North Minneapolis is one of the Twin Cities’ poorest neighborhoods and has long struggled to attract small businesses. But the Northside Economic Opportunity Network (NEON) is seeking to change that. Founded in 2006, NEON supports low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs in north Minneapolis through business training, technical and financial assistance, and a co-working office. Earlier this year, it opened a business incubator, offering affordable rental space for small businesses with tenants including a clothing boutique, tax preparers, a home health care firm, and a massage therapy space.
For the second year running, the community-based organization is partnering with FLOW, the 11th annual Northside Art Crawl, to showcase Northside fashion designers, retailers, and producers. The two-day event, dubbed “Get to Werk,” includes a free fashion show on Friday, July 29, and a pop-up shopping event on Saturday, July 30, giving the public the chance to shop clothing and accessories from the runway and support Northside businesses. Most of the participating stores and designers hail from the Northside, including Simply Fabulous One Boutique and Northside fashion designer Felicia Perry.
“NEON wanted to combine art and business, so we thought, what better way than fashion?” explains “Get to Werk” organizer and NEON’s Business and Community Relations Coordinator, Ashley Bennett, who says last year’s fashion show was attended by about 60 people. This year, they’re hoping for more traffic for the pop-up event. “It’s great to go online and buy things, but it’s nice to buy something you know was made locally,” she says.
Simply fabulous one boutique owner teresa rogers outside her store, Courtesy image
Simply Fabulous One Boutique opened in January as part of NEON’s incubator program, and sells affordable women’s clothing spanning casual wear to clubwear to church attire for sizes small to 3X. Owner Teresa Rogers says she’s participating in the event to help bring awareness to NEON’s incubator program and to inspire women. “It’s not just about selling clothes for me,” she says. “It’s about uplifting and empowering women. If you feel good, you look good—and if you look good, you feel good.”
For Felicia Perry, a longtime north Minneapolis resident who founded her fashion line Feeperella in 2013, this weekend’s fashion event is a great way to inspire others in the community to reach for their goals. “The fashion industry in the Twin Cities is very white and inaccessible to people who look like me,” says Perry. “Since I’ve been fortunate enough to have shown my work outside of north Minneapolis, I want to bring my access and experience to my community. It’s hard for people in the Northside to imagine fashion as anything other than a dream, so I want to show them my reality so it can become a reality for them.” She also sees the fashion show as a way to introduce those outside of north Minneapolis to the art and creativity of Northside designers and businesses. “I want to bring the fashion community to us, and show them what we have to offer,” she says.
Fashion show lineup: (*indicates that they will also be vending in the boutique)
*Simply Fabulous One Boutique
*Iconic Fashion by Davona
*Amore Jewelry & Boutique
Prude African Boutique
Dji G’S Boutique
Fierce Hair and Make-up Lounge
Butters by Jay
Get to Werk fashion show: 6-7:30 p.m. (doors at 5:30 p.m.) Fri., July 29; Pop-up boutique: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sat., July 30. Both events take place at NEON, 1007 W. Broadway Ave., Minneapolis. To learn more at NEON, visit neon-mn.org. RSVP at the Facebook invite