Exposition Park will officially welcome a new coworking community Saturday with a mission to meld enterprise and social good.
Impact House Founder and CEO Benjamin Vann said his space will operate in the intersect where “profit meets purpose.”
“I think we can effectively drive social and economic change in communities if we continue to operate with both in mind,” he said.
Vann always has been the kind of person that creates his own roadmap, building things from scratch.
“I think we can effectively drive social and economic change in communities if we continue to operate with both in mind.”
When he saw a disconnect for black professionals in the city, he created the Dallas Black Professionals Social Network as a meetup group to unite folks from around the area. Dallas County’s historically low voter turnout inspired him to found the Dallas County Civic Alliance to get citizens plugged into community issues.
Vann considers his latest endeavor —crafting a coworking community and hub for social innovation in South Dallas — as a culmination of all his interests rolled into one.
“I think a lot of times society tells us we should do one thing really good. I think that model is just outdated and people should embrace the fact that they are creators,” said Vann, a former arena football player with a background in corporate finance, fundraising, and community development.
FREE COWORKING WILL OPEN ACCESS TO MORE IN COMMUNITY
With Impact House, Vann wants to empower entrepreneurs and small business owners to carve social change into their business models. For instance, he plans to work with barbers in the area to couple literacy with haircuts encouraging young customers to read a book as barbers do their work.
“That’s the approach I would like to take in the community — teaching how to both build business and improve the community at the same time,” he said.
Many are becoming aware about the area’s food insecurity issues, but the lack of resources in South Dallas extends to jobs and other community sectors, too, Vann said.
He’ll offer a limited amount of free, three-hour coworking slots giving people in the area access to free Wi-Fi and a place to bring their ideas to life.
There will also be a traditional membership track, where people can pay for space and access to lockers or meeting rooms as well as advisers Vann calls “impact champions,” who can help guide members in developing their ventures.
“I figure most people that come into the space are going to be first time business owners or maybe their first time starting and we want to be that incubator to help them grow either to their own space or to leasing a private office somewhere,” Vann said.
IMPACT HOUSE LOCATED IN HISTORIC EXPOSITION PARK
Impact House’s location in historic Exposition Park steps away from Fair Park embeds it within the community Vann hopes to drive change in while hopefully pulling in freelancers and others from nearby neighborhoods.
“I thought it was a unique space to be able to serve different types of communities because it’s a very eclectic area,” Vann said.
The building itself has housed a number of businesses from a dry goods store to an art gallery. In its early days, horses would walk up to the space to get bits and horseshoes replaced.
“I thought it was a unique space to be able to serve different types of communities because it’s a very eclectic area.”
Impact House will occupy about 1,100 square feet of the building’s first floor with areas for coworking, dedicated office space, and meetings.
Vann said he’s already signed on a few members including Enriched Schools and nonprofit, Hack My Future.
Eventually, Vann would like to open up the second floor which has 3,000 square feet for private offices, open space, and conference rooms. There’s even a wet bar, he’d like to transform into a juice bar where South Dallas students could work part time and learn the ropes of running a business.
USING TECHNOLOGY TO SOLVE SOCIAL CHALLENGES
Vann is planning to launch a six-month program in August challenging South Dallas high school students to solve community issues in public safety using technology.
In the future, he’d like to tackle challenges in other public sectors such as health care and education.
“We’d like to take these products and pitch them to city leadership — whether it be the mayor or city council — for them to adopt as official city programs,” Vann said.
In April, he held a one-day pilot for the program, Hack4Impact, inviting 60 students in the area to brainstorm and go through an innovation process from ideation to pitch. The event brought in professionals from local nonprofits, marketing agencies, and other for-profit companies.
Terell Cobb, a senior UX design manager for Capital One’s Auto Finance team in Plano, helped facilitate the design thinking lesson.
“By the end of the session, students shared ideas like solar powered smart roads, community gardens, and anti-bullying,” Cobb wrote in a statement to Dallas Innovates.
He said the program aligns with Capital One’s Future Edge initiative, which aims to equip Americans with the skills and resources needed to succeed in a digital economy. Locally, the company wants to help make Dallas-Fort Worth a technology hub and develop tomorrow’s leaders.
“I think it’s a really powerful lever to combine the forces of nonprofit mission work and for-profit business practices to really empower change.”
“Capital One’s Plano Business Group is focused on engaging the community to nurture diversity and inclusion in lower income areas of Dallas,” Cobb said.
Amy Aughinbaugh, a business analyst with Communities Foundation of Texas, led students through an ideation exercise. She said outside of work, she’s personally been interested in social enterprise.
Impact House is structured as a B Corp, meaning it’s a for-profit business with a socially driven mission. Vann said his business model will be to use profits from coworking memberships to fuel community programming such as Hack4Impact.
“I think it’s a really powerful lever to combine the forces of nonprofit mission work and for-profit business practices to really empower change,” Aughinbaugh said.
IF YOU GO
Impact House Grand Opening
When: noon to 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: 827 Exposition Ave.
More Info: impacthouse.co
Photos by Chase Mardis.