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June 23, 2012
We've been talking about the need to create a shared vision for this project. I thought I would get the conversation started with some non-formalized thoughts I've had on the subject. Sorry if this turns into a rant. Here goes…
We don't currently live in a culture of makers. We are consumers. If we need something, we buy it. If we can't buy it ready-made (or damn well near), we buy the convenience of having someone do it for us. There's very little we can't get in an easy to consume package. Superficially, this is wonderful. We don't have to spend our days darning socks and tilling fields and milking cows. Instead we can get fancy coffee drinks and kindles with thousands of books for almost nothing. Sounds like a dream.
But this is also creating problems. Not to get into politics, I'm reminded of a reported conversation President Obama had with Steve Jobs:
But as Steven P. Jobs of Apple spoke, President Obama interrupted with an inquiry of his own: what would it take to make iPhones in the United States?
Not long ago, Apple boasted that its products were made in America. Today, few are. Almost all of the 70 million iPhones, 30 million iPads and 59 million other products Apple sold last year were manufactured overseas.
Why can’t that work come home? Mr. Obama asked.
Mr. Jobs’s reply was unambiguous. “Those jobs aren’t coming back,” he said, according to another dinner guest.
We can't make iPhones here because we don't have factories. And we don't want to work in factories. We are no longer Makers. We have exchanged our ability to do things on our own, to be strong, independent, and creative for convenience.
This is what the idea of a Maker Space stirs up in me. Not that we should all be factory workers, but that there is something amazing that comes from working with your hands and shaping raw materials into something that was only an idea before. As an artist, this is the experience that keeps me coming back to real things. I don't like working on computers because I always get a sense that what I'm doing isn't really real. It only exists as bits of electricity interpreted as ones and zeroes that somehow becomes the text I'm typing now.
I think the ideal prospect for this project is to give people the power to create things that are real. Maybe it could inspire someone to take a new path in life or maybe it's just a hobby, but either way that person would walk away with a new perspective on life. We should strive to instill in others that with knowledge of woodworking, electronics, and machining that they can take an idea, a vision or a dream, and make it real. I think that is something many people don't get to experience and they feel stuck in their lives. They're just looking for the next Starbucks Frappe Mocha or video game for satisfaction when they could be going out and creating what it is they really need on their own. (Okay, not that we're going to have a Starbucks or do video game design, but I hope you get my drift.)
May 8, 2012
Nice title, and I like your train of thought. I plan on creating a blog post that shares what my vision is, but since you have started this thread I will contribute here as well.
How I got involved was spurred by my desire to make things, or at the very least know how to. I have many interests, most of which involve computers, and I like to modify and/or create my own electronic devices. I planned on taking an electrical engineering course at MCC but that would have made me stray from my degree, which costs time and money. That leaves me with projects that I would like to try and simply don't know how. Also, I can't afford and/or house tools that would lead the way to bigger projects and lessons.
I believe that a Maker Space would benefit many by offering classes on different trades, while providing the resources allowing members to try new methods learnt. I think education could be provided in two ways, through classes and the general resource pool created by its members. Housing tools that everyday people can't afford or store, along with tools for general use (hammers, etc.), I also think is vital. The whole "build it, and they will come" mantra leads me to believe that people will try to build bigger, tougher, and therefore cooler stuff if the resources are provided to them. The creation of such projects would also generate interest. These two things, the tools and education, in my eyes should be our backbone. I think they are necessary if we wish to make Makers out of ourselves and others.
I like how Rob has discussed income, and some of the ideas he has talked about are great. For one the availability of space at our facility is a commodity. People will need to have storage space for their projects. My thought is that dues paying members (I also believe that membership dues should be taken in) should be given some space, even if it's small, with their membership. Bigger space and long-term storage should be a premium. Formal classes I think will have to be revenue generating, mainly to get good instructors in the door, and so we can offer classes to the public as well.
I hope that the Rochester Maker Space will not be a secluded arena of one demographic. I think we should try accommodate the artist, machinist, woodworker, geek, and/or people who simply like to make alike. Having all those minds under one roof not only leads to more resources, but to greater membership and innovation.
Most importantly, we should serve our community as we serve ourselves. I'm sure there's tons of people who would make if they knew they could, or could learn how to. I think this would create an environment of understanding, friendliness, and collaboration under our roof, which I believe is crucial if we are to be what we intend to.
Done rambling for now, but I'm excited to hear what other people's vision is for our space. Let's keep the ball rolling!
