Attagirl: How The Women Behind The Coven Workspace Get Sh*t Done
Hello and welcome back to AttaGirl, a series in which I discover how the women I admire kick ass, take names, and what lipstick brand they prefer to do it in. A how-to in Getting Shit Done.
The future will most definitely be female, thank God.
While I’d prefer that future to get here like, any time now! Please hurry up That Future! That future’s going to get here a hell of a lot faster with creations like The Coven and women like Alex West Steinman, Bethany Iverson, Liz Giel, and Erinn Farrell.
Have you ever felt the very specific kind of energy that is a bunch of boss women existing in one space? It’s f*cking electric, and there aren’t enough of those spaces, thus the inception of The Coven. The Coven, at its core, is a workspace. But calling The Coven just “a workspace” is like calling Nutella just “a chocolate paste.” It’s a workspace made by women for those who identify as women (no time for gender bullshit! Thanks!) and it’s dedicated to making sure that a group of diverse and dynamic women live out their most empowered selves. Want to collaborate and connect with other like-hearted women? There’s that. Want to talk to absolutely no one? That’s cool too. Need to breastfeed and grab a snack from The Wedge-sponsored food bar? Duh, it’s all yours, babe. Want to just take a f*cking nap? UNDERSTOOD.
There’ll also be personal finance, negotiation, and creative expression (to name a few topics) workshops; lecture series with female artists, activists, entrepreneurs; professional development services like mentoring; and task and errand concierge services. But the coolest part? In order to create an intersectional space that welcomes women of all backgrounds, they offer 5-for-1 scholarships in service of that mission. 5-for-1 means 20% of their members in 2018 will receive a fully paid for membership that includes all the benefits of a full-price membership.
And the women behind it? Their energy is fierce and its focused and God help anyone who stands in their way (especially if you’re a dude. Holy hell, wouldn’t wanna be you, bro.)
So you want to know a little more about the brilliant minds who created such a BOUT-DAMN-TIME space, right? Me too. Like, how do you get a passion project off the ground while still working full time? (Youuuuu, kinda give up your life for awhile, sorry guys!) Or how do you keep all of the shit organized? (Color-coordinated to-do lists and weekly intentions) I’ll let Alex, Bethany, Liz, and Erinn tell you a little bit more about how they get through their day-to-day.
It’s the dawn of the witches, bitches.
On their morning routine:
Liz: I usually wake up before my husband and son to have a little “me” time. Lately, this involves tea and tarot cards. I do a daily reading every morning to reflect and get to know myself better. Then I get the boys out of bed and try to get us all out of the door.
Erinn: Starts the same; I’m a big routine person, it helps me center myself. I wake up at the same time every day, roughly 5:00-5:15 am on weekdays. I get up, get dressed, put on my workout gear and head to an Alchemy A20 class. I come home, get showered up, get a coffee in me, get the kid’s lunches ready and then it’s off to work.
Bethany: It’s very glamorous. It is the stuff of movies. I wake up between 5:00-6:30 a.m. depending on how many emails I need to catch up on. Shower, take the dog for a walk, have some coffee, talk to my gentleman friend. I’m out the door by 8-8:30.
Alex: Since I left my job I’ve been able to take mornings a little slower. I spend a little time with my kids and get them dressed and ready to go. I wish I could take more time to pause but my mornings are kind of about getting everybody out the door. I have a hard time working before everybody’s completely out of the house so that’s priority number one.
On the balance between work and a passion project:
Liz: It’s a challenge, to say the least. I’m used to being over-committed. I completed my master’s degree last year while working in advertising and caring for my family. But somehow, starting The Coven feels much more intense, however, it brings with it a level of personal reward I’ve never experienced before. I feel that I have less control over my circumstances and yet I am so much more confident about navigating them. It’s a whole new world for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m leading very different lives in many areas, but I really love it – I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Erinn: That’s the nice thing about where I am right now – our work and our passion project are kind of the same. It’s certainly a LOT of work maybe more than we did in the past but there’s a balance at play that helps it feel more full.
Bethany: I don’t have amazing balance, I feel like I’m thinking about The Coven and working on it 24/7 because it feels like the most important thing that I will do in my life and so that makes balance obsolete for the time being. Balance for me right now is coming at the expense of some very important relationships. It’s a struggle, and I don’t know if it gets easier or if you get better at it.
