Grand Opening Celebration at Gravitate Downtown

Thank you to everyone who joined us for our Grand Opening Celebration and Ribbon Cutting last week. It was a pretty special event and I’m glad that you were a part of it. Attendance was far bigger than we expected but thankfully we bought enough beer, wine and snacks.

We’re really proud of the new Gravitate Coworking—Downtown space and the community that gives it life every day. We couldn’t wait for the event to be able to share it with all of you.

The official ribbon cutting. Photo by Lauren Matysik

The official ribbon cutting. Photo by Lauren Matysik

I started this business almost five years ago primarily because I needed a physical place to do my consulting work. Des Moines’ only coworking space at the time announced imminent plans to close, so I figured I’d start my own because how hard can it be? I never thought that it would become my full time job—much less a company that requires an entire team to run—but it has grown to that point now (and then some).

For those who are new to what we do, Gravitate provides shared workspace to people that work independently and to small teams. While a lot of people think of us first and foremost for the facility (and what a facility this is!) what makes this company work is the people, our community.

At one point in my remarks at the celebration, I asked the assembled crowd to raise their hands if they were current or former Gravitate members. It didn’t get a chance to count but it was easily more than 100 people and it felt wonderful to celebrate with all of them.

These are the people that allow this whole thing to exist and to grow into a place like our new one Downtown. Our business is somewhat unique in that we get the experience of having our customers on-site with us all day, every day and that is a lot of fun (most of the time).

A big thank you to the Gravitate team:

Abby, Jake, Geoff and Kyle. Photo by Lauren Matysik

Abby, Jake, Geoff and Kyle. Photo by Lauren Matysik

Abby Rowling is the community manager at this space and she’s pretty great. She had been a member of our community with two different companies before she came to work with us, is now invaluable to our operations company-wide and she’s always willing to make a design decision in the middle of the build-out.

Also, thanks to Abby’s whole family who either work or volunteer here in some capacity almost every single day. We joke that when you hire one Rowling, you get all the Rowlings, and they are the biggest help.

Kyle Lewis is our community manager at the Valley Junction space. Kyle and I knew each other because he was my commercial banker, so you can believe that was an interesting application to receive when we created his position. I’m glad he did apply because he fit right in instantly and is doing a great job with our West Des Moines members.

Jake Slobe is the newest member of our team. He’s the editor of Clay & Milk, a sort of subsidiary of Gravitate, and while doesn’t have any official duties with the coworking space, he is always up to help us cover the desk when someone needs to take a day off or run an errand.

A bigger thank you to my family:

My wife Hope, my son Graham and our big yellow coworking dog Hercules. Hope started her business at the same time that I started Gravitate so the last five or so years have been quite a roller coaster for the Wood family but we’ve made it this far and we’re not turning back.

Thanks to the people that made the event possible:

Gravitate members Camille and Colleen in the Polite in Public photobooth

Gravitate members Camille and Colleen in the Polite in Public photobooth

Our member Camille Renee of DSM Fashion Week and her client Saley Nong of Petals and Moss DSM who donated a tremendous amount of gorgeous decor! They really transformed the place into something unique, green and alive with nature.

Our members Jake Soll and Joe Miller of Polite in Public for providing the interactive photobooth that was a ton of fun (see the full gallery on Facebook ).

Our former member Lauren Matysik of Lauren Matysik Photography for documenting the day with amazing photography.

Our members at the Des Moines Downtown Chamber of Commerce for being experts on ribbon cuttings, for organizing everyone all night long and for providing the giant pair of scissors.

Thanks to everyone who helped create this space over the last two years:

To the team at the Shyft Collective including Zane Muntz, Nick Cross, Jeff Blosser, Greg Vose, Morgan Cook and April Durham (and several others) who created the design of this space and to past Shyfters, Holly Pohlmeier and Anna Squier for their significant work in the early stages of the design.

To my buddy Christopher Stafford at Cushman & Wakefield who taught me all about commercial real estate and was very patient in showing me around every open suite in the core of the core of the city larger than 10,000 square feet.

To our member John Moder of Crisp Solutions who built the network for this place from scratch and continues to manage it every day (not an easy feat with our crew!) and for always being the first person to jump in and help anytime he can.

And finally to my friend and landlord Jeff Young and his build team of DJ Price, Brian Sund, Brian Mohler and Ryan Jorgensen. They were the ones swinging hammers, placing the glass and using the arc welder so this literally would not have been possible without them.

Remarks from Des Moines City Council member Josh Mandelbaum:

Council person Mandelbaum’s remarks. Photo by Lauren Matysik

Council person Mandelbaum’s remarks. Photo by Lauren Matysik

Our special guest at the ribbon cutting was my friend Josh Mandelbaum who also happens to represent the Ward 3, where our business is located, on the Des Moines City Council. Josh and I met through the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute’s Community Leadership Program back in 2016 and it was a treat to have him offer remarks at the event.

Here are his words from that night:

Events like this are really the fun part of the job. We’re here to celebrate tonight and when I was thinking about what I wanted to say, what we’re really here to celebrate is a transformation, or rather several transformations.

One is the transformation of this space. This space has turned out incredibly. It is a tremendous asset for the downtown and it has helped transform this block and will help have a ripple effect on the rest of the area because when you create a space that is this cool and this vibrant it makes your whole community a little bit better every day. And that is what we’re here to celebrate for the first transformation.

We’re also celebrating a transformation that Gravitate is contributing to and that's a transformation in the way that we think about work both societally and as a community. Gravitate is really leading that piece of the transformation in Des Moines. If you’re not part of that, and your community isn’t thinking about that piece of how the workforce is transforming and how you contribute to it, you’re really missing out. So we’re celebrating Gravitate’s role in a broader transformation of work.

The third transformation—Geoff mentioned that we’ve known each other over the years—part of what I think is remarkable about this space is the transformation over time that Geoff has gone through as he’s become a leader and businessman in his own right and this is really a celebration of that.

So, there’s a lot to celebrate here and the results I think speak for themselves. I don’t have a drink but to those of you who do let’s toast to transformations.

Thanks again to everyone who joined us for the celebration at the new Gravitate Downtown and the countless others who have supported me and this company over the years. There is more good stuff to come!

—Geoff Wood

Geoff Wood is the founder, connector and space captain at Gravitate Coworking, a workplace community for entrepreneurs, freelancers and remote workers in Downtown Des Moines and Valley Junction. As part of his role as a community builder, he's the executive director of the West Des Moines Business Incubator, the publisher of entrepreneurial news blog Clay & Milk and a frequent conference speaker and event organizer. He's been helping share the story of the Iowa startup community since 2009.