Creating breathing room for Black and Brown women
The unpretentious building sits across from Logan Park, nestled next to Elim Church. Once inside the 4,000-square-foot location, Render Free—a new Black, woman-led company that offers a co-working space and lounge in Northeast Minneapolis—opens up to a beautiful atrium, multiple conference rooms, and flex spaces alongside a wellness classroom.
Arielle Grant, the founder of Render Free, invited the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder into her sacred space to get a look inside the communal workspace, designed to be a new haven for Black and Brown women in the Twin Cities.
The inspiration for Render Free, says Grant, came from her experiences working in White organizations without having a place of refuge. “It was so exhausting to constantly try to prove that we are worthy of systemic change. And not only was it discouraging to my spirit, but it was also dangerous for my body,” she said.
“As I met more people across the Twin Cities, I realized my story was not unique. The organizations I worked for are not uniquely dangerous, said Grant. “The scenario is one that so many of us find ourselves in, in predominantly White institutions. As Black and Brown bodies, we must just take it in until the change actually happens.”
When asked how she came up with the name for her business, Grant said, “Render means ‘to make, to manifest;’ our name and our purpose is to bring forth liberation.”
Render Free is the first of its kind in Minneapolis, a space dedicated to solely and exclusively catering to Black and Brown women. “Render Free was established as an LLC [limited liability company] before the murder of George Floyd, which, of course, emphasized our community’s needs, which were there before that moment,” she said.
“Then we opened our doors in October 2020, which was very interesting. It looked very different from what it is now. We operated like a proof-of-concept stage for two years in South Minneapolis, two days a week.”
On our tour of Render Free, Grant shared the company’s offerings—a physical workspace and solidarity workshops, which provide members with an opportunity to hear and relate to each other’s experiences. The workshops are a place “to have a moment where, maybe, previously, they were gaslit. But together we can say, you are not crazy,” explains Grant.
They also offer one-to-one member care, check-ins, and access to different wellness practitioners. “Every month, we feature a wellness practitioner who teaches us a new strategy and comes into this space, introduces herself, and tells her story.”
On Feb. 3, Render Free officially opened its doors to members. The launch included a jazz band and offered supporters and members a chance to see the new space. The event showcased food, goods and services from Black-owned and local businesses, and the opportunity to network and envision the possibilities for the space.
The launch attracted newcomers and folks who were born and bred in Minnesota, mothers, business owners, corporate executives, and grad students, all wanting to find a space just for them. Memberships are notably 30 percent lower [$180 per month] than the regional average for coworking spaces—a sweet spot Grant found between accessibility for the community and sustainability.
In addition, prospective members can arrange a tour of the space and purchase day passes through the Render Free website. Render Free also invites non-Black and Brown women supporters to sponsor memberships as a way for the broader community to get involved while also respecting the space.
“I wanted to create a space for healing. And I wanted to create a space where we can go back to that moment in the printer room, you know, where someone said something offhand, and we just had to keep a straight face,” Grant said. “[This] gives us space to grieve it or rage about it so that we can feel it and move on, and hopefully become more whole in the making.”
“All of that led to this idea of recovery space. It emerged because I still actively seek out the local Black-owned businesses we have here in those moments of stress. It’s like I’d want to go to Sammy’s Avenue eatery. I’d want to go to Heritage Tea House in St. Paul. I’d want to go to these places, where I can tuck inside and feel known and seen.
“And there’s something better that happens in my body in those places. I wanted to add to that network of places where we can find healing.”
Render Free is located at 685 13th Ave. NE, Minneapolis, and open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 5 pm. For more info on rental spaces, visit www.renderfree.com.