We have so much to share about the vision for the space, the vision for the city and the team and community behind Impact Hub Birmingham. With so many of you supportively asking what’s we’ve been up to behind the scenes, it was high time we provide you with the story so far…
No one can deny that it’s been quite a journey. We’ve had our highs, we’ve had our lows, but we have finally arrived at our most exciting week to date. Before we get ahead of ourselves, you’d be forgiven for still wondering what Impact Hub Birmingham actually entails. Whilst many of you have been to our events, worked in our pop up space & been a vital part of our journey thus far, we owe you a proper explanation as to what we have undertaken, and more to the point, what we’re actually referring to when we excitedly cite ‘Impact Hub Birmingham’ 24 hours of nearly every day. As such, we thought we’d give you a brief snap shot of the fabulous, turbulent, inspiring and exciting few years that have led us to this point, many of which you may well have been a part of.
2011 onwards – The TEDxBrum Journey
To kick off this week we decided to take a step down memory lane, and we figured, where better to start than the arrival of TEDxBrum back in 2011? In all fairness, we’re drastically underestimating the length of this lane… if we’re going to reference any memories then yes – a hunger for innovation started quite a few years further back than that here in Brum. Steeped in pioneering history and responsible for patents and moments that have shaped the modern world as we know it, you could say that somewhere in our Birmingham blood lies the feeling that ‘anything is possible’. But to us, what did this feeling actually evoke? Coming up for 4-5 years ago now, a few of us had returned to set up camp in Birmingham after a stint of chasing the bright lights in London. From humble and tentative beginnings at Urban Coffee Company on Church Street – the coffee shop to which we owe so many of our founding ideas and brainwaves – TEDxBrum was finally born. Year on year since 2011 our community, aspirations and ideas have only grown and gained more traction. Time and time again the same question has kept cropping up; what next? What could foster this spirit of ideas, creativity, collaboration and positive social impact more permanently? What if it could be a way of working and thinking – a genuine way of life more permanently? Following our 2013 event which saw 350 audience members, 2000 people watching on our live stream and more than 20,000 views of our talks online, Immy Kaur asked this exact question.
2013 onwards – An Impact Hub in Birmingham?
By the end of the 2013 event the notion that this could become more than a yearly occassion became pressing. With a team prepared to throw everything they had at creating a more permanent ‘TEDxBrum’, serendipity saw that we bumped into Indy Johar, a founder of Impact Hub Westminster. Within hours our ideas, thoughts, networks and passions collided and we had began to think about what was next in earnest.
The rest of 2013 involved lots of conversations, change makers dinners, our first public co design events and a festival of ideas to bring to light those who might be interested in working through this idea with us. Before we were fully aware of it, we had begun to grow a team who were seriously interested in making a space for collaboration and continuous inspiration their everyday reality. Having spoken to hundreds of people, held numerous events, prototyped a pop up space and visited many of other Impact Hub’s around the world, we finally managed to find a strategic partner and future space. As a founding team we were inspired by the global connectivity and vision of the Hub network – we liked that all Impact Hub’s were locally owned and true to their respective local context. We truly believed that we had all the right ingredients to make a Hub for Birmingham that was globally connected, locally rooted and driven by a long term vision and commitment to change, collaboration, social impact and genuine outcomes. And so began our journey – it was time we had applied to join the global association.
A Bumpy Ride …
As fate would have it, whilst on the brink of submitting our pop up space, sending in our application and putting our foot on the accelerator to make things happen, we dramatically lost both our space and partner overnight. For a split second, it’s fair to say that we lost our footing and fell apart slightly. We make no bones about the fact that the experience was an unnerving one. As young, naive, and independent freelancers who had left our jobs, invested everything we had financially, emotionally and physically in bringing this dream to life, we hadn’t fully entertained this car crash as even being possible. With so much money floating around our city, we could not foresee that it could really be this tough. And yet you know we’re about to say next don’t you? The cliche’s are true for a reason. It was simply the best thing that could have happened to us looking back today. At last, in the face of our first heavy setback we truly came to appreciate just what it would take to make our vision take off and the level of personal, emotional and physical investment we needed to weather the storm – together – as a team. It was thanks to this experience that we honed our grit, dogged determination, passion and collective commitment to one another and to our big idea. With little more than a more focused team, a clearer vision of what we wanted and a supportive community, we started from scratch. In no time at all the resilience of the team and the generosity of our community became prevalent. This time around, the generosity of others saw that we secured a free space where we could set up base as we set out on a new search with a new lease of life.
In next to no time we’d visited over 50 potential spaces, all of which were recommended by our extended network. It soon became clear that we had fallen head over heels in love with just one – coincidentally the very first location we had seen after we’d received news of the collapse of our former partnership. With the delay, new search, and legal processes that were all part and parcel of starting again, we were looking at another huge investment of both our time and finances. By this stage, we were all in – we knew we had to carry on, and at last there was a ray of light. In a short space of time, UnLtd kindly awarded us a small grant to see us through some of our early costs, we incorporated our CIC and our future landlord also agreed to lease us the space … subject to a rather large deposit. So of course – there we were, off searching for as much backing as possible once again. We looked high and low for guarantors and potential investors who believed in us and we spoke to literally everyone we knew to see if they could support us in anyway to get going. Unfortunately (and understandably) no one was quite ready or in a position to take the chance. As a team we had come to realise that we needed to cross this bridge alone. With that, we secured a loan, committed ourselves as directors and moved forward with securing our dream space.
Where are we now?
For many weeks now we have been quietly getting along with the many complexities that business plans, feasibility studies, leases, legal processes and an application to the Impact Hub Association tend to bring. As we write this, it’s fantastic to be able to acknowledge let alone share with you that we are very nearly there! This week we pick up our keys, this month our application to global association will be voted on and we are on track to open our doors as early as January 2015 with a full launch in early March. To say it’s a busy December would frankly be an understatement!
As outlined at the very start of this post, this week is our most exciting yet. Not only will we be announcing our stunning location, we will be launching a call for support from all of you to help us jump over our final few hurdles to make this communal vision a reality. Last but certainly not least, we’re beyond excited to announce how you could sign up to become a member of Impact Hub Birmingham at a once only early bird rate! And so, after 18 months, we wish to sign off by reiterating that we are still full to the brim with that feeling – anything will always be possible in #EpicBrum. An Impact Hub Birmingham from January 2015? Let’s make it happen.
Over the last year we have shared lots about who, what, why and when. To read more about the journey so far, our vision, ideas and our musings, check out the links below.
Much love and gracious thanks from Impact Hub Birmingham’s Candidate team of 2014!