Introducing the Upstairs Community: stories that make us better people

Today we proudly launch the Upstairs Community — stories that make us better people. It’s the opposite of a newsletter as we know it. It’s the exciting beginning of building a tribe based on similar values and belonging to something bigger than us.

July 13, 2020
Reading time 6 – 9 minutes

Before diving into this long-form essay, I encourage you to read the story behind Upstairs. You might be tempted to think that it’s just another name for our blog. I promise you it’s much more than that.

It was a collective effort where different perspectives came together to create a place where our stories and hands-on experience can live. We have bigger goals and more courageous ambitions. Read it to understand what Upstairs means to us so that everything that follows makes more sense. Thank you!

Why do we kick-off this daring journey

I’m Oana, and maybe you’ve heard my name a few times. It comes up in most of the stories we share, but you might be more familiar with a few parts of my work. Like the article about how media coverage within WordPress should take another route that made ripples in unexpected ways. Or when I made a bold statement that caring is the new marketing and why I believe we need to relearn how to communicate in this new reality.

I am part of the Pixelgrade crew. You might have heard about us when we decided to price our themes based on the overall effort and value delivered to the customer when everyone did the opposite and put innovation at the back of their priorities. Or you might have come across one of our top products, that take advantage of the latest WordPress improvements and offer an outstanding experience.

In case you did not bump into any of them, no worries. It’s okay. You can check them later. Besides, we have plenty of time to know each other, and the Upstairs Community is the perfect arena to create stronger bonds. You’ll soon know why.

People who know us are familiar with the fact we have a holistic view on things. We don’t like dichotomies, and we think that the same behavior or opinion can lead to great results in certain scenarios and to unfavorable consequences if conditions change.

As Rutger Bergman wisely says ”we’re not good or bad, we are pretty decent people.” via his amazing book Humankind.

With a similar view in mind, we’ve been helping creative people all over the world make an impact within the communities they are a part of since 2011. With a genuine eagerness to discover stories, not to invent them. With skin in the game. With determination to get our hands dirty and connect the dots. With the belief that we need tribes because we are social animals and natural storytellers. With the grit to reduce the distance between us.

Over the last nine years of Pixelgrade, we got rid of a lot of assumptions. If in the beginning we put all our energy in communicating around our products, well, today we push the boundaries and kick-off an online community around stories that make us better people.

The beauty of growth lies in embracing discovery, regardless of where it takes you. You commit to a process governed by authenticity.

We change the narrative and spark conversations that help us feel less alone. This way, we can better navigate the challenging times we’re facing. In the end, we’re more alike than different.

My teammates and I have been working hard to find a better alternative. One that is personal, kind, relatable. The opposite of content packed as urgency, clickbait, and big words.

We change the relationship with email

Before anything else, we have to give some credit to emails. We often get a negative vibe about them because most are poor in terms of value. They are single-minded and full of self-promo. They don’t encourage dialogue, just monologue.

However, it’s one of the few mediums where you can have some intimacy. It’s somehow designed to promote a slower pace. You can answer whenever you want. You can take the time to write down a thoughtful message or you can choose not to reply at all. You can read it without too many interruptions, which is amazing in a world full of distractions and push notifications.

We love good stories delivered through emails. Inside the team, we follow and often debate emails written by people like Paul Jarvis, that has an approach to business and the world we often resonate with. Or the guys from DOR, a magazine that promotes narrative journalism (consider it the Romanian version of The Correspondent), who know how to pack great content and send it to our inbox. In both cases, they do more than delivering newsletters. They help us gain a better understanding of the world. They twist our perception so that we don’t feel apart anymore. They keep our holistic muscles warmed up. They start conversations and debates.

The truth is I was keen to start an online community at Pixelgrade. One where stories are placed at the forefront of the experiece.

I immediately thought about how my face-to-face interactions happen. When I have a cup of coffee (aussie preferably) with a friend of mine I don’t talk only about myself nor I brag about my accomplishments. I don’t reach them out only when I have something to say or some personal interest. I don’t share just the bits and pieces that portray my life in a dazzling light. I don’t cherry-pick information.

We can do better. Fortunately, when I raised this issue inside the team, different reactions popped-up. Some of my colleagues were skeptical about what would such an endeavor bring us, and others were excited to make room for meaningful stories and gather an audience around them. The opposite attitudes were a good sign since indifference and detachment are far less valuable than any pushback.

We can learn so much from the real world and make the digital one way better.

With this consensus, the thought of building a community of like-minded souls through stories that makes us better people started to float around in my head. On top of that, I felt this is the right opportunity to bring emails closer to our values since they too shape who we are.

At Pixelgrade, our core values are: excellence as in do your best, caring as in treat folks and things with due respect, and gratitude as in be mindful about where you are today. By like-minded people, I don’t mean folks who think we’re always right or that we do not welcome different views. On the contrary, we encourage and need people to reinforce ideas they agree with and offer alternate perspectives when we are not on the same page.

The Upstairs Community is the playground where we share stories that make us better people, despite how each of us defines that.

Yes, I know it might sound loose in a world where everyone recommends clear unique selling propositions. Well, it’s not the first time we zag when most zig.

We aim to create a tribe of folks who understand and trust the power of stories and how they can help us navigate through life.

The Upstairs Community comes packaged as a story delivered twice a month, on Sunday. It is written by both us and you, our member. If you want, you can bring your contribution as long as it is in alignment with the essence of this community. You can read a story by Jim Antonopoulos, a well-known entrepreneur from Australia, or a narrative by David Parrish, an expert in the creative industries based in the UK, or an intimate narrative from Marta, a reader who accepted to be vulnerable and she a powerful story.

Everything you should know about it can be explored on the official community page. From the manifesto to a clear promise we put at the forefront of this tribe, we covered all aspects.

After nine years of supporting creative souls in many forms, we are beyond happy to bring our skills to the table and create an online community. Our firm belief in offline connections and real-life conversations will probably not change much, but we consider the digital landscape can and should become more human-centered.


We’re here to make it happen, but we need you. Would you like to join the Upstairs Community?

A question by Oana, the gal in charge with Upstairs Community:
What are your expectations when being part of a community?

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