Using instameets to explore & make new local friends
An interview with MNCommunity Co-Founder Rachel Ewell on instagram, instameets & connecting with the local community!
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Full Transcription: https://www.twincitiescollective.com/conversations-with-creatives-podcast/2017/5/14/episode-12-an-interview-with-rachel-ewell-mncommunity
Jenna Redfield is the leader of the Twin Cities Collective, the largest resource in the Twin Cities for bloggers, small business, entrepreneurs & creatives. She is a well known speaker, educator & social media strategist. You can work with her one on one with coaching and content creation (photo/video) services
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It's Jenna back again this week with another episode. I'm here with Rachel and she is the founder, co founder of MN community where she has instant needs and has an awesome Instagram account for that as well. So Rachel, you want to introduce yourself.
Rachel Ewell 2:29
Hello, everyone. Thank you, Jenna for inviting me on to be on this podcast. I'm really excited.
Jenna Redfield 2:36
Yeah. So we met how long ago like maybe a couple years ago feel like I've known you a while.
Rachel Ewell 2:44
I think that we met probably close to two, maybe not quite two years ago. But yeah,
Jenna Redfield 2:55
for sure. And I think we were actually friends on Facebook before we met for a while. So that seems to happen to me a lot. So I don't know. But so Todd, do a little bit of intro of you and what you do during the day and how you kind of got started with MN community.
Rachel Ewell 3:12
So during the day, I work actually as a business consultant for healthcare company. And so I don't have a lot of creative outlets during the day, I do a lot of spreadsheets, and I do a lot of traveling and working with clients across the United States. But I've always been involved or interested in photography at different levels in from when I was really young. I'm actually from Lincoln, Nebraska. So I moved to Minnesota in 2000. And so I'm basically Minnesota now, but I you know, obviously when you will do any place, you're interested in building a community. So I mean, it took a while for me to get an Instagram, obviously, I don't think Instagram came out until 2000. I don't know 1213 somewhere in there. But I so I wasn't as interested in photography, I took photography classes when I was younger, I always had a camera. My dad was my dad loves taking photographs as well. So it was always kind of an interest of mine. And about almost four years ago, I had been using Instagram, but I had been using it for more of just like my day to day life, I'm going to admit that I took selfies, take selfies, there's nothing wrong with it. Yeah, I'm you know, pictures of my meals and things like that just like day to day, but I really wasn't looking at it as a creative outlet. And then
I became friends with
someone who was still my friend today. And he was using Instagram in a very different way. He was taking photographs with his phone, which is how I started as well with my iPhone, but he was really using it as more of a creative outlet. And that prompted me to to really start kind of actually thinking about using it as more of a creative outlet for myself from my from my photography perspective. So I'm definitely not a photographer. Like I don't want to be a professional photographer, but I love photography. And so the other thing Instagram really brought into my life is a community. So I, even before I really started using Instagram as a creative outlet for primarily photography, I was following different shops in the Twin Cities area, like local shops, and I was following other people that were doing the some of the same activities that I was like running, and things like that. And so I was actually starting to become friends with these people, even in real life.
So I had
I mean, I just kind of took it upon myself that you can kind of tell someone about a person's personality and a lot of cases from their Instagram feeds, depending on what's in it. And, you know, I just started making connections and building a community building my social community by using Instagram. So eventually, I met Jessica dudas, who, at ZJ do this on Instagram. And when we connected, we realize that there was this interest in the Twin Cities and in Minnesota, just in the Instagram community for more opportunities for the community to get together. You know, as an adult, it can be sometimes hard to make friends and you know, hard to find people sometimes that are in interested in the things you're interested in. And I think with Instagram, you can identify common threads with people just again, in their feed, you know, what are they interested in? What are they taking photos of? And even now, you know, what are their story is, because a lot of people are sharing more information and their stories and you ever knew about them just from their feed, which is kind of been an interesting, yeah. Interesting. Take on the stories. But so Jessica, and I decided to well, initially we were doing we were organizing very,
kind of informal meetups
where we were just trying to like organize things from our, from our own personal Instagram pages. And eventually after we tried to do that for a little while we were like, you know, this is really kind of a pain. Let's just create an end to that we can coordinate all of these things through and naturally where and then community was born. And I was just thinking about it earlier today. So this August, it'll be two years of MMOs community. So I'm an exciting summer coming up for us.
