Diane Dusendang and Chip Bowling opened X Ventures on Grandville Avenue SW in December after leaving the Grand Rapids office of Colliers International of West Michigan. Photo by Michael Buck
Chip Bowling and Diane Dusendang gave themselves a slightly belated Christmas present when they opened the doors to X Ventures, the city’s newest commercial real estate firm, Dec. 28.
Both had carved out successful career paths with Colliers International of West Michigan before deciding it was time to put their personal imprint on the local industry.
“It’s always been my life-long dream, and this is something that Diane and I always talked about outside of work. Colliers was a great firm — a great place to work, a great place to hone our abilities and to learn the market,” said Bowling, son of Bill Bowling, a longtime commercial broker and founding principal at Colliers International.
“But we wanted something that was closer to our hearts and that was a small, private, boutique company that could give a more personal and customized service to our clients,” he added.
Bowling has been in the commercial field for 15 years. He joined Colliers when it was Paramount Properties and remained there when it became affiliated with Grubb & Ellis. He also was a two-time winner in the most recent edition of the Commercial Alliance of Realtors awards.
“The volume of deals that Chip is involved in is very high. His energy level, coupled with his industry expertise, makes him a very sought-after realtor,” said CAR Executive Director Shari Veldman in an e-mail to the Business Journal.
Dusendang began her real estate career in the residential sector and spent about eight years in that field. After taking a year’s sabbatical, she went to work for Bill Bowling and served as his executive assistant for about a dozen years.
“I’m a licensed broker and I think he liked having an assistant that was licensed. Then I was a broker beyond that. I’ve learned the commercial real estate business through working with Bill,” she said.
“I’m pretty detail oriented so I really got into the due diligence part. I really enjoyed working with the attorneys, the title companies and the environmental companies on the commercial transactions.”
Both said Bill Bowling wished them well when they left Colliers.
“He was so supportive. He has always been one to say, ‘Chase your dream, listen to your gut and go with it.’ And we did,” said Chip Bowling.
“He wrote me the nicest note because I’d been with him so long. He said things are going to change, but I couldn’t be happier that you’re going to be with Chip on this adventure. And that meant so much,” Dusendang said.
She said the startup has been fun and everything has gone smoothly so far. She added that they put in long hours to get X Ventures going but found the effort exhilarating.
“It was very exciting so it wasn’t really work,” she said with a laugh.
“It’s been far beyond anything and everything we hoped for. It’s been very gratifying, and that’s why we know we’re in the right spot,” added Bowling.
Both said they haven’t faced a major challenge in getting X Ventures up and running in what is a fairly competitive industry filled with well-known firms. Dusendang said the reason behind the smooth start is the fact that their talents mesh with each other. She said both of them are detail oriented, but she is more of a backroom person while he is the in-the-field guy, and that combination has worked well.
“I think we just complement each other, and that’s why it has gone as smoothly as it has,” she said.
Dusendang said that working with Rob McCarty at The Image Shoppe, a local marketing and public relations firm, has helped them get the word out that they’re here and let potential clients know what they have to offer.
“Neither one of us are marketing experts, so the relationship that Chip already had with Rob became a natural fit. They have complemented us so well and have done some amazing things for us,” she said.
The partners said the firm’s name, X Ventures, developed from a process. Bowling said they both wanted something that was fun and easy to remember.
“X is where your home is. X is where your business is. X marks the spot. X is where all the hidden treasures are on a treasure map, and it’s our job to find those hidden treasures in the commercial market,” he said.
“It really was a process we went through with The Image Shoppe. They asked us a lot of questions at I don’t know how many meetings before we even got to the point of making a selection,” said Dusendang.
“It was interesting because Chip and I were completely on the same page with every choice in front of us, as to a thumbs up or a thumbs down. We kind of knew this was the name because it just narrowed itself there.”
Bowling and Dusendang opened X Ventures in Suite 340 at 44 Grandville Ave. SW, right above Bistro Bella Vita, which they said consistently fills their office with wonderful aromas. The firm’s online presence can be found at xventureswm.com.
What’s next for the duo?
“Now we really have to stamp the X into the Grand Rapids community. We just really want to brand X Ventures in the community, partner with the community and play a part in the growth of downtown,” said Bowling.
“We feel that we’re into our groove now. We went through all the start-up, all the equipment and installation. Now we’re just having fun. We’ve got our book of listings. We’ve gone on our pitches. We’re happy with where we’re at and we’re just going to keep working to better our relationships with our clients that we have, and build some new ones,” said Dusendang. “And we’re going to keep having fun.”