Why is Pixelgrade building a community for creatives?

I thought a lot about writing this article. Not because I have anything to hide, quite the opposite, but because I considered it would not be of interest. Until I realized that people tend to forget, they get lost in their fair share of struggles and need reminders and reinforcement. This is one more opportunity to convey the why of such a project.

November 18, 2021
Reading time 4 – 6 minutes

Pixelgrade and community building: what’s the catch?

I heard this legit question a few times since we kicked off the Upstairs Community adventure.

Depending on what you know about us and what’s your gateway into our universe, you might already have a clue, or you might be entirely in the dark when searching for an answer. That’s okay.

In the end, Pixelgrade is a ten-year-old design studio where we’ve been creating digital products in the WordPress ecosystem. From themes, both premium and free to plugins of all kinds, we managed to carry our flag consistently and even make ripples from time to time. We showed up one day after the other through our lasting products, bold statements, or our consistent transparency reports.

Few of you know that Pixelgrade’s mission is to support creatives who want to impact their communities. Way before articulating it as clearly as it sounds today, we’ve been crafting WordPress themes for creative industries and small businesses since the very beginning. These niches were always in our focus. 

Moreover, George and Vlad, the founders of Pixelgrade, have said out loud that a company’s role exceeds its profitability. While this does not mean that it’s okay to overlook the organization’s financial health, it also does not mean that counting bucks is the ultimate goal.

The balance between these two is tricky and often comes with tensions and challenges on both ends. 

Needless to say, we have an extensive portfolio of products tailored to creative professionals. From photographers to architects, from restaurant owners to bloggers (travelers, fashion lovers, food aficionados), we’ve been interested in serving these specific customers as best as we can. Besides crafting WordPress products that grabbed attention from 60K+ folks worldwide, we’ve been adding layers of value by sharing a tone of knowledge and expertise.

Another route we took on our journey to help creatives reach their potential is what today we call Upstairs Community by Pixelgrade. As any endeavor, especially those started in the “magnificent” year 2020, we had limited resources and a short-term view of the future.

We began from our selfish yet powerful desire to create a safe place to share peoples’ stories to help us feel less alone and disconnect from the tsunami happening around COVID. Depending on where you live on the blue dot we all call home, you might still have to deal with the scars created by the virus. We’re no different.

Getting in touch with our first members through video calls blew Andrei’s and my mind, too. The purpose was to find out what our readers take out of the narratives we’ve been publishing. We’ve done almost everything from gut feeling and less from a crystal clear strategy, even though I have 11+ years of experience in community building. Upstairs Community is my first online trial. 

Many companies claim they are community-led or that they put the community at the core of their efforts.

These conversations revealed, once again, that stories are a powerful way to connect and enable belonging. Not only that, but we quickly found out that most of the readers were creative professionals, thus our kind of guys and gals.

This overlap showed that nothing happens by chance. People get together and stick to brands, missions, and communities where they feel they share a similar set of values. Some of our community members got closer because they appreciated Pixelgrade as a company. Others are fans of our products. Many resonated with the way we communicate and our culture.

One year and a half later, even though some community members are also Pixelgrade customers, this place does not directly address them. At least not yet. It does not mean that it excludes them, either. But it’s not a technical forum where they can exchange ideas about features, nor a platform where they can ask for a helping hand from our side.

It’s a quiet place that amplifies the experience we’re offering at Pixelgrade through authentic stories from people just like them. Yes, maybe they’re not precisely in the exact moment in time, nor do they all want to build a website right now, but it’s an extension of what we are as a brand. It creates a more holistic image of us.

These days, many companies claim they are community-led or that they put the community at the core of their efforts. Some do that, and most don’t. They just try to ride the wave. We choose to stay honest and transparent in our efforts.

We’re not community-driven by core, but it does not mean that nurturing one is not well aligned to our mission and values. Upstairs Community proves it big time.

Join other 330+ creative professionals who dare to show up as they are and share stories about their path. It’s both inspiring and liberating, trust me.

A question by Oana, the gal in charge of Upstairs Community:
What do you expect from a brand community?

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