On a brisk Saturday night in November, in an old brick building with glass garage doors facing Lowry Avenue North, warm light and the sounds of laughter spill out onto the sidewalk. The smell of rich food and the rhythmic boom of a DJ set fill the air, inviting neighbors to gather with friends old and new.
Inside, the space is full of artists, organizers, entrepreneurs and visionaries. In one room, a marketplace spans the perimeter as local business owners engage in conversations with the event goers. Beaded earrings from South Africa, natural body products, a food truck in the back serving collard greens and mac and cheese; they all mix and mingle throughout the compound.
Decked out in a mix of purple curls and cornrows, leather jackets and tuxedo jackets, all the guests inside are risk takers, comfortable with the unknown with a passion for engaging the cultural and creative energies. In one room, a DJ spins while a line up of musicians and spoken word artists rub elbows among the crowd, performing and raising funds for local initiatives like 15 NOW Minnesota and Raiesha William’s Minneapolis City Council campaign.
This is their third place for collaboration and entrepreneurial fellowship.
This is New Rules Coworking Space. With their grand opening just this past October, New Rules is part groove studio and music lounge, marketplace, design workshop and laboratory. With a 3,000-square-foot space in North Minneapolis, fresh wood floors, framed photography by local artists and bright accent furniture, it is truly a brick-and-mortar workplace dreamscape.
Like most coworking spaces, New Rules offers monthly memberships to creators, merchants, designers, engineers, artists – anyone with an interest in fostering community, creative collaboration and transforming their economic situation. But unlike other coworking spaces like COCO or Industrious in Uptown and Downtown Minneapolis, New Rules’ rates are more affordable. Northside residents even get a discount when renting the space for events.
New Rules’ mission is to provide high-tech equipment, space and resources to expand creative and professional capabilities, build innovation in the community and contribute to economic growth for individuals and the region.
The people and the values behind New Rules
The team at New Rules, led by founder and CEO Chris Webley, are all incredibly formidable and established artists, engineers and professionals who see a need on the Northside and also a tremendous capacity to connect and evolve. All have a passion for wanting to see the Northside community engage and thrive in this third space.
“A lot of my background, my upbringing and my experiences have shaped the narrative for New Rules,” explained Webley.
Webley studied textile technology with a concentration in medical textiles at North Carolina State University. He has worked with Calvin Klein, Victoria’s Secret and Target, working for seven years in the corporate retail fashion industry as a research and design textile engineer.
“Fashion was always a way of expression and freedom to some degree,” Webley explained. “I also saw it as a platform to attract and change the perspectives of people by creating garments that solve problems.”
But after seven years, Webley decided he wanted his professional journey to take a different, uncertain turn, but one with a lot of promise.
“A lot of people need to see the future painted crystal clear. But I wake up every morning and feel confident of what I don’t see because I’m confident in my ability to manifest what I want to,” he said.
Growing up, Webley watched his father, a Jamaican immigrant and engineer, hustle, create, develop and network to success.
“There was nothing that he couldn’t do or wouldn’t try,” Webley recalled. “Even on days when I want to give up, I recount those experiences I had as a kid and use them as a reference point.”
Inspired by his father, the pieces of Webley’s life started to come together.
“I took with me that anything is possible,” Webley said. He started a lawn business when he was eleven and cultivated a successful business, working weekends all the way to high school. That first business taught Webley the importance of attention to detail, showing up on time, discipline and keeping your word.
“[I] went around the country, I traveled the world. The same things I need as an entrepreneur are the same things that people in economic disparity situations need. I started to notice a trend,” Webley said.
Over the last year Webley put together a business plan for what would become New Rules. Webley personally put in over 5,000 hours of manual sweat in redeveloping New Rules’ space himself.
“I was already finished with building the strategy and framework, so it was just about finding the right people help lead the charge,” Webley said.
Nancy Musinguzi, the creative director for New Rules, is one of the right people. Musinguzi was born to a Liberian mother, the daughter of a diplomat, and a Ugandan father who made his living as a Fortune 500 computer scientist and economist but, according to Musinguzi, “had all these hidden dreams of wanting to be a DJ.”
Musinguzi found her calling in visual anthropology, photography and storytelling. Since 2006, she has traveled the world, especially the boroughs of New York City, photographing and spending time with rappers and performance artists. Musinguzi also immersed herself in the punk rock scene in New Jersey and was exposed to both music and people unifying their communities through expression.
Webley pointed out that “there was a natural synergy” between his team’s artistic backgrounds and entrepreneurship that fit well with what they wanted to build on Minneapolis’ Northside. The Northside is a community of creators, who have cultivated a creative vanguardism that has been the muse for everything from great food, beautiful murals and even Prince’s musical styles.
“It’s not just about taking pictures and being a photographer, it’s about transcending those skills into other areas where I can contribute to New Rules as a creative director,” Musinguzi said. “The marriage between art and economics is a foggy link in most people’s minds. It doesn’t really click. But having those business skills as an artist is really important, in terms of sustaining yourself and being able to keep making work.”
Building momentum to create local industry
Like any other startup, New Rules needs financial resources and human capital to gain more momentum. They are currently trying to get the funds to acquire 3-D printing technology, garment knitting technologies, as well as other emerging technologies and old faithful ones that aren’t going away.
“We need human capital. We are a lean team and we need help. We need for people to utilize this space,” Webley said.
“I’m inspired by people that take risks and don’t see them as risks; they see them as necessities. To keep forging future and progressing toward a future that people can’t see but that we need,” Musinguzi said.
Grant writers, web designers and artists are all encouraged to link up with the New Rules team to brainstorm and generate synergistic ideas.
Although their main focus is helping people build businesses, the New Rules team also want to find other provocative, innovative ways to engage. In addition, they plan on creating an intern service component.
“We want to provide the things that artists don’t have right now,” Webley said. “We hold the answers. We shouldn’t be waiting for anybody to provide us solutions to our problems. We should be diligently and intentionally working towards addressing the issues that are systemic to our community.”