Business development / Coworking

Coworking company 1776 rebrands to 76 Forward to align its ‘current mission and vision’

CEO Jennifer Maher said the company "couldn't back down from the adversity of 2020."

One of 1776's now-shuttered D.C. campuses. (Courtesy photo)
Update: Comment from 76 Forward President Charlotte Lee has been added. (8/5/21, 12:35 p.m.)

In the four years since D.C.-based incubator 1776 and Philadelphia-based coworking company Benjamin’s Desk merged, the company has made a lot of changes.

It has since opened new locations and closed others to align with its business model as well as hosted accelerators and programing. It currently has no D.C. sites, as it closed its Lafayette Square location on April 30, and its flagship Philadelphia location in Rittenhouse closed in January.

And Thursday, the company announced its latest change: It’s rebranding from 1776 to 76 Forward, in an effort “to re-establish their identity and re-ignite their mission.”

The rebranding comes with an update to the company logo, a new website and a new tagline. It also comes with the promotion of Charlotte Lee from chief of staff to president of the organization. She started with the org as a campus manager for Benjamin’s Desk, and has held other roles over the years, including events manager and director of operations.

In an email, Lee clarified to that the name and tagline change was important to dispel connotations of racism. “Where Revolutions Begin” didn’t feel appropriate in the wake of the racial justice movement sparked by the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others, and after the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, “1776” became almost “wholly associated with an ideology we do not condone,” she said.

“Our name, tagline, and the associations they came with started to feel not just uncomfortable, but holistically not representative of what we were trying to build and how we aim to establish ourselves,” Lee said. Past 1776 member newsletters authored by Lee have also noted a desire to sever the brand’s tie to the United States’ founding year because not all people were allowed the freedom the American Revolution purported to bring.

Throughout the pandemic, the company has spoken to community stakeholders to help solidify its future aspirations, it said. 76 Forward will continue a slow rollout of its overall rebrand strategy over the next several months. Its new tagline, “Venture Forward Together,” hopes to inspire current and future members and partners to join the company in forging new paths of innovation.

“Our team has faced challenges recently but we constantly went back to our mission and vision to guide us,” CEO Jennifer Maher said in a statement. “We knew we couldn’t back down from the adversity of 2020. And we knew there was more that needed to be done in order to re-establish ourselves as leaders of innovation. That’s when our fight response kicked in.”

Director of Strategy Melissa Rucci said her team to come to terms with the unforeseen demands of pivoting during the pandemic — the company has downsized to four locations across Philadelphia, Cherry Hill and Indianapolis, and has nine staff members. It maintains a virtual event series.

The future of coworking isn’t certain in a pandemic world. 1776 is among a handful of coworking communities to close their doors in Philadelphia in recent months; last month, Indy Hall closed its hub at 399 Market. Meanwhile, international coworking company Mindspace opened 42,000 square feet in the Wanamaker Building this spring.

The company’s aim, Lee said, is to take the company’s revamp and expand to innovation regions outside of those already heavily trafficked, like New York or Boston.

“Our hope is to serve those regions that may have been previously ignored, yet are primed for growth,” Lee said. “We want to level the playing field, bring innovative opportunities and resources, access to capital, access to talent and mentors and create valuable programming to solve specific problems.”

Companies: 76 Forward
People: Jennifer Maher

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