Geoff's Blog: 2016 was a milestone year for the Gravitate community

Last week I wrote a post about the broader Iowa innovation community's achievements in 2016 and this week I want to highlight the good things that happened a little closer to home here in the Gravitate community. All in all, it was a pretty eventful year in 2016 so even though we’re already a few days into January, I wanted to take a few minutes to share some things that I'm proud we accomplished:

Our community is growing!

When you’re talking about the size of coworking communities, the two numbers everyone is quick to cite are membership and square footage. While they probably aren’t the most important metrics they can give you a glimpse into the health of the community.

Our monthly average of coworking members topped 80 people last year, up from about 63 in 2015 and 42 in 2014. On top of that, we have several others folks regularly involved in various ways, including community members, drop-in and punch card members, mailbox members, etc.

We didn’t add physical space to the location in 2016 so our square footage stayed the same (a little more than 8,500 sqft). Interest in our Office Memberships and Dedicated Desk Memberships has continued to grow despite both options being full for most of the year. We’ve been maintaining a waitlist for Office Members and finding ways to add additional Dedicated Desks (both good problems to have).

Expansion (soon!)

We’re working on expanding to two additional locations and I’d hoped to have both up and running in 2016. Unfortunately, that didn’t quite work out. We’re close on each location and I’m hopeful that one or the other will lock in and we’ll be ready for members soon.

We did do a series of weekly Pop Up Coworking days in Ames in the first part of the year with good results. Look for that to return in 2017 and expand to include several parts of the Des Moines metro. 

Lots of events

Speaking of Pop Up Coworking, we hosted a bunch of events this year. Twelve months means another twelve First Friday Open Coworking Days at Gravitate, twelve Community Happy Hours and twelve member potlucks. As far as lunch goes, we’ve watched several seasons of Game of Thrones together, walked to Pappajohn Sculpture Park countless times for Food Truck Friday and learned from experts on things like the future of downtown Des Moines and how to be a better remote worker during the BYO Lunch Hour

Those events are lots of fun and thank you to everyone who participated this past year.

We started a monthly Show & Tell Lunch Hour series where members of our community share the things that interest them personally. I learned about everything from home automation to cosplay to quick pickling (or as the experts call it “quickling”). It’s been a great way for our members to get to know each other better and is officially one of my favorite things that takes place here.

Lest we forget, we hosted Paul Singh, Dana Duncan and their Airstream trailer for a week this summer on the Des Moines leg of their national Tech Tour. Out of that, we launched the Full Time Founders’ Meetup, an occasional gathering of the people who have taken the leap to working on their startup companies full time.

The Gravitate Team

Events always take more work than I expect and it was awesome when one of our members, Andrea Metzler, volunteered to help organize our monthly potlucks. She did a great job and formally joined the team a few months ago (yeah!). As we head into 2017, she’s onboard full time, she’s continuing as our events director and will also be the Community Manager for our downtown location.

While I’ve been working with freelancers and subcontractors on this business for a long time, it feels like a big milestone to have W2 employees like Andrea on the team. Keep an eye out as we’ll be adding two more Community Managers to the team, too, to help with our other locations.

We were awarded a grant!

A big reason why I’m able to grow the team is because of assistance from the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA). Earlier this year, they announced the “Entrepreneurial Investment Awards”, a pool of money allocated by the State of Iowa to help the people in our state that help entrepreneurs.

All of the other winners are big institutions or established organizations who have experience seeking funding from sources like this. This was the first time that I’ve pursued something like this for Gravitate. The application was understandably intensive and thus a major time investment. All of which made getting the award such a highlight for the year.