Alex: I don’t think balance is always necessarily something you seek to have in the future, but it’s a muscle you always need to be working. If you stand on a balance ball all of the muscles need to be working in order to maintain that balance – same with life, all of those muscles need to be working to be able to maintain that balance. Because there are four founding members in The Coven we can kind of lean in and lean out when we need to. I think we’ll continue to evolve what balance means for The Coven and for the four of us as we go.
On finding their voice:
Liz: I’m certain I’m still finding it, but The Coven has been a critical part of this. I tend to stay quiet in conversations, choosing to listen more often than speak. It’s not because I don’t have anything to offer, it’s because I want to be very thoughtful with my words. Sometimes this manifests as near-silence, and it can be to my detriment or the detriment of others.
Erinn: Through the other women of The Coven. I’ve said it before, I honestly don’t think I was myself until I met Bethany Iverson. Being surrounded by people who are not only like-minded but who are also like-hearted gives you the confidence to be yourself and be celebrated and supported for it.
Bethany: I just remember people always telling me my voice was too loud and me feeling like there wasn’t a problem with that and feeling like people wanted me to think there was a problem with that. I didn’t want to apologize for it.
Alex: I think I’ve found my voice in the last couple years. There was a time I didn’t have much of a voice, I had kind of started to blend into my surroundings. And then I was in an airport in LA at a bar alone and met a woman from Minneapolis who worked at Wells Fargo and she had this beautiful short afro. I had been straightening my hair for so long. I told her her hair was so beautiful and that I wish I had the confidence to wear my hair like that myself and she said, “Well why not?” and I explained that I’ve been doing this for my whole life and it fits my world. I said it very tentatively and I think she didn’t believe me and she said, “Cutting my hair and stopping using chemicals is the single greatest thing I’ve ever done for myself and I regret not doing it sooner.” I was liberated in that moment from what I deemed a cultural norm or appropriate. I booked an appointment when I got back to cut my hair as short as I could and started wearing my hair natural. When I started to wear my hair that way I noticed it started to have an effect on my behavior, my confidence. I started to find my own voice over that period of time. It was liberating. I realized there was something bigger I could contribute to. That’s when I got involved with MPLS MadWomen, became the president. It’s how I’ve run so many initiatives within organizations, it’s how I’ve started my own business.
On winding down after long days:
Liz: Meditation, tequila, books, music, and watching “Spring Breakers” a lot. In all seriousness – although I seriously do all four of those things frequently – I try to mark a transition from being “on” to “off,” and it usually means spending some time solo. I like to be alone, but not lonely. I’m a people-loving introvert.
Erinn: Spending time with my kids. Watching movies, scrolling through the internet, [daughter Olivia chimes in in the background “Goofing around!”], and I’m a very big fan of a great tequila drink.
Bethany: Walk my dog or go to sleep. I’M WORKING ON BALANCE IN MY LIFE! I go to Alchemy 3-4 times a week and get my butt kicked. That helps with stress, intention, and helps me clear my head.
Alex: I’m wound up all the time. I have to completely remove myself from anything that’s normal. No cell phone, no TV; it’s all too easily distracting. I’m not good at the five-minute meditation thing I have to remove myself from anything that resembles work. The smallest form of meditation I do is washing dishes, but I really do enjoy getting massages, being in nature, writing.
On keeping organized:
Liz: I have a day planner that I use diligently. I have a pretty wild obsession with felt tip colored pens. Name a brand that makes them and I probably own it.
Erinn: To-do lists are a big piece of it. I keep a couple different notebooks for different areas of life. I have separate notebooks for The Coven and a separate notebook for On Being and a notebook for stuff at the house.
Bethany: I keep a million lists, I have a Google calendar. We have an amazing executive manager who helps coordinate schedules and calendars. I’m probably not the most organized person but I’ve learned to do it “enough” because I hate the panicky feeling of being late or missing an attention to detail. I get by okay. It’s not very sophisticated. I don’t have a million apps. I’m more of a “write everything down in a list on a piece of paper and follow that f*cker until it’s done.”
