This is part of our series, “Banking on Change,” which showcases local entrepreneurs who are creating a positive impact in their community. The series spotlights one local business each month. Above illustration: NEW RULES® staff by Justine Lecouffe.
Christopher Webley’s work is centered around design and human empathy. And his decisions as the founder of NEW RULES® reflect that.
While many businesses boarded up their storefronts when protests took place after George Floyd’s murder in May of 2020, Webley chose not to.
“When the uprising came, people were like, ‘you’re not going to board up?’ I’m like ‘no,’” said Webley. “I don’t want to look at boards. That’s not nice to look at. We spent $60,000 on these storefronts and I put them in myself.”
The decision is just one example of how the real estate development collective and their incubator spaces are unique.
“The stances that we take aren’t customary,” said Webley.
NEW RULES, with its flagship location on Lowry Avenue in North Minneapolis, focuses on providing economic opportunities to residents in numerous ways.
Webley describes the business as two-pronged: NEW RULES has a real-estate development arm, which renovates and purchases properties, and what he referred to as the “activation” side of the house. The latter is where NEW RULES helps entrepreneurs & creatives pursue their passion, and includes a collaborative workspace, retail and gathering space at 2015 Lowry Ave. N., with a variety of equipment for videographers, food businesses and other makers.
The space serves as a destination location for artists and fosters collaboration during the day. At night it acts as an event space, hosting art exhibitions and wedding receptions. Webley started the space with a vision to help people live out their passions.
“Our world would look a lot different if people were doing what God has called them here to do,” he said.
Webley started his career in the corporate world as a successful textile engineer designing fabrics for major brands. But when he was laid off from a major employer he decided to “take the plunge” and become a business owner. He liquidated his assets in Ohio – he owned property there – and used the money he had to open the Lowry Avenue location. But it wasn’t easy.
Webley ran out of money “probably like 10 or 11 times getting our first location.” But he lucked out when a friend wrote him a check for $15,000 to buy the space outright. The gracious donor gave Webley an attractive payment plan.
“It’s a testament to the grace of the folks who believed in what we were doing,” said Webley.
That generosity has helped more people than Webley. The incubator spaces NEW RULES have created have literally housed residents working on creative endeavors. Webley once let several young people who were making music stay at NEW RULES workspace while he was out of town.
“I remember having to leave for a long period of time – leaving them the keys and not knowing them. That to me was like the wake up of how non-traditional we are,” he said. “This is what I mean when I say non-traditional. There needs to be a transfer of power for people to feel safe.”
This non-traditional mindset carries throughout NEW RULES’ work. The name NEW RULES, said Webley, is a reflection of that.
“If you want marginal change, you do something marginally different; If you want drastic change, you do something drastically different,” said Webley.
NEW RULES has several new locations opening in 2022 to be on the look-out for, including BLACK BOAT HOUSE, a hospitality, health and wellness retreat space on a lake, minutes from its Lowry location. Additionally, NEW RULES SOCIAL, a Northside destination location for craft cocktails and food, is also set to open at 2618 Lowry Ave. in the summer of 2022.