Co-working for a cause

By Ken Williams | Editor

Normal Heights space is devoted to social entrepreneurs

In the past decade, co-working has gone from experimental to a trendy business practice. San Diego, too, has embraced this movement, a social gathering of people who work independent of each other but often share similar values and office amenities.

A new co-working space, the Collective Impact Center, had its grand opening on Jan. 9 in the Christ United Methodist Ministry Center complex, located on the southwest corner of Meade Avenue and 33rd Street in Normal Heights.

Social ambassador Ginny Kim checks her email as Collective Impact Center’s executive director Jules Lavallee looks on. (Photo by Ken Williams)

This one touts an altruistic bent, according to its mission statement: “The Collective Impact Center is a community work space with co-working offices dedicated to advancing the social venture ecosystem by providing spaces for social entrepreneurs to work, collaborate, and thrive.”

Jules Lavallee, the executive director, said the Collective Impact Center was founded by Lee Barken, who is chief community officer for CollectiveSun. The solar financing company, which helps nonprofits and tax-exempt organizations fund solar projects nationwide, is a tenant in the center.

Barken and pastor Bill Jacobs, of the ministry, came up with the idea of a co-working space for social entrepreneurs while brainstorming one day last year, Lavallee said.

Founding partners are Impact Without Borders, a group dedicated to pursing positive social or environmental change in the San Diego-Tijuana region; Mission Edge, which maximizes the impact of nonprofits and social enterprises; and San Diego Impact Investors Network, which makes investments in companies and organizations that provide measurable social and environmental impacts.

Prospective tenants at the center will include nonprofit groups, artists, educators and activists who are committed to pursuing positive and sustainable social or environmental change in San Diego, she said.

“We want to create a great community where people can grow and thrive,” Lavallee said.

Jules Lavallee, Collective Impact Center’s executive director, sits at a desk that can be rented by tenants. (Photo by Ken Williams)

Although the center is not targeting a specific demographic, she said attracting a variety of different types of entrepreneurs would make it a place for creativity.

“Diversity is important, people who are creative, people who are authentic,” Lavallee said. “I am authentic; I think I am going to make a difference in this community through this center.”

A native New Englander with a Boston accent, Lavallee arrived in San Diego last year. She formerly was a marketing manager for Orchid Technologies Engineering and Consulting, which is based in Maynard, Massachusetts.

Lavallee is also the Hollywood celebrity correspondent for Copa Style Magazine, published by Rodney Wayne Branche.

Her LinkedIn profile shows she has volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters and People Making a Difference in Boston.

“I done a lot with homelessness, including raising money,” Lavallee said. “I really enjoy volunteering; it’s good for the soul.”

Fundraising for the homeless

The Collective Impact Center’s first fundraiser will raise money for the San Diego Coalition for the Homeless, based in City Heights, and the Urban Street Angels, based in North Park.

The fundraiser, “Fashion for Causes,” will be from noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13, at the Collective Impact Center. Besides the “red carpet” treatment, the event will include inspiring speakers, live entertainment and networking opportunities.

“We want to use the fashion show to engage the community and show them the space,” Lavallee said. “I’m inviting my celebrity friends and reaching out to everyone I know.”

Featured speakers will include:

Lamin Turay, a digital marketing professional and founder of the media production company Maveriqs. He is the creator of Maveriqs’ flagship show “Boss Battles” and its new web series “Skill Trees.” His passion, Lavallee said, is helping entrepreneurs bring their stories to life.

Shantaya Pace, CEO and founder of a minority-based nonprofit charity, T.L.E.B.G. The charity provides access to educational resources for low-income, minority girls in an effort to create bright leaders of the future.

Ken Gora, a television producer, film director and entrepreneur from San Diego. He has produced two TV series showcasing the business and startup companies in Southern California. He was the creator, judge and director/producer of the television series “So You Think You Can Sell” and the TV series “The Romance,” both filmed in San Diego.

Kamila Gornia, known as the “Blow Up, Scale Up” marketing strategist and business coach for entrepreneurs and leaders who want to make a massive impact with their message and scale their business online.

John Scott Castro, who works to help people make quantum shifts in their belief systems and business model design. He is also a digital marketing consultant and corporate sales trainer.

Brandee “Kurvy” J, a self-acceptance advocate, multimedia personality, author, fashion editor and speaker. She empowers women to embrace the best versions of themselves.

Michelle Romano, actress, director and producer who can be seen in commercials, print ads and independent film productions. She is an advocate for the organization Childhood Cancer Kids and serves as an honorary board member for several women empowerment campaigns.

Tickets are $25 at

Lavallee said the fashion show should be the first of many fundraisers held at the center.

What does it cost?

Pricing starts at $110 per month for a “hot desk.” Tenants pick an open seat in a common area and go to work.

A “dedicated desk” — a space just for you — starts at $175 per month.

A “private office” starts at $250 per month.

The center has a series of meeting spaces and an “ideation room” for collaborative innovation.

Amenities include access to meeting rooms and the kitchen, high-speed internet, printing services, and free parking, coffee and tea.

All tenants will be able to attend free or discounted training sessions and workshops. “Lunch and Learn” events will be offered on a regular basis. For example, Lavallee said, she would be presenting workshops on digital marketing, social media and public relations.

Because the center is located within the ministry center complex, tenants will also have access to a prayer and meditation space.

Tenants will have 24/7 access to the center via a keyless system. Social ambassador Ginny Kim will work Monday through Friday during normal business hours.

Future plans include expansion to the ground-level space above the center. “We plan to add a food pantry and a clothing-donation room” that would help low-income residents, Lavallee said.

In June, the center will take over operation of the day-care center located in the Ministry Center. “This will be very valuable to young moms” who are tenants of the Collective Impact Center, Lavallee said.

The co-working space is located in the 26,000-square-foot basement on the south side of the complex.

Prospective tenants are invited to an open house from 4-6 p.m. on Jan. 16.

For more information, visit or drop by the center Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

— Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and can be reached at or at 619-961-1952.

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