Alex: Recently I’ve changed the way my to-do lists work. I heard this on a podcast called Hurry Slowly: I’ve started setting intentions for the week, so instead of making a to-do list every day, I make a list of intentions/goals for the week that are higher-level. Instead of “send an email to this person, send an email to that person, I write “Gain five founding members, get a placement in this publication for this client, etc.” They’re higher-level goals, because I know all of the emails that are going to have to come out of that so it feels a lot more liberating to check off the goal rather than to check off the 15 boxes that accompany it. It’s made me a lot more productive, and helps me to say “no” quite a bit to things that don’t match up with the goal for the week. Obviously, life happens and you just kind of go with the flow but I’m able to stay on track and prioritize what emails are important to answer immediately; do they track to the goal? I can get back to the other ones at a later time.
On their skincare routine:
Liz: Right now I am using the Drunk Elephant line of skin care products regularly. No matter which brand I choose though, it always involves some form of cleanser, day and night serums, hydration gels, and moisturizer, daily. I also exfoliate at three times per week.
Erinn: I use a lot of organic products and I make sure to do a deep cleanse every night with a serum, and an occasional face mask.
Bethany: I wash my face every night with a line called Image. I use a moisturizer also from Image I use a resurfacing serum also from Image that my esthetician turned me onto over at Corepower Yoga. I have very acne-prone skin so this is great because it doesn’t clog my pores. In the morning I just rinse my face off and put on some moisturizer and under-eye cream.
On finding their calling/thing/purpose?
Liz: This is another thing I’m always working on finding, but three things usually come into it: trying to better understand myself, trying to better connect with others who I’m drawn to deeply, and always, ALWAYS learning. I’m grateful to have a job in a creative field where I’m paid to learn. My psychological archetype is the sage. I love to learn and share what I know. Because of this, I think my purpose is a process, not a statement.
Erinn: So much of it is just being alongside the other women of The Coven. We knew we wanted to do something together outside of advertising and the thing we were most passionate about was providing a space for intersectional women to connect. It wasn’t completely obvious at the time what we wanted that to be. But we kept carving out all of these spaces during happy hours or lunches or mentorship meetings but we never thought of it as a business. We thought of it as a necessity for us to be part of and provide for other women. When we realized that that space was absolutely necessary for the women in this city. That moment was pretty incredible.
Bethany: I spent my life up until I was like 22 or 23 assuming I would do something to change the world, and then I ended up working in advertising for 10 years. And throughout that time I continuously looked for opportunities to change the world or the industry through the community I was part of. While I think we did a lot of great things I’m proud of, I don’t think I ever felt like my calling or purpose was being answered and that always sat very poorly with me. More often than not it was fun, but at the end of the day, the substance was lacking. I even maybe felt a little ashamed of it to be totally honest. I had all this privilege and was given this amazing opportunity and I felt like I was wasting it. And with working on The Coven, this is truly the first time I felt like I was doing something deeply meaningful and purposeful with my adult life and that feels really good. Life moves at the pace life moves at. I’m grateful to have arrived here.
Alex: I think my calling is to support and empower women, and that can mean a lot of different things. It can mean mentoring someone who’s very early in their career, supporting someone who is senior in their career. I love helping other women navigate. I love working in “the mess.” Conflict isn’t fun for a lot of people and change isn’t fun, but I love living in that moment and working with other people on their transitions. Supporting women in those pivotal moments is my calling.
On what they do in their free time: (lol)
Liz: I try to be fairly intentional and scheduled with my time, and that includes ‘scheduling’ free time. I’m not as type A about it as this sounds, but I do make sure I have time each week for work and play. The ‘play’ aspect includes me time and time for family and friends, but of course, a lot of this has gone to The Coven over the past year because I love it so much and it brings incredible things to my life.
Erinn: I don’t have a lot of it! But if I do have time outside of The Coven, On Being, and working out, then I’m spending time in my neighborhood with friends and family.
Bethany: Don’t have any right now but I used to read books and travel!
Alex: I hang out with my kids. We run around, play pretend, act goofy. I think the kids keep me super young and creative and whenever I hit a rut at work I play with my kids and they get my creativity flowing and get me acting silly. Sometimes we forget to play as adults.
On working out:
Liz: I started yoga two months ago, and I’ve been doing A LOT of it. I have also started going to Alchemy. I should probably go more. I will do that.
Erinn: I go to Alchemy a lot and cannot recommend it more.
Bethany: I go to Alchemy’s A-20 classes and they’re phenomenal. In a period of a few months, I felt stronger, happier, and more confident. Very grateful for the ass kicking.
