• Silva Gentchev

Community isn't just a buzzword. My three rules for building and growing it.

Community is something that we have been talking about ever since the start of Reset. Ever since we talked to 50 remote workers who talked about the isolating effects of working from home. Ever since we met countless people in Austin who rooted us on before we even opened our doors as a startup and coworking space.

Community has been a consistent force of power for my business, and yet it still feels like that word can be too generic, too buzzy, and too overused. Over the last 6 months, I’ve tried to gain more clarity on what “building community” really means and how myself and my co-founder can build it organically.

How can we create a place, a space and an occasion where everyone can be themselves and can create genuine connections?

That’s been a constant questions in the back of my mind — both as we iterate on our workspaces, but also as we look forward to events and programming.

Last month, we had the best month ever in terms of creating and hosting events. We hosted three events back-to-back at our East Austin location that were driven mostly by talking to people, and brainstorming ways to bring people together.

This included kicking off our first Think & Drink (Coffee) — a monthly morning series that features a 15–20 minute talk meant to teach something new to visitors. Each speaker is someone we’ve met who is passionate about something, and wants to share that knowledge — whether it’s a workshop on morning routines or a look at inclusion in the workplace.

As I stood there last Thursday morning looking at a room full of people, it finally felt like we had a handle on this whole community thing. People had signed up for a morning talk, and showed up! Even on a dreary Austin morning.

That’s what inspired me to really start thinking about some of the things that have made our community events successful so far, and how to build off that momentum.

As we look forward, these are the three things that I am keeping top of mind:

1) People are people are people. We all want to be part of something genuine. Start with this, and let it inform everything else you do.

There’s always demand for events that allow people to genuinely connect with each other or learn something. I’m not necessarily talking about networking events, since those can be a toss-up at times. If you start with the goal of creating a space or occasion to spur conversation and learning, the rest falls into place fairly quickly. It always helps if it’s over coffee, snacks or a happy hour — eating together is inherently a conversation starter!

2) Find passionate people, and help them share their knowledge/passion.

Our Think & Drink (Coffee) series started because there was such a wealth of knowledge around us, whether it was Reset members or people we met through events around Austin. This city is full of passionate folks with incredibly diverse sets of interests, and all that’s needed is a space & time to share those. Find people, identify the topics they are passionate about and create the platform to share that.

3) No hard sells

This one isn’t a very inspiring rule, but an important one in my mind. Building community is not about selling. It’s about creating something genuine and providing value (whether that’s knowledge, time, human connection) rather than selling a product. A big rule for me when creating programming with community in mind, is no hard sells from me or anyone involved.

The best advice I ever received on this topic was to bring my genuine self to my work and the task, rather than attempting to fit the mold of a Co-Founder or Community Manager. People respond to genuine interactions, and as much as I love a good “hack” now and then, this isn’t the arena for that kind of thing.

Do you have any tips or stories for how you’ve been able to build community in your life or work?

I’d love to hear them either below in the comments!

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