[hackerspaces] Bucketworks needs help

Sam Ley sam.ley at gmail.com
Sat Jun 1 05:56:45 CEST 2013

Well I know very well how thin operating budgets can be, and how we (as
orgs) get buffeted around by the winds of large businesses around us which
makes it very hard to plan. I wouldn't assume that Bucketworks is doing
anything "wrong" because they need a little help. We had rent unexpectedly
jacked up on us when medical marijuana laws were passed in CO and all of a
sudden our crappy warehouse land became highly desirable for weed growing!
Even today about 50% of the the building our unit is in is dedicated to
grow houses.

That said, our space, the Phoenix Asylum, operates on a model with a fewer
number (20 or so) of higher paying members ($200/mo) who get access to
common space as well as some of their own floorspace to claim and do with
what they will (for people who already own specialized equipment and need a
place to operate it). When we started, we really did think of it "like a
business", which is not at all a bad thing. We are a Colorado Non-Profit
(not currently a Federal non-profit), but I think often people criticize
"business thinking" as a way of hiding the fact that they don't have any
idea what they are doing - non-profits must think "like a business" even
more than normal businesses do, because operating budgets are so tight.

We spent a lot of time working up a realistic operating budget, with
realistic escalators for rent, utilities and taxes increases over time,
determined how much we would have to charge to make it work, and then asked
around. We didn't open until we had enough interest + a waiting list. If
the plan hadn't penciled out, we wouldn't have opened at all. We took in
some seed money and a few early fundraisers to get us off the ground, but
have since paid back all "investors" (at 0% interest), and have been in the
black for 4.5 years. It isn't a miracle, we certainly aren't profligate,
and no one takes any payments or distributions from it (everything is
reinvested in the space).

For us, the key was that we had a good idea, but that wasn't enough to jump
off the pier with - we waited until the financial model was built, the
interest developed, and the commitments in place and THEN opened up,
meaning we didn't get into the deep early deficit that is so common.
Hopefully as these models become better understood, and there are more
examples to work from, spaces can start up from a more confident initial
position that puts them in the position to hang on long term, including
building up a safety net to carry you through the lean times.

Best of luck to Bucketworks, it sounds like they've got plans in the
makin', and hopefully someday I can come up and check it out. :)

-Sam Ley

On Fri, May 31, 2013 at 9:42 PM, roh <hs at hyte.de> wrote:

> Al Billings wrote:
> [...]
> > ​I'd like to see more discussion of *successful* business models for
> hackerspaces. Some are clearly able to have them and be successful. What
> makes them different?
> what makes hackspaces different?
> i think the fundamental question first is:
> why do you obviously see such locations/organisations as 'needs to make
> a profit' like e.g. a 'business'?
> most locations i know are 'making things possible'-style, pragmatic
> designed concepts which result not out of a business model, but out of a
> demand for space to be creative in.
> and yes, that costs money. thats why one has memberships or some other
> way to come up with rent/electricity-money.
> so from my pov the business-model is a result of a more or less specific
> demand, not the other way around.
> also things change. members come and go. people move. business happens
> or changes. one has to adapt.
> welcome to a society of people not hiding behind curtains of 'thats how
> we have done it since before my grandpa'-thinking.
> ps:
> congrats to bucketworks for making things work out :)
> kind regards and greetings from berlin, old europe
> --
> roh
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