From Competitors to Co-Workers: Banko Goes Midwest

Ask any developer or operator who has partnered with our Marietta, Georgia team in the past six years and they’ll agree that Banko Design is no stranger to thinking outside of the box.

Our Interior Design and FF&E procurement firm quickly gained a reputation in the senior living and multifamily industries by designing timeless, functional and elevated communities that a person of ANY age and taste would love to call home. We took this same thoughtful approach when we strategically added boutique hospitality and vacation ownership markets to our portfolio.

It’s this culture of creative thinking and saying “hell yes!” to good ideas that pushed Banko Design to the next major chapter in our history – the successful expansion of our firm to a new city during the height of a global pandemic.

Last month, we announced that Banko Design would be expanding into the Midwest. We’ve added 10 amazing women to our roster who will run our satellite studio in Minneapolis, MN under the Banko Design name. These talented designers and procurement agents all hail from former Henrik & Co., the highly respected interior design and full-service FF&E procurement division of Minneapolis-based Henricksen Furniture, established in 1962.

But what’s the story behind how this expansion came to fruition? Surely this decision wasn’t made overnight? The story behind our growth is one of shared values, positivity, and the conviction that everyone in the design industry wins when we combine forces!

It all started when Amy Bursey, an industry veteran and General Manager of former Henrik & Co., cold emailed Melissa asking to compare notes. Not only was Amy also a leader of an elite design studio, she too is the proud mom of a son on the spectrum. Amy and Melissa were both building studios like they operate their family units – with great partners and nurturing members who work together to help the group grow with love and respect. The similarities between Amy and Melissa didn’t stop there.

Amy Bursey (left) and Melissa Banko (right).

During their first phone call, the two chatted about the day-to-day of keeping their studios running during the pandemic, their shared adamance about the importance of doing right by their team (which in turn keeps clients happy), and their commitment to challenging the status quo in both senior living and multifamily design.

Both groups treat every project “resimercially,” by considering the comfort and livability of a residential space for the end user while ensuring every specification meets rigorous commercial standards. All projects have their own unique narrative. Never once has either team just cranked out a generic design to satisfy a deadline.

Like Melissa, Amy’s core group of designers and staff has been with her for years, which is unique in an industry that typically sees a lot of turnover. We believe this loyalty is a testament to empowering your staff and ensuring they have all the resources they need to grow professionally.

“Our connection was instant,” said Melissa. “I didn’t think we could click so well – we were competitors after all. But in speaking with her, I saw in her the same drive and passion I feel about my team and my personal life.”

Amy added, “I got off the phone and thought, ‘Wow! That exchange went better than I could have even anticipated. This woman gets me. She understands the struggles I’m facing and what I’m trying to accomplish at our studio and at home.’”

The next steps were clear to Melissa as she wrapped up the first call. Boldly, she asked Amy’s thoughts about combining forces.

Many more late-night phone conversations later, the duo ironed out the details. The talk track was simple.

“This partnership is a win for the design industry,” stated Melissa. “You now have two well-known firms that were formerly competitors comparing best practices, streamlining processes, and ultimately taking interior design and procurement to the next level in an underserved industry. It’s such a great story – ‘from competitors to co-workers, leading the charge in reshaping the design industry.’”

She continued, “Bringing on the [former] Henrik & Co. team presented a strategic opportunity for Banko Design to expand our reach geographically. More importantly, we’re excited about the ability to play in markets we previously overlooked, most notably Skilled Nursing or “SNF,” in the senior living space. Henrik & Co. had some really great SNF work in their portfolio so now when we tell new clients that we provide great design at any budget, we can say that with absolute confidence.”

Amy added, “This partnership started as just a crazy hypothetical but the more we compared notes the more we realized this undertaking, though ambitious, made complete sense. I am ecstatic about the blending of our groups for a few reasons – our Minneapolis studio will be able to chase projects that we didn’t previously have capacity for and will have access to the premier design technology Banko Design utilizes on all projects.”

“We have thought through all the small details to ensure this transition is as seamless as possible for our team members and our clients,” Amy continued. “Our clients will benefit immensely from this move. We couldn’t be happier about the future of Banko Design and the opportunity this presents for the senior living industry especially.”

Minnesota is a renowned healthcare hub and our team is thrilled to be able to call it our second home. This origin story is just the beginning and we can’t wait to see how this entire chapter plays out.

Want to stay up to date on all things Banko Design and Banko Design Midwest? Follow us on LinkedIn and Instagram for a behind the scenes look inside our studios and a peek at our current projects.

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Banko Design is a turnkey interior design firm for the active adult, boutique hospitality, multifamily, and senior living markets with in-house FF&E procurement. Our talented team of designers and purchasing agents work with developers and operators to program, design, document, procure and install stunning spaces at any price point.