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Status Update – July 2012

We’ve made a lot of progress since our web site went up in early May.

We have a small hardworking group of founders who have been working steadily on promoting the Rochester Maker Space and developing our business plan. We also have an impressive amount of tools to start with and some seed money to work with. So we’ve begun looking for both temporary and permanent locations to rent.

Nearly everyone who is currently involved lives on the east side of the city or in the eastern suburbs. So that’s probably where we’re going to be unless we get a huge donor who influences our decision.

We’re still months away from being able to rent a permanent location but we need to start looking at possible locations to gather cost information for the financial section of our business plan. We also need a better estimate of how many members we’ll start with and how much space we’ll need. We probably won’t have one until at least October, after the college students have returned. Our goal is to open in a permanent location by early next year.

In the meantime we’d like to find a small (1,000 to 1,500 sq. ft.) and inexpensive (~$500/month) temporary space that we can rent within the next two or three months. A temporary location will give us more credibility, help us attract members, and give us a place to work in and hold classes. It’ll also give us an opportunity to start learning on a small-scale how to manage a maker space.

But before we can consider renting any kind of space need to accomplish several things.

  • First, we need to find a lot more potential members. To do that we need to continue publicizing the Rochester Maker Space. We also need to do a better job describing what we’re trying to create, what we’re going to offer, how we can benefit the community and what memberships will probably cost.
  • Second, we need to find more people who are willing to help us with our huge to-do list. This is probably the most difficult challenge facing us. So please contact us if you’re interested. We have very simple things you can do to help, along with some more challenging ones.
  • And third, we need to find a good, affordable and personable lawyer to setup our not-for-profit corporation and advise us in some other ways. We can’t rent a space and buy liability insurance until we do so. Forming a corporation will require us to formalize our management team, prepare bylaws, and raise funds to pay for our legal fees. If we can’t do that, and also prepare a good business plan, then we probably shouldn’t even be trying to start a maker space.

When we first started I thought we would appeal mostly to engineers, geeks, hackers, hobbyists, entrepreneurs and other technically oriented “makers” who wanted access to machine tools, welding and metal fabrication equipment, woodworking tools, laser cutters, electronic test gear and 3D printers.

But then we decided we also wanted to make artists and crafters feel welcome. And as a result we’re getting an enormous amount of interest from that part of our community. We’re still not sure what they need in terms of tools but we have learned that access to workspace is very important to them and also all kinds of “makers.”

We’ve also learned that many of the most successful maker spaces have been able to achieve financial stability and create well-equipped community workshops by renting extra space to their members who want it for additional storage, a private work area or even an office area. So we’re looking into doing that also.

We also once thought we could be a completely volunteer run organization. But now we’re not so sure of that. We’re worried that 3 or 4 people (or fewer) will end up doing most of the work and that won’t be sustainable for long.

We still intend to rely mostly on volunteers to hold costs down (expect regular group work sessions to fix machines or sweep floors). But we also think we need to at least consider getting to a point we can afford to hire at least some part-time help.

By the way, we’ve already decided we’re going to pay instructors because we think it will help us attract better ones and make it possible to schedule classes more regularly. But we haven’t decided yet how much to pay them.

So, our business plan is becoming more complicated and we need to spend more time working on it, especially the financial sections. But we’re already pedalling about as fast as we can. So we could really use some help with it.

Please don’t be afraid to ask questions or make suggestions in the comments. And we hope you can make it to our next organizational meeting. It will be at 7 PM on Monday July 23rd at the Webster Library.

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