When Nexus Impact Center Executive Director Robin Lee tells the story of how the social enterprise coworking space was started, it begins like a joke.
“A pastor, a professor and two businessmen came together,” said Lee, who lives in Westfield. “They had similar but different visions about how to inspire people to take the burdens they have and passions they have and work on them through whatever their profession is.”
Nexus launched in January 2020. Coworking spaces aren’t new but the impact center offers something different than most.
Businesses that occupy office space from Nexus Impact Center must have a social impact element to the way they do business. Lee said businesses run the gamut. For example, one works with the opioid epidemic, one helps veterans coming into the workforce and one helps recently released inmates entering the workforce, among other causes.
“All those things are dual purpose,” Lee said. “So, yes, it’s a revenue model and everything is priced under market to help businesses launch, grow and scale and move out of Nexus. You have to be a nonprofit or a for-profit embedding impact into your model.”
Nexus Impact Center is home to 72 businesses, 25 of which are office tenants.
The founders are Josh Husmann, the lead pastor at Mercy Road Church Carmel; Ethan Fernhaber, founder and president of Renewing Management; Stephanie Fernhaber, a professor of entrepreneurship at Butler University; and Craig Dereka, who owns several businesses ranging from fulfillment to commercial printing to live event production.
“Out of the two businessmen, one (Dereka) started a business when he was a teenager and it had grown tremendously and he sold it off by (age) 30 for a lot of money but then felt empty and like the American dream wasn’t all it was cracked up to be,” Lee said. “He wanted the next thing to mean something. The other businessman (Fernhaber) shifted to using his business for good. They all came together and thought, ‘We can help more people do this. We need a community of like-minded people to work together.’”
Dereka said the heart of creating Nexus originated from doing something more than chasing profits.
“It’s too easy to get caught up in building a machine only focused on generating profits,” Dereka said. “While profits are extremely important and good and extremely necessary to perform good things, it’s also important to look at a triple-bottom line that includes more than just profits.”
At Nexus Impact Center, Lee said nonprofit tenants can learn the revenue side of business from for-profit tenants. For-profit tenants can learn the impact side of business from nonprofit tenants.
“With that synergy, we can change the dynamic and landscape for Indiana and be a leader in our country,” Lee said.
For more, visit nexusimpactcenter.org.
Striving toward the United Nations’ 17 goals for sustainable development
When a new tenant joins Nexus Impact Center, the business is asked which of the United Nations’ 17 sustainable development goals it is contributing to.
The UN’s 17 goals for sustainable development by 2030 are no poverty; zero hunger; good health and well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; life below water; life on land’ peace, justice and strong institutions and partnerships for the goals.
“Usually, they are contributing to more than one,” Nexus Impact Center Executive Director Robin Lee said. “That’s what we use as a center point to help people. We also will take tenants who are wanting to get into embedding impact into their business and they haven’t started but want to get help started. There are a ton of issues out there, so we hone in on where their passions are. We all have a burden for certain types of issues and how can you use your business in that way.”
For more on the sustainable development goals, visit sdgs.un.org/goals.