Wednesday, May 31, 2023
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How this co-working business survived the pandemic and civil unrest with great help from the community

Before The Coven was The Coven, it was a text message thread of the same name. There are no real witches involved, just four friends who are keen to subvert the norm. Each of them have worked in local advertising and creative agencies and are thinking about how to create a more inclusive workplace for women, parents, people of color, or anyone who wants respect and community.

As soon as the idea of ​​having a physical space for work—any type, anyone—came up, it stuck. “Texting never stops!” Alex West Steinman, co-founder and CEO of The Coven, a co-working and community space in Minneapolis and St. Paul, told Inc.’s What I Know podcast.

Still, getting the initial funding to make the dream a reality can be a challenge. Banks want to see two years of experience. Local venture capitalists and seed funds “are not investing in our type of business,” Steinman said. “Our unique skill is connecting people and building spaces that are truly inclusive and belonging, and they just don’t get it.”

Instead, panelists used their networks to make calls for help . In 2018, they opened their doors at their first location after crowdfunding to secure a lease and get the business off the ground. Paid memberships followed, with The Coven able to raise close to $1 million in official seed funding in 2019.

Then the pandemic hit. WeWork was in financial crisis, and The Wing began restructuring and closing locations amid a leadership crisis. Along with these and other co-working spaces across the country, Coven had to close its doors when the Covid-19 lockdown began. But for Steinman’s business, which is built around supporting its community — and gaining a foothold with that community’s financial help — one thing is different. The community never left.

“We didn’t lose anyone. People were with us all the time. They emailed us and said, ‘Bill me anytime, even if you’re closed, make sure you stay open,'” ‘ said Steinman. The infusion of funds also helped the Coven retain staff.

As protests after George Floyd’s murder rocked Minneapolis and St. Paul, the Coven gave back to the larger community by serving as collectibles— and – a distribution center for goods to those in need.

“It was a very chaotic and scary time,” Steinman said. “This is also when the community really comes together in a way I’ve never seen before. Our members show up, our community members show up, people we’ve never seen before show up.”

To hear my full interview with Alex West Steinman about The Coven and its focus on the community, click the player above, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or anywhere I know you listen to the audio.



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