By Jennifer Vogel
At the Coven, the witch’s brew comes out of a coffee machine in the ultramodern kitchen that anchors this new co-working space for women and nonbinary people in Minneapolis’s North Loop neighborhood. The multi-level office is awash in natural light, which pours in through enormous windows, and features exposed brick walls, a multitude of comfy sofas, fresh flowers, a secluded “parent and prayer” room, and art—including an electric-pink mural of powerful women such as Jane Fonda, Serena Williams, and Oprah.
The powerhouse women of the Coven: Liz Giel, Erinn Farrell, Alex West Steinman, and Bethany Iverson.
The space, which opened in March, is the brainchild of Alex West Steinman (B.A. ’11), Bethany Iverson (M.A. ’09), Liz Giel (B.A. ’08), and Erinn Farrell. All are veterans of the advertising world, hence the imagination-grabbing—some might even say “bewitching”—theme of the space.
Steinman grew up in Maple Grove and earned a journalism degree at the University of Minnesota, where she also was an ambassador for the College of Liberal Arts. “I was really connected at the U,” she says. “I love people. I love helping them on their journey.” Messaging was something she always enjoyed. But, at the ad agency where she worked after graduation, she was told to develop a stronger voice. Then, she was told that her voice was too strong. Then she decided it was time to go. Of herself and her business partners, she says, “the more we were finding our voices, the less we felt that industry was for us.”
So, the four created the Coven, a space by and for women, raising more than $300,000 on a crowdfunding site. For every five memberships they sell, they give one away to a person with low income or from a marginalized background. Members—there are hundreds already—gain access to all kinds of classes and seminars, along with a “member pantry” stocked by the Wedge co-op and a shower and dressing room.
“Social enterprise is at our heart,” says Iverson, who grew up in Milwaukee and came to Minnesota to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She went on to earn her master’s degree at the U in rhetoric and scientific and technical communication. “People join because they want to belong to a community. We have three to four events a week.” Those might include a creative workshop, an attorney talking about tax laws, a makers’ market, or a civil conversation on an issue of the day. It’s not just “six ways to negotiate your salary,” Iverson says, but “six ways to negotiate your salary when you are a person of color.”
“We like being a container for the magic that happens when women are together,” says Steinman. “Whatever dreams you are trying to chase, we want to help you.” For more information, check out thecovenmpls.com.
Photo by Sarah White/PollenMidwest.org
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