Alex West Steinman
CO-FOUNDER AND CEO, THE COVEN 2019 BUSH FELLOW
Most people — and this is a broad generalization — they don’t know of the ingenuity that comes out of the Midwest, and in particular in the North and in the Twin Cities. I think part of what makes it challenging to be an entrepreneur out here is the humility that comes with being from the North. I think sometimes that humility can really keep this place as a hidden gem, that we really have to discover or be here to experience.
Part of what makes us so creative is the resilience in communities of color. We eat “nos” for breakfast and continue to fight the barriers of racism and classism through entrepreneurship. Whether it’s vegan restaurants to feed our families healthy options where there are few or gathering spaces where you can show up as any version of yourself, entrepreneurs of color are not just the future of the North’s entrepreneurial boom, we’re the present.
The four co-founders of The Coven are of the North. We are of the Midwest. We understand this market and we really believe in the power and creativity of women and non-binary people here in our own communities. I really think community and connection can happen anywhere. I think it’s really unique when it happens across race, across socio-economics like it does in The Coven’s spaces. In a smaller market like the Twin Cities, you can really make a lasting impact. When you’re in San Francisco, you could pass somebody on the street and never see them again. In the Twin Cities, you could sit next to someone and ask to borrow a charger and all the sudden you’re starting a business with them — that’s a true story. Our people connect once and, next thing you know, they’re sharing resources and supporting one another.
I think there are a lot of challenges with the Midwest. There are such close-knit communities here that can tend to be rather exclusive. We hear that again and again from folks who are new to the state, that they struggle to find connection points because they didn’t go to kindergarten here. One thing that we’re able to do is to help facilitate those connections.
Half of our members are entrepreneurs and the other half have an outside job, they’re at corporations. The creativity that comes between those two groups, the shared knowledge between the two is so palpable. There are people in our community who you would have a harder chance bumping into in another environment. A VP of a bank sitting next to a community organizer. Someone who works in nonprofit and somebody who’s at a tech startup. Maybe they have resources they can share with one another, but more importantly, maybe they have a connection point that can bridge some piece of understanding or build empathy muscles or open up networks in a way that can help advance the other.