Recently, I had the pleasure of attending Gui and Molly’s How to Make a Makerspace workshop at the San Mateo Maker Faire venue. I took lots of notes that I hope will be helpful to others wanting to start a community space. Read them:
HOW TO MAKE A MAKERSPACE
GUI CAVALCANTE & MOLLY RUBENSTEIN FROM ARTISAN’S ASYLUM
wiki.artisansasylum.com (for some educational modules and training online)
Top two keys are (1) business plan and (2) insurance. Search for Gui’s articles on MAKE
- Create a critical mass in a single space. The magic happens when you put tools and people together. Education, motivation through other people, materials, tools, take your hands off.
Sponsored by solidworks, autodesk, some others Will train people who don’t know how to use it
Tools are the magnet. Not enticing to walk into an empty room. “We provide the things you can’t possibly have in your apartment.” – This brings them into the doors the first time
You’ve brought the people in. You need to teach them how to use it. Safety. You need to give them the bare minimum for people who are not normally makers. “Dances die if you don’t teach the beginners.” You need new people showing up. Eventually the trained people stop coming in.
E.g. Solid works 6 week class for $380 when typical price is $1500
STUDIO SPACES | Artisan’s Asylum has a different approach to workspace than typical. They place a huge emphasis on giving people their own space. They have a 15k open space in a 40k space, including aisles, hallways, bathrooms, storage. Makes people feel comfortable coming in. Studio spaces are divided by 4 ft walls. They tried tape on the floors and were about a month away from riots.
SECURITY | They have cameras in the shops but not on anyone’s stuff. “There’s always someone there. You’d have to pass by a couple people on your way to taking something out.” They now offer paid lockers. Only one person uses them. Members bring in their personal tools–in the open workshop spaces. Operating tools in your own spaces becomes a conversation b/c it becomes a environmental hazard for others. Front desk is staffed by volunteers 100%
How large would you be if size were not limited?
MONEY | Charging for things makes people feel like they’re invested.
Charging for – membership – rent – classes. E.g. Solid works 6 week class for $380 when typical price is $1500
Need – social space – a place to put your stuff
COMMUNITY They transitioned from orchestrating the calendar to finding out what people were interested in and letting them do their own thing.
Give people ways to connect – Social space – mailing lists – organized, weeks long classes (e.g. quadcopter or 3d printer build)
Someone could teach a 3D printer or quadcopter class right now!
What do we mean when we say community? – People find employees – People test out products on the network – People find collaborators and cofounders – People find relationships and move in with each other – This becomes a support network
DOWNTOWN | Density and proximity help us succeed. Foot traffic. Convenience to work, play, schools.
CLASSES | Charge for all of them. People devalue free classes. Only offer programming for non minors.
We may not be able to do classes for kids. Really need to check insurance to see if they cover it.
SUCCESSES | – 250 monthly memberships – 50 small businesses – $4M in Kickstarter funding raised – $3.5M in venture capital raised – >100 new jobs per year – Mailing list with people who want things made linking them to the people who can make them – >250 trained in machining – >500 trained in welding – 30 instructors – $100,000 so far this year – 3 full time staff
PRESENTING TO FUNDERS | * Show the wins of people. * Pictures of art created. * Projects. * Show people at work. * Show people taking classes * Show teachers * ———— * we are good for downtown * we reactivate it * we create jobs
IDEAS | * Design challenges: over a weekend, learn how to make a robot, a hovercraft, so on, and design challenge! * Outdoor snow design things with hot chocolate and music * PVC marshmallow shooters
Do crazy ridiculous things. They get you a lot of attention! Remember using the media from Shep?
OUR SPECIAL SAUCE
- Provide space
- provide education
- provide business services
- => combination of services makes it possible for a hobbyist to turn into a businesspeson
- Combine engineers with artists and hobbyists with professionals
- They have a tool lease agreement – the owners get discounted rent and AA maintains them. It’s great for starting up but hard to maintain.
- PEOPLE! They have lots of volunteers. The walls they put up don’t have to be built by contractors but they have to be inspected by
MEMBERSHIP | Having diversity of membership options allows anyone to play without being able to say that they are a special needs case. $60/mo for weekend warrior membership. $10/mo for shelf space. $400/mo for 50sqft studio space.
Volunteers | You can work three four-hour shifts a week and get access to the space 24 hours a day. You can work one three-hour shift a week and get a weekend warrior pass ($60 value). If you are doing maintenance in the shop and specialized services, you might get free space as well.
Don’t offer bartering for volunteers. Only offer the chance to volunteer.
If people are responsible for completing a project, manage them as you would an employee. Set the expectations early on that if they do not complete a project then they will be fired.
New member orientation. Set it up! Do it!
If you’ve operated one way for a year, it’ll probably take you another year to try to unwind it. Know how you treat your volunteers. Know how you want people to come in. Same is true for a set of worktables in a shop or chairs.
If you don’t have a way of accepting help and asking for help, you will fail. You can’t do it alone!
Revenues * 40% membership * 25% space rentals (most efficient source of revenue, since there is almost no upkeep for these spaces) * 25% education (this is really break even since newbies tend to abuse equipment and teachers take half the revenue) * 5% grants, donations, and corporate sponsorships * Total annual revenue: $1.2 million
Think about how to commoditize space, from boxes, to shelves, to lockers, to personal desk or bench space.
Expenses – 40% rent and facilities – 36% personnel – 15% tools, equipment and supplies – Total annual expenses: $1 million
Professional development brings in more money
Need half a million to do this without losing your mind/s
Cheaper in the long run to spend a lot of money in the beginning (have the long term in mind)
Outreach – Alumni group – Maker Faire – Burning Man – City Government – High schools – other makerspaces
The Danger Zone: When you’re too big to be supported by members only or easily and too small to be able to pay any staff.
Building | Over 8k sqft means you need employees. That may be true for over 4k as well. Get a building with sprinklers. Be in downtown. Have a good landlord who will fix the roof. 3-phase power only. Remember CAM expenses. In your BUDGETING – make sure you include all the things!
If there’s an environment that someone will do it, often NO ONE WILL DO IT
Sustainability test: the space and jobs are actually interesting to people who are not makers
- You need someone to keep the books who is FOCUSED on that. It doesn’t have to be a CPA but they can’t be distracted by anything else. AA is still untangling years of messy accounting.
- Get a part-time bookkeeper (e.g 2 days/wk)
- and a CPA who comes in every few months or so
- On Mailman but they are looking for alternatives
- They have over 50 mailing lists “Oh God”
RULES, MEMBERSHIP & EXPECTATIONS
- Wish they’d set up a one-time membership joining fee
- People like having membership that sounds like it’s for them: nights and weekends for example, or weekend warrior
- They have one staff member dedicated to membership
- Palette storage
- Set policies and expectations up front. E.g. what are your 3 strikes rules. If you break the rules, you will get kicked out.
- Anytime you give someone a warning, have that in writing (documentation). Put it in their member file.
- You should have a lawyer create a license agreement for your space!
When you document, you’ve got to have a place for it. And you’ve got to document.
You need a member file for everyone
One of the few rules: Don’t do anything that makes us make a new rule
- Geez. Kids can’t really take part. Talk to spaces that allow kids to see how they do it: Maker Kids in Culver City, The Crucible, etc.