Nancy Tellem is paving the way for women in Detroit to hit their professional stride by pairing them with women who wish to mentor them as one of the founders of BasBlue, a non-profit networking organization housed in a renovated midtown Detroit mansion.
As president of CBS Entertainment, Tellem has overseen programming for CBS since 1998, and was number three on Hollywood Reporter’s 2003 Power 100 of Women in Entertainment.
A native of California, Tellem moved to metro Detroit in 2015 when her husband, Arn Tellem, took on the position as vice chairman of the Detroit Pistons.
“I’ve spent my entire life in California and my career was pretty much entrenched there when Arn had the opportunity to work with the Pistons,” said Tellem, who now lives in Bloomfield Hills. “The more time I spent in Detroit, the more amazing women I met, who are either just starting out their career or moving back to Detroit and looking for a career change.”
Tellem realized many of these women did not know one another because “they all seemed to stay in their own lanes.” She also observed that Detroit was lacking a gathering space to amplify professional and mentoring opportunities for women.
That marked the impetus for Tellem and her associate, Nike executive Natacha Hildebrand, to create BasBlue, a non-profit space for women dedicated to creating pathways and opportunities through connection, mentorship and personal development.
BasBlue is housed in a three-story renovated mansion at 110 East Ferry Street. Tellem encourages all women to visit the first floor that includes a restaurant and a café featuring food supplied by women-owned or operated farms and bakeries.
Other floors reserved for members feature a library, work and meeting spaces. A lower floor hosts a health and wellness center complete with locker rooms and showers. BasBlue has welcomed hundreds of women and nonbinary people through its doors since it opened in October 2021, and its membership continues to expand.
This year the organization’s Trailblazers-in-Residence program will award up to 100 complimentary memberships to innovative thinkers.
“Women applying to be Trailblazers range in all ages and backgrounds,” explained Tellem. “Some have retired from one career and are looking to restart another, while others are young women coming out of years of volunteer work trying to figure out their paths.”
Tellem said BasBlue’s rapid growth reflects the desire of women who want to participate and cultivate mentor-mentee relationships, a concept that was hard to come by early in her own career path.
“When I was starting out, there were few women mentors available because there were very few women in the fields I was pursuing,” said Tellem, a mother and grandmother. “Sure, there were women lawyers, but partners of the law firms were men. When I transitioned to the entertainment field, there were even fewer women in those top positions. All the while, I was challenged on how to balance my professional goals with my personal ones of marriage and having children.”
While researching the concept for Basblue, Tellem discovered that larger cities offered for-profit exclusive social networking clubs with expensive membership fees, but none modeled the mission she was after – creating a level playing field that focused on professional mentorship for all women.
“The word ‘club’ engenders the idea that BasBlue is unattainable to most. BasBlue is a space for all women.”
Tellem said seeing her vision of BasBlue turn into reality has been extremely gratifying.
“I love how women are drawn to this space, knowing they can come here, even during a pandemic when most are isolated and working remotely. We have created at BasBlue a space that balances both professional and personal gathering.”
Story: Stacy Gittleman