Alex: I *like* to workout but time is sometimes prohibitive of that. I do workout at Alchemy, a partner of The Coven, and totally enjoy it. I love yoga so when I’m able to go to a true vinyasa class and get away from my phone and be in a different space, that’s great.
On the kind of workspace they get the most done in:
Liz: It really depends. I can thrive in a room with a lot of people, but I can also really get shit done when I’m alone in a quiet space. A lot of shit gets done at my dining room table.
Erinn: Depends on the time of day and if I’m working on things with other people. Sometimes I need to throw my headphones on and just rock through stuff. Other times I need to be in a collaborative space. Flexibility is the most important. The last two years before The Coven, I was running the New York office for the agency I worked at which taught me I can get work done like, basically anywhere: the floor of an airport, in a cab, in a restaurant between meetings.
Bethany: A really quiet, focused, sparse, warm work environment is the best for me. If I’m cold I cannot function. If there are texts and emails buzzing all around me I cannot be productive. I love working on Saturdays and Sundays because there’s not the constant deluge of emails to respond to.
Alex: In transitions. Places where I can set a deadline for myself – bouncing around from coffee shop to coffee shop as I complete deadlines; that’s usually the environment I get most done because I have to be out of there at a certain time. I don’t work particularly well in a situation where I need to be working in a specific place at a specific time every day.
On what they do to get inspired:
Liz: I read. A lot. I ask my loved ones for inspiration. And I pull tarot cards.
Erinn: I spend time with other like-hearted people. I love art and film and I love reading about them. I love, love, love design. I read architecture magazines for hours on end. Any of those big and small and minute details of bringing together a space.
Bethany: I pay attention to the amazing people I know, and people who I don’t know but really look up to.
Alex: I think I have the most head space when I’m around nature which is weird because I don’t really like to like, camp. So, when I’m in control of nature or in a space outside of the city, that feels most creative to me. It feels like you’re cleansing your brain. I also take inspiration from people; especially my badass witches. I’m the ultimate extrovert and hate being alone.
On what self-care means to them:
Liz: Taking time to explore things that fuel my senses of joy and wonder, whatever that may be. I’ve been finding this through yoga lately, and acupuncture is my new jam.
Erinn: A lot of things. Acknowledging what you need, and making that a priority. That’s the first step. Even in the idea of self-care, I think women put too much pressure on it needs to be X amount of time or, it needs to be holistic! Or organic! The reality is those things may shift. So for me, it’s recognizing that it needs to occur, and then making it a priority. For me that means sleep, raising my hand and asking for help, it means being okay with not achieving something.
Bethany: As a 34-year-old self-care means doing the things that you don’t necessarily look forward to but are necessary for your well-being. Like, scheduling appointments with my doctor for my thyroid problem. Going to those appointments consistently. Going to the store before I run out of toilet paper so that it’s not a tragedy when it happens. A year ago it would’ve been a massage and now it’s like, doing things so that I don’t have stress or anxiety down the road. Not exciting but IMPORTANT.
Alex: Self-care is a practice I don’t feel anybody is doing enough of but for me, it means giving me time or sometimes it means actually working because I feel better when I get something done or accomplish something or help someone else out. Most people would think self-care is that relaxation period and I agree that that’s also self-care and I wish I had more of that.
On what they’re reading if/when time provides:
Erinn: Not a lot right now! I have about six half read books laying around my home. My life’s a little full right now.
Bethany: Not much right now but I am definitely bringing a bunch of books with me to Nicaragua next week.
Alex: I read the news … a LOT. I actually haven’t read a full book in awhile which I guess is kind of embarrassing but, I read a lot of research on businesses, business news, business tips, financial tips, things like that. I’ve also been listening to a lot of fun podcasts like The Nod, Borrowed Interest, The Daily (less fun but more important I guess.)
On maintaining sanity if/when time provides:
Liz: I don’t!
Erinn: Excellent tequila drinks, working out, and laughing hysterically with my friends.
Bethany: I don’t know if that’s what I’m doing right now. I guess I just try to remember how fortunate, lucky, privileged and blessed that I am and when any sort of doubt or anxiety happens. Opening a business and working full-time on the side is pretty overwhelming and I think I’ve had a lot of personal things suffer at the cost of doing that. But I also think that’s a phase of my life given what’s going on and not necessarily my future. There’s something bigger than ourselves that we’re working to get off the ground and I think you sacrifice things like your sanity.
