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

Gui Cavalcanti gui at artisansasylum.com
Tue Jun 4 19:54:57 CEST 2013

/> What do you do when your volunteers burn out and the machines are not 
all working right because it //
//> is no one's job to maintain them? Wait for new members who want to 
grease and align machines? /


My definition of a 'sustainable' space isn't simply a financial 
definition, it's one that takes into account legality, energy and 
long-term safety. Is your space to-code, do you have insurance, and do 
you operate entirely above-the-board in your community? If not, then I 
don't think you're sustainable in the long-run. Do the people who run 
your space (either the individuals, or the collective volunteers) have 
the ability to take the time off from the space they need to not burn 
out? Does everything remain in good working order if they take that 
time? If not, then the life of the space is directly linked to the 
attention span and patience of the people who run it. In terms of 
safety, are your members trained to use the tools in the space? Is there 
a mechanism to ensure that safe training, that will sustain itself in 
the long run? If not, you run a much greater risk of getting someone 
hurt, and that will probably close you down.

To be fair, the Asylum doesn't meet the 'energy' criteria of 
sustainability yet - we're about to hire 2 more people, to bring our 
staff to 5, to try and get to that point. We believe that once we get 
there, it'll be an intense job, but one that can be handled in 40 hours 
a week.

>/  Is it really worth it to be 'so big' if it requires paid staff and no
/>/  longer is free-to-access? wouldn't it be better to have multiple smaller
/>/  spaces?/

My question in response to this is, is your space able to provide a 
safe, legal, sustainable environment while being small? Some groups have 
certainly accomplished some of those (such as NOVA Labs). For us, in 
order to provide professional manufacturing environments given our 
expenses, we chose to go large. Those professional environments would be 
much harder to provide in a sustainable fashion, if we were small.

There's a bigger point that you make, which is the importance of being 
free-to-access. To me, this question is directly linked to 'what do you 
expect to be provided for free?' If your answer is 'access to 
professional manufacturing equipment', I think the answer is 'absolutely 
not' - high end tools cost a prodigious amount of money to keep going, 
in terms of maintenance, consumables, tooling, and training. If your 
answer is 'access to a space with wifi, tables, chairs, and other 
people', I think it's much more likely that that could be provided for 

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

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