A new co-working model is joining CoCo
, and other innovators in the Twin Cities’ growing co-working movement. The newcomer is Lydia’s Place
, nestled in a dense pocket of nonprofits in the Creative Enterprise Zone
near the new Green Line in Saint Paul.
Founded by former adman and current Lutheran pastor Scott Simmons, Lydia’s Place is co-working oriented around the common good. Simmons says he hopes to seed both a professional and faith-based community of altruists at Lydia’s Place.
The new venture aims to satisfy two modern day needs with one stroke. First, it provides office space and equipment to a workforce that is increasingly independent, freelance-based, and according to Simmons, professionally isolated. “It’s fulfilling a need that’s not being filled,” says Simmons, who worked for nearly a decade as a freelance advertising copywriter.
Secondly, as attendance at traditional faith services continues to drop, religious leaders are looking for new models to sustain worship communities. “People’s lives don’t revolve as much as they once did around religion,” Simmons says.
With backing from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Saint Paul Synod, Lydia’s Place is a Lutheran mission. While most of the current “Lydians,” as they call themselves, come from Lutheran backgrounds, Simmons says faith affiliation is not a prerequisite for joining the co-working community.
“This is a place where anybody, whether they’re atheists or agnostics, are welcome,” Simmons says.
In theory, Lydia’s Place isn’t all that different from other co-working spaces in the Twin Cities. When you put a group of motivated self-starters together in a communal professional environment, collaboration and mutual benefit ensues.
While many new co-working spaces seem to be gauged toward entrepreneurial and tech startups though, Simmons says Lydia’s Place is couched in the idea that some people are more motivated by helping others than the prospect of a billion dollar IPO.
“We are gifted and are called, whether by God or by our basic humanity…to use those gifts not just to improve our own lot in life, but the entire world, and that includes people at the fringe,” Simmons says.
The benefits of this type of co-working are already manifesting. Rev. Margaret Kelly recently started Shobi’s Table
, which seeks to serve and empower the homeless population in Saint Paul. Kelly plans to incorporate a food truck into the new ministry, staffed and maintained by those struggling on the margins.
She is now teamed up with another Lydian, Tom Melander, who has a background in career guidance services. The two hope to incorporate workforce development into Shobi’s Table’s mission.
Eric Darling is new to the co-working community. His startup, Donormite
, seeks to connect charities with donors through the gifting of specific items, rather than money. Darling is now working out of Lydia’s Place part time, and is helping connect others at Lydia's place to donated office furniture and equipment through his new online donor platform.
Lydia’s Place opened in January and is still small, but growing. Simmons says there are currently at least nine core collaborators working from the space at least occasionally, and says he is fielding more calls from interested people every day. He’s already talking about expanding into a bigger space in the same neighborhood.
There’s currently no official fee to use the space, though there is a suggested donation for those who plan to be there regularly. “At this point our model does not have to be an economic model,” Simmons says. “It’s a relational model. We want to build community.”
Simmons plans to have the space completely supported by co-workers by August 1 this year. With collaborators giving what they can, the venture is less than $100 a month short of that now.
Source: Scott Simmons
Writer: Kyle Mianulli