Maiden Minnesota Event Supports Local Women-Owned Businesses

November fundraising event features local women entrepreneurs.

Maiden Minnesota, a celebration of Minnesota-based, women-owned businesses, partners with Dress for Success Twin Cities, whose mission is “to empower women to achieve economic independence by providing a network of support, professional attire and the development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.” This partnership provides a shopping experience of dreams: fashion, beauty products, jewelry, accessories, home décor, specialty food items and more, all made by women business owners and purchased in support of women striving for similar financial freedom and success. Recently we caught up with three Maiden Minnesota vendors with Edina roots.

Laura J. Benson, owner of Jeanne Beatrice

The name of Laura J. Benson’s business is a combination of middle names: Jeanne (hers), and Beatrice (her daughter’s). Benson got the idea for the Jeanne Beatrice product line on a family trip to France, where use of market baskets is common. Articles in her online lookbooks include baskets sourced from around the world. “At Jeanne Beatrice,” she writes on her website, “we strive to connect to the world with a wide variety of nonprofit partners empowering our vision to couple style and purpose.” Asked what is unique about Jeanne Beatrice, Benson says, “I think I have officially become ‘the basket lady.’ I can almost always accurately name the region/country of the world in which a basket was woven by glancing at it.” Her current favorite among many lovely baskets for sale is one named la vie petite. “It’s great for creating reusable gift baskets,” she says, “perfect for Maiden Minnesota because there are so many great things to fill it with! People often buy it in multiples and create teacher gifts/holiday gifts/etc.”

Benson has participated in every Maiden Minnesota event since its inception in 2007. The first year she attended as a customer but longed to participate as a vendor. “I spent the next year working hard to make it happen. I love the inspirational people I meet there, the collaboration, and that it’s a charitable event. It’s always vibrant and fun—I wouldn’t miss it!” Recently she’s pursued a line of hand-woven totes sourced from a women’s co-op in Bangladesh featuring “colorful, fresh, modern patterns in the weave.” Her fingers are crossed, she says, that she’ll have them in time to sell at Maiden Minnesota 2016.

The 10th annual Maiden Minnesota event will be held November 4, 2-9 p.m. at Loews Minneapolis Hotel, 601 First Ave. N., Mpls. Over 35 Minnesota women-owned companies will be represented, offering exclusive sales to attendees and donating products for a silent auction to benefit Dress for Success. Tickets are available in advance, up to the morning of the event for $20; the price increases to $30 at the door, with $5 from each ticket sold directly supporting Dress for Success.

Elizabeth Geisler, owner of Cocoon by Elizabeth Geisler

Elizabeth Geisler designs luxury outerwear, all USA-made, specifically for “real women who want practical, beautiful, flattering pieces that fit perfectly.” Cocoon by Elizabeth Geisler was born, Geisler says, of a love of fashion and clothing shared by her grandmother, a fashion model in the 1940s and ’50s. “When I was a kid I discovered her collection of gowns and hats, and once I saw all of these gorgeous things and started trying them on, it flipped a switch. I knew then what my path would be.” Geisler says her favorite in this year’s fall/winter collection is the new Tuileries Cape coat. “It’s a take on my best-seller, the swing cape,” she says. “This version has sleeves, which makes it so versatile, while still having a really special rare vintage feel to it.”

This year will be Geisler’s fourth Maiden Minnesota. “I love it!” she says. “It’s such an amazing group of women vendors who come together with a shared goal. I love the shoppers, too,” particularly their desire for local design and entrepreneurship. And if, in addition, you sense a lovely continental flair in Geisler’s designs, so much the better, she says. “A big part of my inspiration for this collection came from my trips to Paris over the years. It’s such a wonderful city that still remains so alive and fashionable in winter.” Words to live by, all ye Minnesota maidens.

Katie Sansted, owner of KT Design

Katie Sansted was a stay-at-home mom with four small children whose business, KT Designs (formerly Naptime Treasures), was born when she found a few brief moments while her children napped to indulge her love of sewing. “My husband would come home and I would say, I changed 12 diapers, fed two meals and four snacks and I made two bags!” she recalls. Her business started, she continues, out of her own and fellow moms’ need for an easy-to-clean, sturdy tote bag that could carry all the items needed for moving about with small kids—a bag that could be set down at the park and tolerate “spilled Cheerios or milk,” she says. “Every bag I sell has oilcloth on the inside, or both inside and out. It is a fantastic fabric that is waterproof and easy to clean. I strive to find unique patterns and designs so everyone can find their perfect tote.” Other product ideas came from friends’ suggestions, including zip-bags for wet items like swimsuits, and a tote (for anything from trash to toys) to tie on the back of the driver’s seat in a car. The piece she’s particularly fond of for fall is her zip tote in a plaid flannel design, particularly as Minnesotans “go into fall digging out fabulous plaid flannel infinity scarves.”

This is Sansted’s third year participating in Maiden Minnesota. “I love the connections I’ve made with so many awesome business women,” she says. Something you may not know about Sansted and her products: “All of the tote bags are named after places that have special meaning to our family. I have the Edina, Concord (my husband was principal there for 6 years), Alexandria (I was born there), Wausau (my sister lives there), Grand Rapids (my dad was from there and we were married there), to name a few!”