We all have different motivations for starting a coffee-and-code. Studying by yourself at home can be lonely, and less productive. The company of other coders can help you stay motivated. New friends can break up the strain of staring at a command prompt all day. So I created a campsite Free Code Camp South Los Angeles in our community. Running a coffee-and-code means putting other people’s interest first — and yours last — because ultimately, it’s a public service.

Here are some tips in starting your own coffee-and-code.

Start small

If this is your first time to organize a coffee-and-code, a small group is the way to go. It will also give you more time for yourself to study. When the group grows bigger, you will find yourself spending more and more time organizing, with less time left for your own coding.

Location, location, location

Find a safe, clean location that is centrally located to your target demographics. Make sure there’s wi-fi, and plenty of parking. Starbucks know this formula. Their coffee shops are strategically located and they have a strong wi-fi connections, too.

As your coffee-and-code event grows, you may need to change venues so you can accommodate everyone.

My coffee-and-code meets at the same South Los Angeles Starbucks every time.

Get the word out about your coffee-and-code

Here’s is the big question: how do you make sure people hear about your coffee-and-code?

As far as publicizing events online, I’ve had first-hand experience with meetup.com and craigslist.com — both of which are excellent ways of getting people to know you exist.

Work your friends’ and neighbors’ networks. They know you personally, and will be more confident when it comes time to refer their friends to you to their community.

Talk to random people in coffee shops or library. This may sound a hard sell, but it works. If you frequent the same coffee shops, grocery stores and libraries, you can always start a friendly conversation with people who seem approachable.

Then let them know about your coffee-and-code event. Even if they’re not interested, they may know someone else who would be, and help you spread the word.

Know your resources

Whatever you’re using as your coffee-and-code’s main resource, make sure you’re familiar enough with it that you can answer questions about it.

For example, if you’re using Free Code Camp as your main resource, get familiar with the structure of its challenges, and how Bonfires and Ziplines work. Work through as many of the challenges yourself as time permits. Members of your coding club will ask questions, and this will help you answer them in a more graceful, time-efficient manner.

I personally want to finish as many challenges as I can at home so that during my coffee-and-code events, I can use my solutions as a reference in helping others when they got stuck. This also gives me a chance to inspire others by showing them that I’ve been able to solve these challenges myself.

Keep it Free

Although it may be tempting sometimes to charge people for your time, the main reason they want to join your coffee-and-code is because it’s a free, fun way to learn to code. If you charge, or sell or promote something, members may become skeptical of you.

Some members will drop out — that’s OK

Don’t feel discouraged if people didn’t come back to your group. It’s because it’s not the right time and the right fit for them. Appreciate who stayed, because they are the most determined people, and it’s a privilege to have them in your camp.

The right stuff

As a camp leader, your members expect your to be their strength, and to keep them motivated through hurdles and setbacks. They are, after all, learning how to code — not an easy task by any account.

In my group, I’m the only person with a computer science background. I spend one-on-one time with members explaining logic, syntax, and commands. I spend a lot of time thinking about coding analogies that members of different age group and background can relate to.

Me and our youngest coder at a coffee-and-code event

Last but not the least, be there to celebrate their triumph, they worked hard for it!