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Impact Brixton is not your average coworking space. Its community programming harkens back to the early days of coworking while standing firmly in the world of modern workplace design. How it got to this point may explain how such a singular space exists.
Gerald Vanderpuye and his team have been running Impact Brixton (IB) since 2020. The story begins in 2013 when Gerald was setting up a tech company with his business partner.
“[My business partner] was living in Riga and I was living in Brixton and after nine months we hadn't really gotten anywhere. My partner said to me: why don’t we look for a coworking space in Riga and another one in London? I had no idea what it was but I looked and found out that an Impact Hub was opening in Brixton the following week.”
It was there, by joining that community, that Gerald fell in love with the concept. He worked from the basement of the town hall, in a space that the local council gave to the Impact Hub. There—on the first day alone—he met 20 people, which turned into 50 or 60 over time.
“That community turned me into an entrepreneur, I created my network there, and I got the first 20,000 pounds of investment that later, thanks to that community became half a million."
With their startup growing fast, they moved into a WeWork in East London (which offered them a very good price for a two-year contract). However, shortly thereafter, and despite traveling to Silicon Valley to try to raise funds, he couldn’t secure the 1.5 million he needed.
“It was for the best, the company wasn't going to continue to grow because it was targeting a very small niche market.”
And so Gerald returned to Brixton and the Impact Hub looking for a new project to embark on. But when he went to inquire in person about membership, he was told that the space was about to close.
“One of the community managers at Impact Hub also from Brixton said to me why dont we keep it? What do you mean, its a failing business I asked her. I went to sleep and couldnt sleep i realised this was actually my calling. I love hosting people, I geek out on culture of work and I love Brixton.”
The rest is history. They talked to the Impact Hub team who closed their company, Gerald swept in to keep their chairs, spoke with the members (who knew him from his previous stint in the space), created a new brand, and renegotiated the lease.
Starting with an established community meant that the early transition was smooth, but after a year of working out of the old location, it was clear that the space was no longer the right fit for their goals. At this point, providence literally crossed his path. While walking with a friend the two of them ran across the person who had bought Brixton Market (Brixton Village) for 37 million pounds, whom his friend recognized from a press photo.
Gerald, who by now you can imagine is a person who does not hesitate to take action, walked up, introduced himself, then asked the owner if he had any available space.
“We approached him in the middle of the street and I asked him if he had 2300m2 for me.” He responded: “No, but I've got 600m2. Do you want to see it?” The rest is history: IB had found a new home.
The space was a wreck when they found it, but their excitement outweighed all other concerns. The renovation was carried out in phases to keep costs under control. After countless hours of intensive work, and squarely in the middle of the pandemic, IB opened in its current location in Brixton Market.
When you visit the space it doesn't leave you indifferent.
Coworking 1.0’s inspiration is evident from the second you set foot in the door in how they maintain a clear community focus. Then, as you look around, other aspects such as the events, the presence of a bar, or the fact there is a distillery in the space makes their unique character impossible to disguise in any way—but why should they?
On a tour of the space, Gerald goes into more detail on the design process, how much they care about the community, and how proud he is of their events, the distillery, and the bar.
He also fills me in on a key strategy they use to create well-designed offices. First, they renovate the space and use it themselves until someone falls in love and decides to rent it. Then his team moves to another office and the process repeats itself, ensuring that every office is both beautiful and practical.
Some of the examples of events that are regularly held in the space are in their own words:
Our space is used as a backdrop to amazing artists once a month. We don't know who the artists are until 36 hours before the show, and it's an amazing way to find new music and amazing talent. Link
Last Friday @ IB
On the last Friday of each month, over 100 creators gather in Brixton to connect at what we believe is the most natural, fun and social networking event ever. Link
Cone Nebula is a monthly event featuring four artists from different disciplines who respectfully critique each other's work. With no predefined talking points, what tends to emerge is a free-flowing, insightful, and inspiring exploration of the creative process. Link
IB THRIVE is a free 6-month programme supporting Lambeth-based business owners to recover and thrive post-pandemic. Offering 12 masterclasses across key challenges currently faced by SMEs - including financial resilience, reconnecting with customers and digital marketing skills - as well as direct support through our 1:1 Power Hours with expert business strategists and wellbeing coaches, the programme aims to boost the resilience of local business owners in an accessible way. Link.
If you’re in Brixton, and you're looking for a space for freelancers or small startups with a strong community, IB should be on your shortlist. I personally would definitely give it a go. What most impressed me is the fact someone was still willing, in 2020, to build a space that combines the mentality of a traditional coworking space with the structure of a modern flexible workspace. I pose a question to Gerald: will the spirit of IB survive a possible expansion? It’s no simple challenge, but I am sure that given his passion, vision, and energy Gerald will not fail.
If you aren’t already using Cobot as your coworking management software, give it a go! You’ll find that our features can help you run your coworking space more effectively and grow your community. Just sign up for a free trial or a live demo session. And if you have questions, our support team is all ears!