Jenna Redfield 8:41
That's awesome. So when you first launched it, was it going to be an Instagram sort of meetup? Or was it just meetups in general?
Rachel Ewell 8:50
No, we really wanted to, it was very, it was still going to be very focused on Instagram. One of the things I mean, that's how that's how just I met, that's where our friendship started. And we both love photography, we knew that we have that in common. And we also knew that we had other things in common, but it was always, you know, Instagram was always going to be the central focus of it. But during the first year, we tried a lot of different things. I mean, we didn't necessarily set out to say we only want to do into me, and we were very, very open. And we still actually are to all different types of
events, but I our core
type of event is is tipa isn't is to me. But we we are open to you know, trying different things. I mean, our main goal was just really to provide opportunities for the community of people on Instagram, that were Minnesota, Instagram or to get together, for sure, in whatever capacity that you know, materialized.
Jenna Redfield 10:00
Yeah, and how so when you first launched it, how did you grow? Was it just word of mouth? Was it just by posting on Instagram and using hashtags? or How did it? How did it grow? Was it over time
Rachel Ewell 10:15
to cover both pretty connected to the local Mr. Ground Instagram's community. So I think inherently we had growth, just kind of immediately from that the people that were our friends, people that we had already connected with. But we did we do use hashtags, we don't use a ton. But we are strategic about the hashtag for us, you know, Minnesota focused. And then I think, you know, a lot of it has been word of mouth, other other things that we've done that I think has definitely made an impact as just some of the organizations that we've worked with and kind of, you know, cross them, you know, those words, organizations cross posting on their social media, which then bring more awareness to our, our community. And then, you know, one other thing that we that we decided that we wanted to do, right from the beginning, that was I was really positive, you know, I was really adamant about was that we created a Facebook page as well as an Instagram page. Yep. And I think that that has been that has actually really helped us grow as well, you know, some people hadn't, I don't even think had Instagram pages, but we're coming to our event at the beginning and then created Instagram pages in there. You don't have to have an Instagram page come to our venue. It's not a requirement. But I you know, we've, I've asked people at our events, you How did you find out about this, and oftentimes, there are definitely a group of people at our events that have found out through Facebook. And, you know, I think it's important to have a Facebook presence, even if your central hub is Instagram, because that gets the events on people's calendars. Just provide additional opportunities for people to know about and find out about you.
Jenna Redfield 12:24
Yeah, for sure. I mean, we did that with the collective too. And it's more of a group than the page, we use more, but that's just my preference. I'm, I'm more of a Facebook group person, like I'm in a lot of them. And that's how I find out about things too. So I just, I could have kept a page, but I just personally like groups, and there was already a group. So I was like, I'll just use the one that I already have going. So how do you how do you how do you actually connect with the places that you do it on Sat? Do? Was it originally you reaching out to them? And I know now they reach out to you. But how did those connections get started?
Rachel Ewell 13:00
Well, it's really a combination. Definitely at the beginning, it was myself and Jessica utilizing resources in the network that we had in the community. You know, just for example, I, I knew someone that worked at the Minnesota History Center. So I reached out to her. Because without the History Center would be a cool place to do it is to me, and it was I knew someone that works as a guest degree, I got connected to the Minnesota science museum through a mutual contact. So it was a lot about using our already our networks that are already in place. But it's also about you know, just kind of cold and you want to call it cold calling. Yeah, organization telling them who you are. And, you know, what's the worst that can happen? They could say no? True do you do in general?
Jenna Redfield 13:52
I was gonna say do you? Do you have to sell it? Like, like, do people like not get it right away? Or how does that like? So say you're calling someone they've never heard of you? Do you have to like hard sell them kind of
Rachel Ewell 14:05
a hard sell. But I you know, obviously we have to explain who we are? Or what are we doing what how can we benefit the organization, there are asked that we have like, we don't want the facility or the organization or whatever, wherever we're at to be open to the public during those hours that were there for our event typically. So there are some apps that we ask it is usually it's not a hard sell. Usually, usually, it's a pretty easy sell, because the benefits to the organization are very, very clear. And so it doesn't take doesn't take much usually to talk them into doing it working with us on our event or partnering on event. And what's really been cool is that we have worked with a number of organizations multiple times. And that's definitely something we're open to. You know, it's it's obviously, it kind of depends on the scenario and what we're doing. But we're not, you know, we like working with the same organization multiple times. And we'll we'll do that the opportunity presents itself. Like, for example, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, we've done two instances with them. You know, these are great organizations in the community. Other we've worked with the Glen Jean mansion in Duluth. You know, some of these, some of the places that we do event that just also lend themselves to doing multiple events as well. So, but we, you know, we love making those connections. And then we love working with those groups again,
Jenna Redfield 15:44
for sure, because I've been to a maybe
Unknown Speaker 15:47
Jenna Redfield 15:48
I feel like I don't even know how many I've been to with you guys. But I remember I went to the one at the Women's Club. That was fun. I went to the one I just went to the one at the MA a few weeks ago. Go that was really fun. Um, so there's, I've been to a few and they're really fun. And what I find interesting is that it is a mix of people like people that bring their really nice cameras, and then people who have their iPhones, have you found that it's a lot of like, amateur photographers that come or I know there's a lot of regulars to how are they are there a lot of regulars that come like that?
