow us to work with some really cool groups."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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