"I really want to target professionals that have a social life as well.”  – Rebekah Risbeck, owner, mintL.A.
"I really want to target professionals that have a social life as well.” 
– Rebekah Risbeck, owner, mintL.A.

AP Transfer Lofts’ newest commercial tenant arrived in Des Moines last week carrying clothing crafted by independent Los Angeles-based fashion designers.

Rebekah Risbeck, an Iowa native and recent California resident who traveled here on Feb. 11 to take part in AP Lofts’ live-work contest at 340 S.W. Fifth St., has returned to the state to sell dresses, jeans, blouses, shoes and other apparel priced between $10 and $75.

MintL.A., a boutique fashion shop, is expected to open on May 7. Risbeck, the company’s sole proprietor, said it also plans to offer custom-made attire under the mintL.A. brand and would like to eventually expand into an area shopping mall.

The fashion buyer and stylist said she took a flight to Des Moines last winter specifically to take part in AP Lofts’ competition, which garnered about 16 entries and included a prize giveaway valued at more than $6,000.

Mike Nelson, president of Nelson Construction and a co-owner of AP Lofts, said the contest was designed to encourage entrepreneurialism while also attracting attention to the 70-unit market-rate apartment complex located one block south of West Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

Risbeck and three other finalists pitched to a panel of judges their best ideas on how they would use a 900-square-foot street-level space.

In addition to an Apple Inc. iPad, a $100 Barnes & Noble gift card and free consultations from both Red Dot Design LLC and Red Rover Strategies, Risbeck’s fashion sense and people skills helped her win four months of free rent and underground parking.

“This is where my heart is, and I think Des Moines is ready to embrace fashion, music and the arts,” she said, noting that the winnings allowed her to move sooner than she could have otherwise.

Each contestant was given two minutes to pitch an idea. Thomas Burkhead and Jordan Clasen, both of Grade A Grass LLC; Joe Wimp of www.zindr.com; and Colin Faux were among the finalists.

Ultimately, the winner was determined by the approximately 25 people who gathered for event, which included a reception with appetizers, beverages and networking opportunities in AP Lofts’ recently redecorated lobby. Participants voted via text message to choose the winner. A number of Risbeck’s friends and family members attended to show their support.

Nelson said Alex Grgurich, director of Foundry Coworking in Western Gateway Park, was instrumental in organizing and promoting the contest, and the men are working to plan similar events related to young professionals.

Grgurich, a resident of AP Lofts and chair of the Young Professionals Connections Impact Downtown committee, told the Business Record in February that traffic to AP Lofts’ website had increased by 268 percent from the time he began marketing the live-work campaign two months earlier.

Risbeck, 26, said she learned of the contest while surfing the Web in search of live-work spaces in Des Moines.

Expressing a desire to connect with young professionals in cosmopolitan settings, Risbeck said she will collaborate with AP Lofts to host a launch party for mintL.A. on the eve of its opening. Free and open to the public, the event is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. today (May 6) on AP Lofts’ rooftop patio.

“I really wanted to partner with small businesses like AP Lofts to have a strong sense of community between fashion and art and downtown professionals,” Risbeck said. “The idea is just to mix and mingle with downtown residents and professionals.”

“This is to give someone a chance to kick off their business at AP Lofts and see where they are on 12/12/12,” Nelson said. “We ask them to blog and write about their business idea.”

Risbeck, who had lived in Los Angeles for about 10 years and recently worked as an event coordinator with the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, signed a 12-month lease on Suite 122.

She said about 90 percent of her inventory will come from Los Angeles.

AP Lofts opened last summer. Nelson said with Risbeck’s arrival, all three of the development’s live-work spaces are occupied. The complex’s residential component is 85 percent occupied and is expected to fill this summer.

“I really want to target professionals that have a social life as well,” Risbeck said.