Lift Bridge Cowork is a nod to some of Minnesota’s earliest entrepreneurs

If you get to spend your workdays in a beautifully designed coworking space, you likely appreciate that it offers a more unique, inspiring environment than what you may have at home. While great design is a main attraction at Lift Bridge Cowork in Stillwater, Minnesota, founder Jill Kaufenberg shares that a creating a successful space also requires prioritizing an environment of support and collaboration.

Why did you decide to open a coworking space?

I decided to open a coworking space after renovating an 1885 historic building in Stillwater, Minnesota, which we purchased in 2017. After placing our tenant on the main floor, Mon Petit Cheri Bakery & Kitchen, and a two-year renovation, we couldn’t quite find the right tenant to fill the space upstairs. We believed a coworking space would do great in downtown Stillwater, so we contacted one of our friends who started the first coworking space in Minneapolis. He wasn’t interested in opening a location in Stillwater because our square footage wasn’t large enough, so he recommended I do it myself, and has been nothing short of an amazing mentor to me as I entered a new industry different than my previous professional background.

Tell us about your space. What kinds of amenities does it have? What makes it unique?

Our space has a modern aesthetic in a historic building and community, as Stillwater is the original birthplace of Minnesota. We offer our monthly members free coffee, a discount at the bakery on our main floor, free lockers, gig-speed internet, access to four conference rooms and a phone booth plus happy hours and access to our Slack networking group.

We have a unique space because our upstairs location has an open view to the bakery below allowing it to have a coffee shop feel without having to be seated in the bakery with those who aren’t working. We also have a very unique, historic building decorated with modern touches and lighting. This creates a non-traditional office feel, which I find specifically attracts professionals with an affinity for good design. 

Additionally, we recently purchased another building five blocks away that can offer private office space with the same amenities. We have named it Lift Bridge Cowork-The Victorian, and our primary coworking space located above the bakery is Lift Bridge Cowork-Union Block, referring to the historic block’s name in the 1800s. 

What is your favorite thing about operating a coworking space? 

My favorite thing about operating a coworking space is the ability to connect with people from all backgrounds and professions. I get so much energy and positivity from interacting with members and community members who come through our space. I love talking about business, especially start-ups, and all of their unique journeys. 

What’s your favorite story about one of your members?

One of our members recently was funded by AOL founder Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest.” Our member joined when he just started his company 18 months ago. It has been a joy to chat with him about stories of adversity and success in the start-up world while he has been on his journey. 

What has been the most surprising or unexpected thing about operating a coworking space?

The most surprising aspect about operating a coworking space is that my own ambition has been amplified from interacting and observing the constant hard-work, determination, and grit of our members. I absolutely love the energy that exists in our space and can’t be more proud that my members are also friends. 

What advice would you offer to someone wanting to open a coworking space?

A coworking space is something that you cannot quantify through a simple construction of desks and internet. It has to prioritize the human element interwoven into every decision you make starting with your environment as well as your amenities.

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Lift Bridge Cowork