[hackerspaces] How to create a steady-state makerspace/hackerspace business model

Gui Cavalcanti gui at artisansasylum.com
Tue Jun 4 18:08:05 CEST 2013


There's certainly a spectrum! While the Asylum doesn't have completely 
open doors (as in, you can't just come in and hang out, unless you're a 
member's guest), we have a large enough membership (300+) that there are 
always people hanging out in the space. It's rare for the space to have 
fewer than 50 people around on most weeknights.

As I mentioned in the article, I think it really does boil down to 
expenses. Rent in our area is so high that without multiple sources of 
income and regular monthly payments, we couldn't stay open. Once we 
charge for membership, however, we have to provide a service that 
matches what people are paying for. This is why we strive for work areas 
that professionals could use to practice their craft.

A big part of why we grew as a space was because it was so difficult to 
stay open at the 9,000 square foot scale, given our expenses and the 
fact that it was nobody's full-time job to run the space (so we were all 
burning out). We weren't the only ones that ran into this in Boston - 
Willoughby & Baltic, a local hackerspace, occupied the 9,000 square foot 
space before us and imploded for a variety of reasons, but one of the 
most significant was simply not having sustainable sources of income. 
i3Detroit, on the other hand, stays open at 8,000 square feet with no 
paid staff, because their expenses are so incredibly low (10x lower rent 
than us, per square foot).

Travis Good and the NOVA Labs <http://www.nova-labs.org/blog/> crew have 
a very good mix; they're running with a robust business plan, at a scale 
(3,000-4,000 square feet) that is sustainable by volunteers. i3Detroit 
<http://www.i3detroit.com/>, like I mentioned, is still going strong at 
4 years with all volunteers.

I don't personally know of spaces larger than i3Detroit who still work 
as a free-to-access community space with an all-volunteer staff that's 
akin to what you're talking about. Even i3Detroit is an exception, in my 
mind, because their expenses are so low compared to almost every other 
part of the U.S.


On 6/4/2013 11:51 AM, Elger Jonker wrote:
> Hey Gui,
> It's interesting to see that you can make a living doing what you 
> love. This model sounds OK for running a "hardware workshop"-type 
> makerspace with some FTE, or at least give a general feel about it.
> I say hardware workshop because because in my experience this is not a 
> place where you go and hang out after work or in the weekends to do 
> cool stuff. The numbers might be the cause of breaking this concept. 
> Am i right?
> In contrast: many of the spaces i know operate as a foundation. They 
> stay afloat with about 1000 euro each month coming from memberships, 
> selling drinks and donations (usually in that order). Everyone 
> contributes in buying stuff that's needed or wanted. There is real 
> dedication but in the end it's mostly leisure.
> What i'm wondering: can there be a mix between the 
> 80k-a-month-food-on-the-table and 1k-a-month-we-all-have-fun. Any 
> space that has this mix working?
> Regards,
> Stitch
> PS: At hack42 we went outside last week and discovered there was a 
> beautiful garden beneath the wilderness: 
> https://hack42.nl/gallery/v/Spacecam/DSCF6288.JPG.html
> On Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 4:20 PM, Gui Cavalcanti <gui at artisansasylum.com 
> <mailto:gui at artisansasylum.com>> wrote:
>     My latest (gigantic) blog post for MAKE is up here:
>     http://blog.makezine.com/2013/06/04/making-makerspaces-creating-a-business-model/
>     It focuses on how to create a steady-state business model for
>     makerspaces and hackerspaces, paying extra careful attention to
>     all of the expenses that could be incurred by a business of our
>     type. It's not a complete list, for sure, but it's an intensive one.
>     Would love to hear what you guys think.
>     -- 
>     Gui Cavalcanti, President
>     Artisan's Asylum, Inc.
>     http://www.artisansasylum.com
>     Cell: (857) 389-7669 <tel:%28857%29%20389-7669>
>     _______________________________________________
>     Discuss mailing list
>     Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org <mailto:Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org>
>     http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
> -- 
> Elger Jonker
> Pentesting / Mediawiki / Content Management / Database Modelling
> +31 (0)6 1342 5622 (+31 61 dial mac)
> Skype: elger.jonker
> http://www.awesomeretro.com - retro gaming foundation
> http://www.elgerjonker.nl - curriculum vitae / weblog
> http://www.raveradio.nl - housemusic revival show
> https://www.hack42.nl - hackerspace arnhem

Gui Cavalcanti, President
Artisan's Asylum, Inc.
Cell: (857) 389-7669

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