Rachel Ewell 16:25
area, I mean, we definitely have a group of people that will have community members that we see very regularly that come to you many multiple, then we have a broad spectrum of different levels of photographer at our events, like you said, it's all the way from, you know, using your smartphone, which actually have has great cameras on them. Yep, so I don't definitely don't want announce, like just using your phone, because I used to always say that, Oh, I'm just using my phone. But actually, it's there's widget photography that you can do with your phone. Um, so it's, it's a very broad spectrum, it's a lot of different ages even. And sometimes it will be families will come. You know, it really depends on the event. But we do have, you know, kind of a group that comes to a lot of events. But what's really great is that we see new people at nearly every event, if not every event. And that's really what kind of energizes me, not only that we have people coming over and over again, which is, of course, something that we want, but also that we are engaging with new people in the community, which really makes me happy at a recent event, there were Oh, I think it was actually at the media event. There were definitely some new faces, and I saw some new connections being made friendships. And that just makes me happy. Because that's really what ultimately that we want to do.
Jenna Redfield 17:59
For sure. And have you had a favorite event that you've had? personally?
Rachel Ewell 18:05
Oh, you know what, we had an event in January of 2016, at the North Fork King building. And I think were you I think,
Jenna Redfield 18:16
I think I think I was I might have been
Rachel Ewell 18:20
and that I mean all I love all of the events in different ways, asking to choose an event like, you know, asking me to choose like a favorite child or something. But I really love the northern kingdom, because it was really cool space, the building management was awesome to work with. We also were able to incorporate local artists, and they open their studios to us that we're actually giving people discounts if they wanted to buy locally made goods and art. And so it was a really multi tiered event that incorporated all the cool stuff that I like, which is supporting local supporting artists, you know, seeing cool faces that are being renovated into new spaces that are still holding on to that, you know, the feeling of that old, those old warehouse girl pieces. So that I think still sticks out to me as as definitely. And definitely one of my favorites, for sure.
Jenna Redfield 19:29
And I know you do a lot of old buildings that you guys tour, like, how did you get connected with some of those, because I know that there's a lot of it's part of the history of the Twin Cities. And I know a lot of people don't usually go there on a regular basis. So how did you decide to go to a lot of those older buildings?
Rachel Ewell 19:48
That's a good question. So I myself and Jessica as well really love the idea of preservation. We're kind of history nerds to be honest with you. And not that there's anything wrong with that, whoever. But, um, and I was actually connected with an acquaintance really at the time, but through a friend now through a mutual friend who was her name was Claire Vander, right. She is very connected to the local preservation community. So me and Claire got together and getting this was again, like two years ago, was one of our very first events was at the Schmidt brewery complex. And we realized that, first of all cool space, old spaces are cool people like to photograph them, there's usually lots of stuff that is, you know, neat to see fun to photograph. And also, it's great to engage people into the preservation effort in the community. And so by putting by hosting events, different has a properties that are, you know, in some portion of the preservation cycle, we could bring awareness to preservation that's happening in our communities, and also provide cool opportunities to get together and take photographs and engage that Instagram community. And we knew that by you know, the photographs that would be coming out that was that was also reach a broader audience of people that may also then become more engaged in the preservation community, which was something that I was really excited about, and obviously player as well. So we do a lot of events with growth preserve Minneapolis, and the preservation alliance of Minnesota. And it's really just about bringing awareness to the fact that in some ways, we're all we can all be preservationist, whether we, you know, depending, you know, it doesn't have to be that we're completely in the is the whole, you know, preservation, volunteering and things like that, I mean, we can be preservation is by just understanding the importance of these buildings in our communities and how they fit in our communities and how they're important they are in our communities. And by doing instruments there, we've allowed that we've offered that opportunity for those
buildings to be to get a little bit more attention.
