How Lara Cornell built a heart-centered career path and created community along the way

We had the privilege of meeting Lara Cornell, founder of Anahata Collaborative, as we explored unique, intimate spaces for our Buzz Sessions. Not only did we uncover one of the most creative event spaces in Minneapolis, we found an entrepreneur with a story of discovery, passion, community, and inspiration for those navigating career choices and changes.

 Industrial, comfy, cute, pastels - can we stay here all day?!

Industrial, comfy, cute, pastels - can we stay here all day?!

Tell us about Anahata Collaborative.    
Anahata Collaborative is a space which inspires, educates, celebrates, and brings people together of all backgrounds. It's a space centered around creativity and wellbeing, where we believe in community and collaboration over competition.  

It's a co-working space one day a week: Collaborative Mondays is a day of co-working and collaboration. We know that many entrepreneurs and small business owners can feel lonely, working their butts off trying to build their businesses, and we also know they don't always feel like dressing up to attend networking events. 

We offer a learning space for entrepreneurs: Most of our entrepreneurs are trying to do it all themselves and we want to support that. Our new Anahata Academy will offer classes and workshops for entrepreneurs to learn skills to help them feel supported, encouraged, and confident while they build their businesses. 

We showcase local talent: Anahata Collaborative hosts various events throughout the year showcasing Twin Cities talent, such as our monthly Living Room Acoustic Showcase and our Local Maker Market last fall. 

Ultimately - you don’t have to do it all alone. There are people who WANT to cheer you on! 
— Lara Cornell

What does Anahata mean?
Anahata refers to the heart center (chakra) in Sanskrit. We use this word because we want the space to be heart-centered, trauma-informed, dream filled, and where anyone can feel welcome.

What lead you to start Anahata Collaborative?  How does it fulfill your passion? While I was building my art business, I was also taking several wellness certifications. Because I had my hands in so many pots, people kept asking me what I was going to do with all of it. All I could say was, "I want to create a space. But I don't know what will be in it exactly.  Some sort of space for art and wellness to come together.”

I had thought originally it would be a space which would house yoga classes and art classes. But that still felt too restrictive. I had a million ideas, but the space was always empty and changing. Then I realized, that's exactly what it was supposed to be! An empty space which was always changing in creative ways. I set out to find a location and a venue I loved. The instant I toured what is now Anahata Collaborative, I was in love. It has soaring ceilings, natural light, a glass garage door which opens so you can bring the outdoors in and the Greenway just steps outside the door. 

What has been most surprising in the first 9 months of launching your own business?
Since opening Anahata Collaborative in September, it is still growing and changing. I thought when I opened the space that I already knew what it was going to be and it was just a matter of marketing. However, the space itself is constantly showing me that I can't put it into a box and that it's meant to be so much more than even I can put my finger on right now. The people who continually show up with their enthusiasm and love for what they do is probably my favorite thing...well....and the garage door. 

While you run Anahata Collaborative, you also have another LLC and work in travel. Tell us more about those roles and how you balance them.
I have been the Director of a French Travel Company in Uptown for the past 12 years now. When I opened Anahata Collaborative, I had hoped I could "retire" and focus all my attention on the space and my art business. But financially it just wasn't an option (yet), so I continue to do a 9-5 as well.

Three years ago, I also started an art business (Citrine Studios LLC) teaching creative art and wellness workshops and selling my paintings. Last year was the first year I created and led my own retreat for women to Paris. The itinerary included touring Monet's gardens, sketching at Versailles, taking photos of the Parisian architecture, visiting Impressionist museums and learning to make perfume. 

I volunteer as a Brand Ambassador for Fashion Meets Poetry and I am a co-leader of the Rising Tide Society's Tuesdays Together Minneapolis/St. Paul chapter. 

It's definitely a balancing act and I take one day at a time. I try to go to bed the same time my kids do (around 9 pm) and not work in the am until I have dropped them off at school. This means I am sometimes slower at answering emails, getting website updates done, marketing, and posting on social media but I'm learning that it's ok. It's teaching me to really sort out what really needs to be done now and what can wait.

My perceptions of self-care have also changed. Now, I practice self-care by keeping doctor and dentist appointments, getting my car in for repairs, cleaning up my QuickBooks... in short, doing the things which are taking up brain space and stressing me out for not doing them. Stepping up and being an adult can be such a pain!

You also have three beautiful young children.  What lessons do you share with them?
My three young children have been super supportive. I have always shared my successes and struggles with them. They see everything. I want them to know that you can reach for your dreams, but that it is also hard work. I will often bring them to meetings, events, workshops, performances (including the not-so-fun things like meeting with bankers). They have seen me morph from a 9-5 career mom to an artist, to a yoga teacher, to a flower essence practitioner, to renting my own art studio, to letting go of my own art studio, to selling paintings at markets, to teaching yoga and art in their schools, and now to traveling for art retreats and opening my own space to share with others.

One thing has built on top of the other over these past 4 years making me who I am. The most exciting part is that I'm still changing and growing! 

What advice would you give other aspiring women entrepreneurs?
I would say the same thing I tell my children, “You can do it. You really can”. If your heart is in it. Because it's hard work and if your heart isn't in it, it just won't come together. When building your own business, you will likely want to give up, probably often.

Remembering your why and knowing in your heart it's the right thing for you, is what will keep you going.

You also need to find a network of entrepreneurs who are working as hard as you are to surround yourself with. Having other entrepreneurs (even if it's not the same type of business) who are also struggling to build their own websites, market their skills, write bios, navigate commerce sites, figuring out Instagram etc... is incredibly valuable.

Learn more about Anahata Collaborative here

 Lara Cornell, Founder, Anahata Collaborative

Lara Cornell, Founder, Anahata Collaborative