The WeWork floors of the MoZaic East building are buzzing with companies ranging from a medical marijuana dispensary to a high-fidelity earplug maker. On a recent weekday in the fourth-floor common area, where a line formed for the almond milk espresso machine and beer taps opened at noon, real estate agent Kris Lindahl (of billboard fame) spoke on the phone, while genetic counselor Vaish Subramaniam worked at a table nearby, not far from staff at EAC Product Development Solutions, which provides software for companies like Starkey.
“Most everyone came from big companies, and they’re grinding it out, trying to do their own thing,” said Dan Kelly, who got his start in the FBI before founding The Negotiator Guru, where he provides contract negotiation advisory services for companies like SalesForce.
The WeWork coworking facility opened in December at 1330 Lagoon Ave., occupying four floors, including space for about 200 Syngenta employees. About 40% of the MoZaic East building is still available for lease.
Among the new neighbors is Marnita’s Table, where Marnita Schroedl draws from her experience in the communications industry (her title on business cards once said Bitch Diva Goddess) to help connect people.
She created a model of “Intentional Social Interaction” designed to improve cross-cultural dialogue. The model is based on research in retail — the environmental science that prompts customers to buy more products at Target, for example — to create spaces where people move beyond their preconceived notions and connect with others of diverse backgrounds.
Schroedl started the nonprofit in her Kenwood living room. “The first 14,000 came to dinner at my house,” she said. “But now we’re national. I can’t have everybody to my house. We only have one bathroom.”
Now Marnita’s Table is prepared to expand to 67 cities in the next four years.
“I have an office everywhere there’s a WeWork around the country,” Schroedl said. “It allows us to have a national footprint on an as-we-need-it basis.”
Kelly’s team also works remotely; his executive administrator is based in Florida.
“Nobody knows the difference,” he said. “She’s in West Palm Beach, but she manages my life.”
Kelly said he doesn’t need the space — he has a soundproof office at his home — but he enjoys the hum of the office, the meeting space for clients, and the beer on tap where he can host monthly happy hours.
“I just about pay off my dues, just from that happy hour,” he said.
Jackson Mann, the founder of Vibes earplugs, spent the winter traveling in a Sprinter Van, stopping at WeWork locations in cities like Seattle and Portland. After rupturing his eardrum near a concert stage, he created earplugs that essentially lower sound volume, rather than muffle sound. Jamie Sherwood, an Uptown-based business development manager for Vibes, said they’ve discovered the earplugs can aid bartenders, flight attendants, motorcyclists and people with sensory disorders. At WeWork, he said, it’s been helpful to talk to other small businesses about SEO and e-commerce.
“You can only go to so many coffee shops,” he said.
Coworking in the Twin Cities has rapidly grown in recent years, nearly doubling since 2017 to reach 1.18 million square feet, according to a recent report by Cushman & Wakefield. WeWork holds the largest Twin Cities coworking market share, according to Cushman, and it’s consistently the largest lessee of new coworking space in the United States. Coworking accounts for about 1% of all office inventory in the U.S., according to the report.
Another new coworking space driven by women (but open to all) is currently under construction at 44th & France in the former Evereve headquarters, slated to open June 10. The Riveter launched in Seattle in 2017, and has since grown to include six national locations, with at least five more sites opening in mid-2019.
“One of the reasons I started The Riveter was to help women chart their own path to success,” founder Amy Nelson writes in a 2018 Forbes piece. “We often hear stories of how a mother started a new business and hired her first few employees. Or, how a former female executive is now consulting for the same company, making more money with increased autonomy and a flexible schedule to pick her child up from daycare. These are becoming more mainstream examples of how women are reaching for their goals and succeeding.”
Aside from WeWork’s locations in Downtown and Uptown, a third site is under construction in the North Loop at 729 Washington Ave. N. In the Uptown location, access to open workspace in the common area starts at $250 per month, and private offices start at $550 per month.
Sasha Fursman, who works remotely in Uptown for HueLife, said there are benefits and drawbacks to the coworking space.
“Sometimes it tries a little too hard,” she said, noting the high-energy elevator music.
But she appreciates the flexibility and the chance to constantly meet new people.
“It’s interesting to be around people on the cutting edge of the work that they’re doing,” she said.
When Matt Hardy created a blogging platform for his Eden Prairie classroom, giving teachers the option to publish students’ blog posts to the public web, he found himself sharing the idea with more and more classes.
“It became another full-time job, and I had to pick one,” he said.
Kidblog has since expanded to more than 70 countries. Third-grader Alexia blogs about her worst fear (the dark), Nila writes about her dream job (architect) and Sophia writes a poem (called Sometimes): “My family fights, my family stares, my family cries, and nobody cares. My family is strict, and sometimes no fun. Please tell me if im wrong, cause I feel like im done.”
“Students’ voices should be amplified in the world,” Hardy said.
Since formally launching in 2012, Kidblog has changed scenery every couple of years, moving from a Dunn Bros shop to the Grain Exchange Fueled Collective coworking space and other shared spaces. Now landing at WeWork in Uptown, they’re taking advantage of the patio.
“I have a lingering sunburn on my head from being out there way too much last week,” he said.