Company Culture
Amplify Philly / Business development / COVID-19 / Coworking / Digital access

How REC Philly is moving its IRL community online during the pandemic

The pivot involved speeding up the rollout of a suite of digital offerings that were meant to launch months down the line.

REC Philly founders Will Toms (L) and Dave Silver in the lobby of their new space. (Photo by Paige Gross)

Just a few months ago, the leaders of REC Philly, a “gym” for creatives to make and grow their businesses, were unveiling their new coworking, production and event space in the new Fashion District. The new HQ was an expansion of the space and services they’d offered in North Philadelphia for the last few years.

“What began as a 600-square-foot location in North Philly is now expanding to a fully operating ecosystem, supporting creatives of all kinds in our community,” cofounder Dave Silver said of the space last July.

In the last few months, REC bulked up membership, hosted a bunch of community events and added 10,000 square feet of coworking and collaborative space to Philly’s East Market section. But the ongoing coronavirus pandemic forced REC and businesses across the city deemed “nonessential” to close for the time being.

That means Silver, cofounder Will Toms and their team had to find a way for the REC community to live online for now. Rolling out a digital offering was always “in the playbook,” Silver said, but the timeline moved up.

“We don’t really have many other options other than to expedite,” Silver said.

So, the team rolled out REC Digital, an offering of tutorials, trainings, virtual office hours, programming and events to keep its members up to date on business news and help them to continue creating. The community that existed in the coworking space can now continue online via the REC Philly app, and in a newly created Slack group for members.

So far, REC has hosted webinars like “Freelance to Freedom” and “Growth to Scale, How to 10x your sales using Facebook and Instagram.”

All of this programing is free for members, so while they can’t come in an attend events in person or use the recording or content creation spaces, they can continue building on their skills during the stay-at-home order.

And members who receive studio time as part of their subscription or who have purchased them will be able to roll over hours when the space opens back up. Silver said that they’re also offering eight complimentary credits — which can be traded in for hours in the booth, for instance — for folks who keep their membership throughout the pandemic.

“For our members, losing their credits is losing out on building their business,” he said.

Silver said that the team had been weighing the decision of when to close the space for the safety of its staff and members the weekend before Mayor Jim Kenney closed nonessential businesses, so they had a few days to execute the game plan. Silver, who co-organizes Amplify Philly, Philadelphia’s presence at the South by Southwest festival, had just had to make some tough calls for the org the week before when festival organizers canceled the big event.

Some of REC’s programming and virtual events are open to the public for a fee, and while many of them skew toward music or creative skills, there’s also plenty focusing on navigating your business right now, like one held last week with Ballard Spahr attorney Greg Seltzer.

Silver said that in the last few months, he’s seen increased membership in folks who are lawyers, business owners and entrepreneurs who are just looking for a likeminded community.

He also said that in the month since REC has shut its doors, there’s been a handful of local businesses asking how they can support creators during this time, enabling REC to give away about 30 memberships to local creators.

“It’s been pretty special to see some of these businesses stepping up,” Silver said. “Many artists have no safety nets, and folks are offering free memberships, or microgrants. I’m observing the business community really supporting these people.”

Companies: REC Philly
Series: Coronavirus

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