On one side of South Baltimore’s Port Covington, cranes are constructing new buildings where developers are aiming to house businesses and residents seeking to move into the area.
Across the peninsula, tucked behind the bus garage-turned-tech and maker hub at City Garage, buildings that formerly housed industry and operation are already up and running with businesses and orgs, with a purpose.
Impact Village is the home of renovated office, training and workshop space that’s designed to provide a home for small businesses and nonprofits working to help the city. It offers space free of charge, and supplies resources like Wi-Fi, mail and security. The space has a mix of shared offices and meeting rooms, as well as dedicated spaces for nonprofits like the social impact startup accelerator Conscious Venture Lab, nonprofit suit outfitter Sharp Dressed Man and woodworking-slash-training program Sandtown Millworks.
“Not only are we building a world class destination that’s going to be full of life and vibrancy,” said Marc Broady, VP of community affairs at at Weller Development, which is the master developer of at Port Covington, at an event to formally launch Impact Village on Thursday. “But we’re also here to celebrate the use of this space, which we could’ve used for lots of different things. But we chose to use this to help small business and organizations and companies grow and thrive and move on.”
The idea is that fledgling nonprofits and social enterprises take space without having to worry about rent and overhead, and connect with others that can provide the resources to grow.
“We know that when we empower our local businesses, our minority businesses and our women-owned businesses, that they empower communities that are reflective of all of us,” said City Council President Nick Mosby. “See, individually we can do great things, but collectively we can forever change the city of Baltimore and some of the systemic issues that plague the city of Baltimore, and that’s exactly what this coworking space is set up to do.”
Outgrowing the village for a bigger HQ is a mark of success. That’s what happened with CityWide Youth Development, which moved into the space in 2017 before it was the Impact Village. The org offers solutions to crime and poverty through manufacturing and entrepreneurship skills. As the first tenant in the space, founder Rasheed Aziz said it was able to develop the systems behind social enterprises like Frozen Desert Sorbet and Made in Bmore clothing. It also formed partnerships around the city, and in the early stages of the pandemic, it made gowns and masks for first responders for the City of Baltimore, State of Maryland and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Now, Citywide Youth Development operates out the EMAGE Center, which is filling a space of its own on North Avenue in West Baltimore with entrepreneurial ventures.
“The output of resources that we would’ve had to embark upon would’ve been absolutely tremendous for a small organization without having access to the space we needed to scale,” Aziz said. “They gave us all the space we needed.”
Sharp Dressed Man has had a number of pivots and locations over the years where it headquartered work to outfit men with suits for job interviews and workforce readiness. Out of Impact Village, it will have a space for the personalized tailoring and styling it provides.
“It really started from a couple trash bags of clothes, and it’s grown where we’ve been averaging the last couple years, even during COVID, suiting up 2,000 guys a year,” founder Christopher Schafer said; in all, it has suited 10,000 people. Impact Village also has space for Dress for Success Greater Baltimore, which outfits women with business attire.
The flagship venture at Impact Village is Conscious Venture Lab. The Baltimore City-based accelerator and venture fund has supported over 200 startups that measures success on social good as well as profits, many of which are women and BIPOC-owned. It will assist more from a dedicated open office space inside the facility.
“The energy around Baltimore is palpable these days,” said founder Jeff Cherry, “and this facility is really just another example of how this city is coming together to create a more just, a more joyous, a more equitable and a more prosperous city for all of us.”
Here’s a look at the rest of the ventures inside Impact Village, with descriptions from Port Covington:
- Choice Jobs (UMBC): The Choice Program believes in the power and potential of all young people. The Choice Program at UMBC provides engaging programming, connection to resources and holistic support to youth in central Maryland’s communities.
- MOM Cares serves under-supported mothers with a NICU experience in Baltimore City by providing postpartum doula care including transportation, childcare, advocacy, self-care opportunities, and nutritious meals to mothers and their families.
- Murphy Enterprises is a firm invested in community impact, workforce development, vendor/supplier inclusion and sustainability. The companies within their portfolio are anchored by a commitment to community and developing a stronger Baltimore.
- Reveille Grounds is a mission-driven coffee shop and community gathering space that will build stronger communities for veterans and military-affiliated individuals in Baltimore by providing support, resources, and personalized care.
- Sandtown Millworks creates functional and lasting furniture from reclaimed wood and materials salvaged locally in Baltimore. Their core belief is that something beautiful can be manufactured locally from materials otherwise destined for a landfill.
- Stanley Snacks for School Kids is a nonprofit that supplies snacks to public schools in the Baltimore metro area for kids who suffer from food insecurity and hunger. All snacks are from manufacturers and grocery, wrapped, and sealed.
- The Arts Project Inc is a nonprofit dedicated to exposing youth to creative avenues of artistic expression. It hosts various sessions, events, and trips encouraging youth to tap into their creative selves.
- Wolf Professional Security Inc. is a private security and investigations firm, providing security needs for businesses in Port Covington including Impact Village, City Garage, Weller Development Company and Baltimore Sun.
- The Port Covington Workforce Opportunity Center focuses on job placement relating to employment opportunities within the development of Port Covington, primarily serving Baltimore City residents.
Here’s more photos of Impact Village: