Scott Ball / Rivard Report
There’s probably not a better metaphor for a place where startups that need a safe and supportive environment to make their way through the competitive business world than a building designed to look like a navigational beacon.
Three weeks ago, Impact Guild opened its doors in the last remaining Beacon Hill “lighthouse” structure, built in 1922. The company joins a growing number of co-working spaces, such as Geekdom, LiftOff and The Workery, now operating in the city. Last year, a Fortune article estimated there were 7,000 such co-working enterprises around the globe and identified trends in the space, including the emergence of niche communities.
At Impact Guild, a dozen small businesses and startups have already drifted into the 5,700-square-foot safe harbor and joined as members.
Inside the quirky building at 708 W. Summit Ave. is an open-concept space made warm and inviting with exposed red brick and wooden beams and floors, a blend of mid-century modern and contemporary furnishings, photographs on display by RATIO, founded by local artist Morgan Whitney, and plenty of sunlight. The main floor houses open desk space, a small library, three conference rooms of varying sizes, and a modern kitchen.
The second story, where private, dedicated offices are occupied by a family foundation and several others, serves as home base for the unique genesis of the Impact Guild.
A former lumber and home interiors outlet, the building was donated in 2015 to The Park Community Church, which spent two years and $400,000 renovating the space inside and out. Now, as anchor tenant, the church holds meetings and events for its members there.
Park, a nondenominational church, was founded in San Antonio seven years ago and is based on the idea that a church should be part of the community and neighborhood. There are now two Park parishes that meet in school buildings and another about to be “planted,” according to its pastor, Scott Austin.
“When this resource became available, we started to brainstorm about what would be something for us to do with the building,” Austin said. “What we got excited about is turning it into a resource for the city … opening it as a co-working space for people who have the same heart we did for the city of San Antonio, for its neighborhoods, and to do some good overall.
“As people of faith, our hope was to seek [out] people of goodwill and hang out with them because we have the same desire for our city to become a better place.”
Church member Sarah Woolsey, a marketing strategist, founded Impact Guild and now manages the space.
“The plan is for this to be a mutually beneficial relationship,” Woolsey said. “[The Park] basically helped incubate the Impact Guild and get us off the ground. As we become self-sustaining, we would [like to] take over this building and [run] that side of things.”
With “collaborating for the common good” as its motto, the Impact Guild operates as a nonprofit intent on providing shared workspace for social entrepreneurs — its niche in the growing industry of co-working.
“Everything we make we reinvest into this vision and our desire to equip others to think about meeting needs in the city through their business,” Woolsey said. “We want it to be an example of how organizations can be self-sustaining, but then reinvest in the mission and vision.”
Like most co-working sites, common desk space is available for rent for a monthly fee and includes use of a desk, conference rooms, private “phone” rooms, and coffee. Rent is $75 per month and a day pass is $18. Workshops and other resources also are provided for members. There’s plenty of free parking, but the desk space is only open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Work-life balance is one goal of limiting office hours. The other reason, Woolsey said, is to keep after-hours available for members, community organizations, and the general public to host events, especially programs that fit with the mission of being a good neighbor.
Examples include a recent self-defense class for women and another event that used art and music to address the issue of human trafficking.
Current members of the Impact Guild include an attorney, an architect, and a videographer, among others. Some say the central location, in midtown San Antonio, is ideal for many members and their clients.
“I really love that it’s in more of a residential area,” Woolsey said. “It seems like some people resonate with that. For what we want to do it feels like a very good fit for our DNA. Because we want to be asking those questions like, ‘What does it look like to be a good and engaged neighbor?’ and we literally have neighbors and things we can get out and get involved in. And that’s the desire to join in what’s already going on and build on the good.
“We just want to provide a resource and place for these conversations to be happening, and for people to meet together.”