June 23, 2012
Thanks for the feedback, Wyatt. I wrote this post while in a sleep deprived stupor, so I'm amazed it came out as cogent. (That's right folks, I'm practically falling asleep at 9:49 pm)
I think I interpreted the need for a vision as "mission statement," or "what our ideal goals should be," which is why I didn't write about much of the practical nature of this project. But I think you're right to include some of the practical what-it's-actually-going-to-look like stuff. Maybe our vision should be a numbered list like this:
1) Mission Statement (ideal goals that we're starting from)
2) Practical Vision (the basic, real-world thing we want to create that will embody #1)
3) A Brief, Step-by-Step Plan (the concrete goals we need to achieve, in order, to create #2 so that we can achieve #1)
So, for example, a very bare-bones version:
1) Mission Statement: Create an open community of people that will inspire each other to learn and to shape the world around them through the act of creation
2) Practical Vision: A shared studio/workspace complete with Machining, Woodworking, Electronics, Bike Repair, and other tools, open for use for a small monthly fee
3) Steps: 1. Find a workspace, 2. Collect donations of tools, funds, 3. Establish framework for use including payment, rules for use of tools, etc.
I think this would be helpful to have, but even as I'm typing this I realize it could take a lot longer to really formalize than we might really prefer. Perhaps we should have a few people work on steps 1 and 2 on a shared Google Docs file or something and then everyone else can vote yay or nay at the next meeting?
July 9, 2012
The business person in me that just completed a four month boot camp in aggressive company growth, sales, and support, wants to echo some of the things I've learned there, just to get people thinking here. So please don't think this is how I feel, this is only how I think:
Your numbers for any sort of financial calculations will be wrong. They may be high or they may be low, but they will not be what you think they will be. Plan for 50% less income and 50% more income than you think and see if your business or venture will still be running two-three years from now.
Your marketing will not be effective. You will reach the wrong people with the wrong message and make the wrong impression. Plan for how you will measure the effectiveness and conversion rates of your marketing efforts into actual paying customers (or renters or members or whatever they are called).
Your management team will fail to provide 100% continuity and effective governing over the first three years. Plan for how you will judge whether they are performing at their best with regards to the business or venture, and plan for how you will replace them when they are not.
Your funding will never be enough to do what you want to do. Plan for not having enough funding and plan for not being able to accomplish what you want in the timeframe you want to accomplish it in.
Lastly (and this is my favorite), your passion for the business or venture will cloud your judgement and cause you to think that everyone else shares that passion. Plan for how you will spread your passion into others and get them to do the work you want them to do.
I think the maker space would be a great thing to start out as a for profit organization. It's easier to start up, it's easier to manage, you don't have to worry about IRS tax laws, reporting, staffing, and so forth. 2-3 years down the road, convert it to a non-profit organization. This gives time to develop a brand, a space, a following, and make connections within the community to be able to get grants, donations, and other forms of funding from sources like the Arts Council of Rochester, COMIDA, and other places.
Lastly, from my head anyway, physical security, parking, lighting, and so forth need to be considerations from the beginning. No one wants their very portable $2000 3D printer to walk out the door, so you need to have trusted staff, cameras, key cards, lock boxes, and other things that all chew up money from day 1. Someone needs to pay for these things, and if that someone is the corporation, then the corporation needs to have some sort of initial funding source. Not everything can be donated. Is there some consideration as to how that is going to happen?
February 7, 2012
Thank you for once again giving us some excellent advice and pointing out some problems we need to solve. I agree with everything you said except for starting out as a for-profit organization.
I don't completely disagree with you about that, especially this week, when I've been looking for a good affordable lawyer with expertise in forming not-for-profit corporations. There is a chance we may be able to get some pro-bono assistance but the odds are we're going to end up with a legal bill that is going to be much larger than it would be if we were starting out as a simple for-profit LLC.
I have given considerable serious thought to being for-profit since you first suggested it and I'm still not comfortable with the idea, even if our goal is to convert to a non-profit within a few years. For starters, it couldn't be just my decision. Others have been working very hard on this project and I think that almost all of them would also have to agree.
It sounds like you think we could raise start-up capital easier if we were for-profit. If so, I need to get you to explain where it's going to come from and what's in it for the investors. I have a pretty good understanding, I think, about the relationship between entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. But I don't understand why they, angel investors or almost anyone else would be very interested in this particular venture. Maybe we need to talk on the phone or over coffee so you can explain better to me.
I also believe that by being non-profit we can attract more money and community support.
One thing we would lose right away if we were for-profit is access to the meeting rooms at public libraries. Libraries are beginning to embrace the maker space / hacker space movement and we've been talking about maybe partnering with one or more of them so we can begin offering some classes and activities before we have our own space.
BTW, did you see this status update I posted a couple of days ago? It will give you an idea of our current thinking and priorities.
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