Coworking isn’t simply about renting to work. No, coworking is much more than that. It’s a community that gives freelancers, startups and entrepreneurs that sense of belonging. It gives them energy to not just support their own community, but also give back to their local economy.
Impact Brixton is one of those coworking spaces that aims to be more than just a place where you work. They support small business owners and entrepreneurs to make meaningful connections. They give back to their local community and are big on supporting diversity and inclusion in their space.
Gerald Vanderpuye: Taking a Leap of Faith
Gerald Vanderpuye, was born in Accra Ghana, and later moved to Angel Town Brixton, UK, in his teens where he built his start-up company ShoDeck (formerly BuyerDeck) with his Latvian business partner Ilgvars Jecis and is now giving back to the community through his non-profit company that he co-founded – Impact Brixton.
Taking a leap of faith, Gerald resigned from his job and started his software company after meeting up with Rob Fitzpatrick, author of the Mom Test. He started his entrepreneurial journey working in his bedroom on his own, but later became lonely. He recognised that he needed another human around him to energize him and decided to look for a coworking space where he could continue working on his startup and have the support that he needs.
Finding Impact Hub Brixton and Starting Impact Brixton.
Gerald came across Impact Hub in Brixton back 2013 where he then relocated his workspace from his bedroom a month into starting his business. He was one of the first members of the coworking space and Impact Hub Brixton became the pillar of his company, an emotional support system, and access to networks.
Then in 2018, the owners of Impact Hub Brixton made the decision to close the space. By that time Impact Hub had built a coworking community, and was an important part of the local community as there were very few coworking spaces in Brixton. So, Gerald and a partner decided to take over the space and rebrand the company into Impact Brixton. And from there, their coworking community grew to be more inclusive, diverse and started giving back to the local community.
Impact Brixton and Giving Back
Impact Brixton took on some initiatives that helped create the diverse community that they currently have. Upon rebranding the company an initiative was started to help the community by opening their doors to people that have the dream, talent and ambition to succeed but could not afford coworking spaces. It’s then that the ‘X-change Programme’ was born.
About 20 individuals were invited to work from Impact Brixton – and so in most of those cases, these people have a network that can afford to pay for a space. And by reaching out to these individuals, Impact Brixton’s tight community started to reflect their wider community thus opening the door to diversity and inclusivity.
Impact Brixton, adapting through the Pandemic
As most coworking spaces, Impact Brixton lost almost 40% of their customers and 80% of their revenue when the pandemic struck.
It sent them into a spiral due to the financial losses, anxiety set in, and they started doubting if they could plan for a long haul, however, they got through that when they started moving most of their programs online.
By doing this shift, Impact Brixton started downgrading their fees, so instead of their usual £300, their online coworking fee is now down to £30 a month, saving their members and keeping their community intact.
They started doing Friday Zoom calls, where they offered educational online programs, technical sessions on how to use Zoom, and general games sessions. This mix of education and entertainment contributed to well-being check-ins and the solidarity of the community.
Diversity and Inclusion in Design
When Impact Hub became Impact Brixton, the aim for a more diverse, more inclusive and a wider community had to be thought of. This meant that they needed to think of ways to make their coworking space welcoming to all.
One of the aspects that they thought a lot of, is the design of Impact Brixton. They thought about what makes other coworking spaces, restaurants, clubs and bars attract a certain socioeconomic class. All these aspects – the lighting, the music, and the ambience was taken into consideration. They thought about how it would make their members feel? How it would attract a more diverse community and make their work space a little more inclusive?
Gerald tells us that by choosing a homely feel rather than a corporate feel makes Impact Brixton just what it is today – a social enterprise that is diverse, inclusive and giving back to the community. Going for a homely vibe rather than a bougie coffee shop vibe proves to be the right choice for Impact Brixton. Every aspect of the design and the overall feel of the coworking space is well-thought-out – from decors, ornaments, plants, music and lighting.
Some Words of Wisdom
We asked Gerald what words of wisdom he can leave for other coworking spaces in these times of uncertainty…
“When building a coworking location, space is the most important decision. Having space to let to businesses who are more prone to stay in one location rather than come and go, gives you a certain amount of security with regular incoming making its way in. Then the additional space can be used for flex-desks and shared office space for the remote workers and digital nomads.
If your space is too small, the business model is really difficult to achieve profitability. It all comes down to choosing your scale wisely. Impact Brixton is 8,000 square feet but we plan to move into a larger space down the line to maximise this model even more.”
And in the end, Gerald also expresses how rewarding it is to be part of a coworking space that gives back to their local community and is able to help people grow and succeed.
“I think it’s important to highlight that this is incredibly rewarding to run a coworking space. Not financially, perhaps, but from an impact perspective or difference that you can make to people’s lives.
There’s nothing better for me than knowing that we are running a space that helps people pursue their dreams professionally.”