Ohh-ooh. Ahh-ahh. Translation: It’s time to get down to business— monkey business that is.
Karate Monkey is a new business based in Ypsilanti of which the focus is bringing out the inner child in all of us through hosting different events. Regardless of whether the employees are running an event or just brainstorming in the office, the motto is to always be having “crazy fun.”
According to Thomas Joseph, the “Architect of Adventure” at Karate Monkey, the business began with an idea.
“Part of the concept of the company is that we’ve worked many places before,” he said. “That’s a common theme, that most of us have worked with somebody and didn’t enjoy it, or sat there the entire time thinking, ‘If this was my company, this is what I would do.’ ”
Angela Michele, the “Master of Monkey Business” (or executive officer) said, “When we first conceptualized our office, we knew we wanted a place where there were no executive offices and cubicles. We imagined a space that was wilder, where there were tables and everyone could just pull up a chair. We think it creates more of a dialog, more dynamic interaction, and more productivity. Everyone becomes involved in decisions they wouldn’t normally be involved in.”
One of the ideas that came out of such a workplace is the tricyclocross. Michele said, “We’ve taken that concept [of a cyclocross] with the giant tricycles and crossed it with an X-Games style.”
In a cyclocross, cyclists have to work through obstacles in their pathway. Occasionally the cyclists even have to pick up their bicycles. The X-Game part of the tricyclocross is, according to Michele, “There are six riders lined up at the starting line and there’ll be a point of which the path narrows. Someone needs to take the lead to go through there first. So its X-Games style aggression to take the lead, but then you’re faced with all these obstacles.”
The tricycles used in the race are special in that they are handmade at Workman Cycle. Each bike is worth about $400, coming in rainbow colors with “comfortable seating” according to Michele, who also said, “Until you ride one of these, you will never understand the intricate steering of the tricycle.”
Yet, many of the details that are part of the tricyclocross wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the dynamic of the office. For instance, Joseph said about Michael Christopher, the “Engineer of Thought” (marketing committee member), “Even though his main purpose here is marketing, he helped logistics and planning of a race. [We] truly embrace what everyone else is always saying: Being flexible, listening to everybody.”
Besides running the business collaboratively, Karate Monkey also focuses on being environmentally friendly. Joseph pointed to a chair and said, “This is no regular chair, this chair is made from 111 recycled Coca-Cola bottles.” Likewise, Michael indicated that the table, “Is reclaimed wood. They were once doors.” Even the shelving units are made out of cardboard so they can be recycled.
Besides recycling, the company makes an effort to spend time outside. “We meet in Riverside Park every other Wednesday,” said Joseph, “We have our mandatory Monkey Business meetings, then we gear up and go play in the park and people come join us.”
While these “adults” and “business people” play while working, not many other “grown-ups” see eye-to-eye. One of the problems Joseph deals with is, “Even though I tell them they can still be young at heart, they seem to think, ‘Well, I’m forty years old. So I don’t really understand what you’ve created.’ But the students, they’re the ones who get excited when I tell them about the company.”
Those students are the ones who make the company possible. Joseph said, “What’s crazy about the company is that when we first started it, we wanted it to be this fun cool place. People who don’t work here only come here to play.” Michele calls these people, “Friends of the monkey.”
It’s because people enjoy being at work that Joseph said, “I’ll stay here well into the evening, when I know I shouldn’t be here because I’ll be here the next day. But I don’t dread being here.”
To learn more about Karate Monkey, you can visit them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/#!/karatemonkeyevents. They will also be coming to Eastern Michigan University on Saturday, Sept. 29 for a tricyclocross event for the students and faculty at the EMU indoor practice facility.
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