Growing a vibrant community of 400+ members with Gerald Vanderpuye from Impact Brixton

Learn how to grow an engaged community with Gerald from Impact Brixton
By Kelly K
August 1, 2023
Growing a Vibrant Coworking Community

Gerald Vanderpuye built his first business out of a coworking space. The community supported him throughout the entire process, helping him raise half a million dollars and scale his tech company to success.

After four years, the space closed down, threatening the loss of the community that had supported Gerald throughout his entrepreneurial journey. Not wanting to lose the thing he cherished most, he decided to take action.

Gerald asked 80 people to join him in creating something new and unique. That community, now over 400 members strong, is the heart and soul of Impact Brixton

Scaling a community to success can be challenging, but Gerald has managed to make an impressive impact in Brixton and beyond. Here are five key takeaways from our conversation with Gerald on how to build a collaborative and inspiring community.

Learn how Gerald successfully migrated his community from Nexudus to Optix in our customer story.

1. Understand who you’re serving

Impact Brixton Coworking Space
Photo provided by Impact Brixton

Gerald describes Impact Brixton as, “a place for anyone that’s on the cusp of making a change in their life and stepping into their dream or their passion work.”

As a non-profit organization and social enterprise, Impact Brixton supports the greater entrepreneurial community through mentorship programs, trainings, and business masterclasses.

But it isn’t just a space for entrepreneurs – it’s a space for dreamers. 

“I think the word entrepreneur can alienate a lot of people. You don’t quite see yourself as an entrepreneur when you’re at the beginning of whatever sort of passion or dream project you want to work on,” says Gerald. 

“Instead, we label them dreamers. We try to create a space that is inclusive and instantly welcoming for them to feel at home so they can stay here for longer. That way, they can meet other people that are like them.”

Gerald creates this kind of space holistically through:

  • The look and feel of the environment
  • The music playing
  • The food they serve
  • How people engage with each other

In understanding exactly who he’s serving, he’s able to create a space perfectly tailored to his community where people instantly feel at home.

2. Offer flexible pricing

Pricing can be a tricky thing to figure out when just starting your coworking space. Gerald has intentionally priced his offering so that it can serve all members of his community.

“Most of the people that join this community are from underrepresented or economically underprivileged backgrounds. They’re stuck in lifestyles where they’re not making enough money and they’ve had this passion to start something for a long time that they haven’t done,” says Gerald.

In order to better serve his community, Gerald has a membership plan priced at 35 pounds, or roughly $45 USD a month, for anyone that wants to try out the space. At that price, they get one free day of access to the space every month along with:

  • A 20% discount on day passes
  • Invites to exclusive events and educational programmes, both online and offline
  • 40% off meeting rooms and event spaces
  • And more

From there, members can graduate to a higher tiered plan, or stay with that entry-level pricing for as long as they’d like. Having this flexible pricing allows more members of the greater community to explore the space and obtain value from it.

“Often our members come through and they can't afford to use the space. So we try to design our pricing so it doesn't exclude anyone, regardless of their economic background.”
Gerald Vanderpuye, co-founder at Impact Brixton

3. Create initiatives to serve members

Gerald has gone one-step further to create an opportunity for everyone to benefit from the value of community with the Impact Exchange Program.

In exchange for working four hours a week, members of the Impact Exchange Program receive a free coworking membership along with training and onboarding to help them succeed in their role.

“The Exchange program has been our secret sauce,” explains Gerald. “Every single person who now gets paid to work here has come from that program. Often they spend a year volunteering and they start working on their dreams. Then they end up getting a part-time job here to support them to do what they’re wanting to do.” 

Impact Brixton has about 40 core individuals who came from the Exchange program and who are now helping to grow the community. They’ve shared with their network the impact that the program has had on them, triggering a powerful referral flywheel.

According to Gerald, the Exchange program is one of the most important initiatives that they’ve run to help build the community.

“Maybe a member has been unemployed for a long period of time and they just can’t figure out what path they want to take. They volunteer and within six months, they’re creating something that empowers them and gives them confidence. They start making money and improving their lives. It’s a huge impact on at least 100 plus people every year.” 

Creating such an impactful program has helped Gerald make a meaningful difference in the lives of hundreds of individuals, and the community at large.

“I would say all Exchange Program members, within a year, go from not earning any money at all to being financially sustained. You can see them make a significant improvement in their lifestyle and their livelihoods because they've now found a way to monetize the thing that they love to do.”
Gerald Vanderpuye, co-founder at Impact Brixton

4. Prove the value of paying for community

Provide value for paying for coworking community

Something that Gerald hadn’t expected when he started a coworking space was the challenge of giving monetary value to community. Although many people value community, they may not be ready to pay for it. 

“If you have showers, cool bike racks, or lots of other amenities, people tend to associate that with more value,” says Gerald. “There are a lot of people that value community, but don’t connect it financially to a value. They don’t quite understand what implications community is having on their success, so they don’t quantify it.”

It’s critical then to educate members on the tangible outcomes they can expect from joining a community, such as improved mental health, accelerated business growth, and a renewed sense of purpose. 

“They might not be ready to pay for community, but they will talk a lot about you and it will be remarkable in other ways. That’s been a really interesting thing to learn,” he says.

Understand the value of your community, but be prepared to invest extra time and energy in showcasing that value in order to drive growth in your business.

“We take community for granted, yet it’s so pivotal in everything that you’re building. It’s a foundation that people rely on, yet we don’t connect it financially.”
Gerald Vanderpuye, co-founder at Impact Brixton

5. Be intentional with your first 10 members

Your first few community members are going to set the tone for the rest of your community – so it’s critical to get it right.

Gerald says selecting your first group of community advocates is the most important decision you’ll make in your community building journey. He refers to them as the core group.

“When you start building a community, there are the first two to ten people that are going to help you scale. They will shape everything beyond that, from the values of the organization to what the community represents, to how it’s marketed, to the culture. It’s everything.”

Be intentional with who you start your community with, and select people whose values align with what you hope your business will become. In doing so, you can set the tone for the community from the very beginning.

“Spend 10x the amount of time building that first 10 people than the next 10 or even 50. They shape so many things - and it's nearly impossible to redo that again.”
Gerald Vanderpuye, co-founder at Impact Brixton

Building a worthwhile community

Impact Brixton Coworking Community and Staff
Photo provided by Impact Brixton

Gerald has successfully built an engaged community that extends beyond the four walls of his coworking space. He’s made an impact in the lives of hundreds of individuals, and continues to shape the broader community that he is a part of.

To summarize what we’ve learned from Gerald, you can begin to cultivate an engaging community through:

  • Understanding who you’re serving
  • Offering flexible pricing to meet the needs of a variety of members
  • Creating initiatives that serve your community
  • Proving the value of paying for what you are providing
  • Being intentional with your first 10 members 

To learn more about Gerald and how Optix has supported him in cultivating an engaged community at Impact Brixton, check out his customer story.

Special thanks to Gerald for collaborating with us and sharing his insights with our community!