Alex: I have an amazing partner who knows exactly when I’m about to reach my limit and he knows when I need to push myself and I think that push and pull is what keeps me sane – having someone else kind of be my gut check for me.
On who inspires them:
Erinn: I take a lot of inspiration right now in the young women in our community: women of color, women who are differently-abled, women of the LGBTQ community, women who have often been told that their voices don’t matter. They continue to rise and that in itself is enough inspiration for other any other person in the world to get up and do better and do better for them.
Alex: My co-founders. We all have completely different backgrounds even though we all come from the same industry. They’re extremely smart and I learn from them every single day.
Do you have any life hacks for getting shit done?
Erinn: Honestly it’s about setting goals and routines. Love what you do. It’s a lot easier to get shit done when you’re excited about it and you just want to take the time to do it.
Alex: The hardest thing is just getting started. At some point, you just need to take the leap and start.
(It should be noted that three out of the four women sent me voice memo answers to these questions while they were getting something else done which is a charming reminder that women can do anything … while doing anything else, and I would definitely file it under Life Hacks For Getting Shit Done)
On weeknight dinners:
Liz: Usually something that someone else has made for me. We eat tacos from a variety of Lake Street establishments multiple times per week.
Erinn: Omg I’m so excited that I’m starting with this young woman Christina from Crate To Table. She does this incredible food prep service where you sit down and you talk about recipes and food you like, and then she does the shopping and food prep for you. This is an insane privilege but one my husband and I have prioritized in our life because we love to eat food, and we love to eat healthy, but we found ourselves constantly in a rut of not eating as well as we should.
Bethany: Very fortunate to have a gentleman friend who cooks most of the dinners at our house. So we’ll do a lot of veggies, a lot of stir-frys, burritos, a lot of roasted chicken. I’m happy to just eat the same couple things over and over and over.
On personal mantras:
Liz: “Have fun, and be brave.” My son wrote this as a note to himself when he was a ring bearer in a wedding. I have it tattooed on my wrists.
Erinn: “Never apologize for caring.”
Bethany: F*ck I don’t really have one. Some truths I try to live by are trying to navigate life in a reasonable way, be kind to people, care about issues that are of importance and try to have empathy, and I try to behave as the person I aspire to be. There are days I live up to this and some days that I don’t.
Alex: “Why not?” We spend far too long telling ourselves why we can’t do something or worrying about potential failures instead of just doing it; The Coven is a testimony to all of that. We had to put our instincts behind us and just take the leap.
On women they look up to these days who don’t get enough attention:
Liz: Older women, especially older women of color. I work in marketing where there is an obsession with Millennials, Gen Z, and the next generation of consumers. But there is so much to be learned from women who have lived through extraordinary times and circumstances, who have accomplished so much in their careers. My own mother is an absolutely incredible person who has navigated pretty significant challenges in life. People have so much to learn from women like her, but they’re less often in the spotlight. I want to see and learn more from them.
Erinn: The women who run organizations that are dedicated to change and are constantly fighting the battles, big and small, to ensure all women and their rights are protected or fought for. I’m ready to collaborate and conspire with those women here locally.
Bethany: DeAnna Cummings. She’s the CEO of Juxtaposition Arts. She’s someone I’ve just been in awe of for the last dozen years and I feel like she’s such an inspiration and the work she does is so critically important and has impacted the lives of so many people in this city. So many folks I’ve talked to are not familiar with the work that she or Juxtaposition Arts does. The whole world should know who DeAnna Cummings is. I would also say women who are not doing the amazing, sexy stuff, but the ones who grind every day – like teachers. My mom was a teacher and like, no one pays teachers in Wisconsin any money but my mother for thirty years worked with kids that other teachers maybe wouldn’t have been willing to. Teachers who give a f*ck don’t get enough attention. Women who work as servers, bartenders, who do housekeeping, etc. They work the hardest and literally are not noticed or acknowledged for being such a critical part of our society and of our world. They need to be celebrated more. They put up with the most bullshit and they’re just as important as the women who are on the cover of magazines.
Liz Welle is a professional feelings feeler but gets paid to do social and digital stuff for brands in Minneapolis while occasionally food styling on the side. She lives in Uptown with her boyfriend and their thirteen plants. She is doing her best.