Jody Winter’s entrepreneurial business idea sprang out of frustration.
A hair and makeup artist who specializes in wedding-day services, Winter had grown weary of meeting brides-to-be at coffee shops where she had to jockey for tables and talk business over the clamor of espresso machines.
“You’re trying to be professional, trying to collect a deposit, but you’re working in a coffee shop wondering if people are asking themselves, ‘How much do I trust them with my special day?’ ” she said.
Winter couldn’t afford her own studio, and knew that many of her fellow solo practitioners in the wedding and events trade were in the same boat. Collectively, she figured they could make it work.
The result is Cornerstone Studios, a co-working and event space in northeast Minneapolis designed to support wedding-industry professionals. Winter opened the modern industrial space on Central Avenue in August with six members. Now, 21 people work out of the building, including wedding planners, caterers, florists, marketers, graphic designers, stationery designers and artisans specializing in wedding decor.
“We can all run our own businesses and still collaborate,” said Winter, 33.
The shared-workspace model has been expanding rapidly over the past decade, fueled by massive layoffs during the Great Recession and the rising gig economy. In the U.S., the co-working market is forecast to grow about 15% a year between now and 2022, according to joint research by Small Business Labs, which tracks trends in small business and the gig economy, and GCUC, an industry group focused on co-working. Growth is coming from both the number of available co-working spaces as well as the number of people taking advantage of them.
Niche spaces such as Cornerstone Studios are becoming more popular as well, according to the two groups. Concepts such as shared biolabs, female-oriented spaces, writers’ spaces and industry-specific spaces appeal to members with specialized interests or needs and attract people who likely wouldn’t join a traditional co-working space.
That is exactly what Winter had in mind.
“You can’t assemble bouquets in the middle of an office space,” she said.
Winter set up her business in northeast Minneapolis because of its plentiful parking, central location and history of supporting artists. After failing to land a bank loan, Winter said she knocked on doors until she found a landlord willing to back her concept — and help with financing.
She sold a rental property and used it as a down payment, and spent about $150,000 to rehab space in the Johnson Building, a two-story brick building with tall windows and great bones that was built in 1905.
Winter knocked out low ceilings, pulled out drywall and carpet, and opened up walls in the 8,000-square-foot space to expose original brick. Some areas retain marks from shelves used by a neighborhood grocery store, which occupied the space in 1920.
Winter worked with Haf Architects and interior designer Jonathan Gomez-Whitney to make the space as flexible as possible to accommodate a range of businesses in the wedding field.
There are two conference rooms, a private studio for eyelash extensions and a space to meet with a disc jockey. Photographers have access to a studio bay and a range of furnishings and wedding decor to use as props. Winter’s makeup studio has bright lighting and space to accommodate a bridal party.
Cornerstone Studios was still a concept when photographer Lena Lakoma signed on as one of Winter’s first co-working members, practically sight unseen.
“I thought it was genius,” Lakoma said.
Winter offered Lakoma and four other founding members a discount to prepay the first six months, about $2,500 each. Winter used the proceeds from those first members to get the business off the ground.
Current membership pricing offers three levels from $195 to $495, which allows varying degrees of access to the space and its amenities.
Drew Atkin, a caterer and founding member, has hosted parties of up to 50 people in the space, including corporate team-building events and custom cocktail parties. His commercial kitchen is in nearby north Minneapolis, and he uses the basement at Cornerstone Studios to prepare and assemble on site.
“It’s a slam dunk to use this space and serve right out of here,” he said.
Atkin said he also appreciates that Winter helps co-working members network with each other and stay updated on industry trends by bringing in speakers and hosting other events. “Beyond the space,” Atkin said, “Jody has created a community here.”