Jenna Redfield 22:28
That's so cool. I think
Rachel Ewell 22:30
that's a really all. Yeah, it's all clear salt.
Jenna Redfield 22:34
That's so cool, that you get connected so early on to, and that kind of has become sort of part of your brand is is exploring, you know, places with preserve Minneapolis, as well as newer buildings that are maybe just opening, is there any coming up that you are really excited about or any that's like your dream location locally?
Rachel Ewell 22:56
Well, we were supposed to do with instant me as a human hotel, or it became the human hotel. And we have so much interest in that building, that essentially, it became too overwhelming to actually have an event there. That was one of the coolest spaces that I actually was lucky enough to get to see the space. Before we were supposed to have our event, just to like, you know, get scope it out and see what we could expect. And that was a very cool space. I'm trying to think about other like wish list locations, I mean, there's probably a ton that I can't think of off the top of my head, but I really like to be able to my, I really like to be able to see spaces as they're in the renovation process when they're still really kind of grungy, and you can still really feel those old, kind of the history of the place before it gets to, you know, in to renovated. So there, I think there's a couple seasons in the north loop that are that are kind of being worked on that I'd like to really get I'd like to see the inside of and like, I'd like to get us into, you know, places like Tilbury email before in, you know, while it was during the renovation space, that those kind of places are pretty, pretty cool to get into some of the theaters would also like the Hollywood theatre that be renovated in the northeast would be really fun to get into. Yeah, and some of them are more difficult than others. Because obviously, active construction zone there are, you know, considerations that you have to take about safety and things like that. So that the that is a limitations on time. Yeah, for sure.
Jenna Redfield 25:02
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Rachel Ewell 26:38
Well, one of the things that we have been focusing on a little bit more this year, and I certainly want to continue to incorporate more is volunteer ism activate volunteer activities that benefit the community, we've actually done a couple different donation drive recently, and those were really, those are really successful. And I was really, really happy at the response from the community on those, you know, obviously, those types of things will always be optional. But I think it's important that you know, we're communities what, how can we get back to our community? You know, I think there's just a lot of stuff going on in the world and our country and whatever we can do to give back I think is really important. The other thing that I've kind of been thinking about is, you know, potentially having like an MN community dilutes and me unity, you know, Rochester maybe kind of expanding out and having more, you know, having other leaders and other other parts of Minnesota because obviously a lot of what we do is in the Twin Cities, but obviously and and in Duluth, we've done quite a bit, but you know, I know there's other groups around the, around the seats, that it would be fun to engage with more. So and, you know, the other thing is just doing more collaborative types of events. With with different organizations with different groups really want to do a doggy and that's always fun for me because you know, I'm I really love dollar on selfishly wanting to do something like that. So I think we're going to be, we do have plans to do something like that. And then I'd like to also just get back to kind of our roots of maybe doing another event, like the north or King building event where we're, again, engaging was more than with some of the local artists, filmmakers, things like that. You know, we're all about giving back. We're all about our community, and we're all about supporting our community. So how, how better Can we do that? And that's kind of what we're trying to focus on.
Jenna Redfield 28:58
Yeah. So switch topics. Um, let's talk a little bit about what you like to do around town. What is your favorite thing to hang out? I know you're I know you're always everywhere so you seem to know about what's happening and what's going on. So what's like your favorite place to hang out and what's your favorite place? Like grab some food?
Rachel Ewell 29:18
Wow, you know, I just ate it red rabbit in the north. Okay, and I had a really amazing meal there. So I'm very I love Italian food. So anytime anyone asked me what my favorite meal is going to be Barla grace I usually am I'm not this is not a sponsored and I just really love their food. I you know, my favorite place to hang out is probably St. Anthony main. really loves the stone arch bridge. Overland Park devil area around remember, I'm, you know, I really love water. I really love being around water and green like green greenness and in the city. So those are very photogenic areas. I always like take lots of photos. And also just fun places to you know, sit and relax and people watching or get some exercise and go for a run. I also really love the air. So a lot of people kind of partner up going to a show at the Guthrie was hanging out on gopinath park or walking across the stone arch bridge, or something like that.
