Iowa expat adapts coworking space after opening its doors right before coronavirus hit

When husband and wife duo Eli and Beatrice Wolnerman opened up their coworking space in late February, they had no idea that coronavirus would temporarily close the doors to their business just a few weeks later.

The coworking space, called Bea’s Detroit, held its grand opening on Feb. 27. The space features a for-rent manufacturing space, a retail shop, café, along with collaborative work areas.

“Less than one week into our existence, the coronavirus hit. March 2 we had a big trade show cancel on us and that was the first big domino to fall,” said Eli Wolnerman, co-founder of Bea’s Detroit and West Des Moines native. “We were significantly hampered and saw membership dropping off. Given our unique position as a space that supports small businesses, we wanted to promote them and give back.”

So on March 13, the two hosted an event called ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ and had nearly 50 small businesses come on and talk for 90 seconds each about their business, how they’ve pivoted during coronavirus and how people can still support them.

“That event totally blew up and had thousands of viewers,” said Eli. “So we took that idea and created a virtual membership platform for our coworking space called ‘The BeaHive.'”

That virtual membership includes daily content, networking and open forums for members to share tips on how to grow their business

Lemonade stand turns into full-fledged company

Prior to opening up their coworking space, the two were looking for a way to were looking for a unique way to connect with potential tenants while the building for the coworking space was under construction.

They came upon an odd, 600-square-foot triangular parcel of land for sale and bought it for $5,000. They then used the land to create their own version of a lemonade stand with a unique delivery method involving buckets and a pulley system to send the lemonade down to customers.

With an overwhelming positive response, what was intended to be a summer pop-up grew into a real lemonade company called Bea’s Squeeze. They now distribute two flavors — classic and pink rose — in grocery stores and restaurants in Michigan and Ohio, and recently signed a contract to distribute to the regional grocery chain HyVee.

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