Atop the third floor of an office building on Main Avenue in Prior Lake, Lucy Stange and Mikaela Donelan are patiently waiting.
Modern round chairs held up by a chain and long wood tables are just part of the welcoming environment designed to breed connectivity into their non-traditional startup business, The Social Exchange.
The new company is designed to give a co-working space to local small businesses and most importantly, breed social connections and relationships.
Co-founders Stange, 35 and Donelan, 26, met each other two-and-a-half years ago at a launch party of a mutual friend. Stange struck up a conversation with Donelan and asked a simple question: “What do you like to do?” Turns out, they both had a love for working with small businesses.
“We can definitely work well together,” Donelan remembered thinking.
As the company’s CEO, Stange is no stranger to startups. In 2017, she started a marketing business called My Social Drive. After she became acquainted with Donelan, she hired her as a branding strategist, one of the roles she currently has at The Social Exchange.
For Stange, she hopes this company can give small business owners a way to connect with clients more genuinely.
In the age of COVID-19, the face-to-face connection is understandably scarce. Because of the pandemic, they are implementing 25% capacity in their lounge, which is between 25 to 30 people, contactless temperature checks and mandatory hand sanitization before entering, and, especially difficult in business, no handshaking.
“We thought, ‘How can we be a leader in finding a way to make social business interaction COVID-safe?’” Donelan said.
Stange and Donelan believe that the social element of relationships is crucial for people to maintain, even if it is behind a mask.
“We need each other right now, more than ever,” Stange said. “Right now is the time to show up and be there for people.”
That is something she knows very well.
Stange grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico as the oldest daughter of nine siblings. From a young age, she helped her mother raise and tend to her siblings. That yearning to pull people together has stayed with her and seeped into her career.
WHAT IS THE MEETING SPACE LIKE?
The Social Exchange opened their doors on July 1 to start marketing and networking with the community, but officially begin hosting events for members in August. Their first launch event, which will be live-streamed, is set for Aug. 12.
In the meeting, they hope to bring awareness of what they offer to the community, announce a special membership offer to attending guests, and celebrate the grand opening.
To become a member, business owners need to fill out an application on The Social Exchange’s website and wait to be approved by Stange and Donelan.
When members get approved, they have access to reserve what they call the “business lounge.”
The space will be used for business owners to host private meetings, small social events, or other gatherings for their clients.
Stange and Donelan will even be there to serve snacks and drinks during meetings. “You can present yourself and not have to worry about the details,” Stange said.
That relief of stress is even more paramount now.
Stange compares working during the pandemic to going to a gym.
Anyone could workout at home, but to be more accountable and intentional, you go to the gym. For most, working at home is feasible. But there is something special about communicating with no screen in front of the face.
“We are still needing social interactions,” Donelan said.
‘COME AND CONNECT’
“What are you doing right now that you are excited about?” Stange loves asking that question.
It encapsulates the mission of The Social Exchange. She doesn’t want to dive deep into small talk and miss out on going deeper.
Looking past their opening, Stange and Donelan hope to expand to multiple locations in the future and obtain a bigger area for more social events. But in the time and space they are presently in, it’s about cultivating a genuine relationship with everyone who steps in their door.
“This is a place to come and connect,” Stange said. “I want people to leave here feeling like they have something to offer the world in their career.”