By Stef Tschida
Jen Biswas had a lot of friends—some of whom lived just a few miles away from her in the Twin Cities in Minnesota. But she’d never met many of them. As the personality behind the lifestyle website and blog Paisley + Sparrow, Jen had created a large online community. While she felt truly connected to many of the friends she’d made via social media, she sometimes felt isolated as a young mom and entrepreneur.
On a whim, Jen and one of the friends she’d met online, Michelle Raven, decided to take their relationships offline and invited a handful of people to have brunch together. As they looked around the table at the eight women who showed up that day, they realized they weren’t alone in the joys and challenges of life. Women who were strangers a few hours prior were now sharing intimate details about their marriages, children and careers, some with tears streaming down their faces. Jen realized there was magical power in giving mothers an outlet to connect with others having similar experiences. The unconditional encouragement and support blew her away and made her wonder what could happen if this gathering wasn’t just a one-time thing and if more moms could participate.
Shortly after that memorable morning around the breakfast table, Jen and Michelle hosted another meetup, this time opening it up to all mamas who wanted to join. When life got extra busy for Michelle, she handed the baton to Meghan Joy Yancy, a fellow blogger and social media influencer. Jen and Meghan’s partnership to bring women together ended up being a perfect match. And in the process, they’ve grown incredibly close themselves, which they describe as a beautiful byproduct of their efforts.
Jen and Meghan recognize that everyone views motherhood differently, so they aim to be as inclusive as possible in their definition of what a mom is. As they describe it: “Motherhood comes in many forms. If you identify as a mom, no matter what that looks like to you and your family, you are welcome to this party.” Their only requirement is that participants are moms to human children.
Each Minne Mama Meetup features a guest speaker or panel meant to encourage attendees and expand their perspectives on a particular topic, as well as small group time to discuss what they heard and form deeper connections with each other. Moms also enjoy refreshments, creative professional headshots, and giveaways. Jen and Meghan are intentional about hosting each Minne Mama Meetup at a unique local venue, often woman owned, to help promote small businesses throughout the Twin Cities.
Christina Rymer has attended three Minne Mama Meetups and keeps coming back because she finds the gatherings to be a no-judgement zone where she can be vulnerable with others about the ups and downs in her life—even if she just met the other women that night. “I’ve grown a lot since I first started attending,” she shared. “It’s helped me in areas I didn’t even realize I needed help with.”
As Jen and Meghan look to the future, they’re focused on continuing to create an uplifting outlet that gives moms a sense of community, encouragement and a much-needed night out of the house. They’re also passionate about helping increase awareness for the small local businesses that host Minne Mama Meetups. While interest in the events continues to grow, Jen and Meghan intentionally limit attendance to ensure women get to truly connect with each other in an intimate setting.
While organizing Minne Mama Meetups is another thing on Jen and Meghan’s long to-do lists as wives, mothers, and business owners, Meghan and Jen get as much out of the gatherings as attendees do. “Before each event we wonder whether it will turn out well and whether people will continue to show up,” she said. “But then we’ll look around during the event and see new friendships forming and moms’ cups getting filled up, and we’ll look at each other and just say, ‘Yes, this is so, so good.’”
Photo: Amy Ray Photography
About the author: Stef Tschida is a former corporate communicator and lifelong storyteller. Stef’s WHY became clear when she worked at her daily campus newspaper. She realized she didn’t want to ask tough questions as a reporter—she wanted to help organizations answer those tough questions. She’s been doing that work ever since.