Jenna Redfield 30:27
For sure. I know that I know. Laura was I know Laura was on our podcast. And she talks about I know you guys go to split the tickets, right for the Guthrie. Oh,
Rachel Ewell 30:37
yeah, we have a season ticket. We have a subscription together. That's awesome for the head up in theater.
Jenna Redfield 30:42
Oh, yeah. That's awesome. I don't go to enough shows. I love theater too. I just never go, you know.
Rachel Ewell 30:50
Yeah, it's, it's more accessible. And people realize that I totally, I totally understand that. Well, you know, some of the probably quite a few of the shows that I can too. I maybe wouldn't have done if I didn't have a season subscription. But I ended up loving them. Matilda is a great example that Oh, yeah. Tour just recently came here. And that was amazing. But I don't know that I would have bought a ticket had I not heard he had a ticket. So
Jenna Redfield 31:18
for sure. So what is kind of any other Last Minute Tips for people that are maybe starting on Instagram, or people that want to get involved in the local community? Do you have any tips on that?
Rachel Ewell 31:34
The biggest tip that I would have, which I know is kind of tough, but it's Don't be afraid to put yourself out there. You know, people ask me, How did you become friends with all these people just from Instagram, or just from Twitter. And the way that I did that was because I put myself out there and wasn't afraid to go grab a donut together and go grab some coffee, you know, go on a walk around. Lake Harriet or something like that, you know, it's, you can't always wait for those opportunities to come to you. You have to search them out sometimes. And it is intimidating. It can be kind of weird. Sometimes you feel like you're on like a really strange for a day even those metaphor isn't today's but you know, it is? Yeah, yes, it can be like a little scary dealing with me personally only know from the internet. Yeah. But it has been, you know, one of the biggest rewards of my life is just, you know, meeting the people that have had to me, I mean, I've been in a wedding from, I was a bridesmaid and someone that I met on my friend Erica that I met on Instagram, and I've just shared, you know, it's been a huge fulfillment in my life to and reward in my life to meet these people. So don't be afraid to put yourself out there. use hashtag, you know, go on, go on Instagram, actually engage with people. You know, look, you know, if you're using hashtags, you know, once a week or a couple times a week actually search those hashtags and, you know, look for other photographers that you might want to connect with. And that's it can't again, you have to, there's work that you have to do you have to put effort into it. And without a doubt, you'll get back as much as you put into it, if not much more.
Jenna Redfield 33:28
Yeah, for sure. And I've definitely realized that over the past year or so, with, especially with men community, and I think my advice would probably be to go to an event, because then you'll meet people there. And then maybe you can connect with them after once you start talking to them. It's easier once you've met them as like in like a group setting. has that kind of been the same for you? Where it's like you see them in the event? And then you can connect with them after?
Rachel Ewell 33:55
Definitely, yeah, I mean, I I'm, I tend to be better one on one. So that's it groups can kind of be, you know, potentially intimidating as well. But yes, I mean, come to an event, there will be I promise there will be friendly people at the event. Don't feel scared by you know, if you want to feel more comfortable, bring your friends. And you will meet people, I guarantee you'll make connections and yeah, then you can kind of work with those as well. So, for sure, lots of opportunity. Yeah,
Jenna Redfield 34:30
for sure. So well, thank you so much, Rachel, for coming on today. I do want to ask how we can find you on social media, not just you, but also MN community. So if you want to give us your handles, that would be awesome.
Rachel Ewell 34:44
Sure, so MN community is at MN Community on Instagram. We are facebook. com backslash MN community page. So we're, we're actually mn community page on Facebook and Twitter. And then I am under Rachel underscore, one, two and six spelled out. And I you can find me at that on Instagram and Twitter.
Jenna Redfield 35:12
Awesome. Well, thank you so much. This episode will be going up next week. So I'm excited that it'll be up very soon. So I hope that you guys have an awesome week and continue to work on your Instagrams. And I'll talk to you guys later. Bye. Thank you so much for listening to the Twin Cities collective podcast conversations with creatives. If you like this podcast, make sure to give us a review on iTunes and let us know how we're doing. If you're interested in becoming a sponsor, or a guest on the podcast, please go to Twin Cities collective calm to learn more. Thanks again to Alan Murray design for creating our cover art. And for the glide list for the use of the song in the intro intro. Thanks again for listening to conversations with creatives.