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

Jerry Isdale isdale at gmail.com
Tue Jun 4 22:48:35 CEST 2013

(i get digests of discuss at lists and get annoyed at email replies that include the whole previous digest.)

Gui's article (http://blog.makezine.com/2013/06/04/making-makerspaces-creating-a-business-model/) provides a useful starting point and vocabulary for discussion.  Ed's shorter post (http://elplatt.com/sustainable-hackerspaces-ftw) adds some good links and points (Al Billings http://makehacklearn.org/2012/07/28/notes-from-a-hackerspace-panel/ as well as the usual hackerspace.org patterns)

Gui's article seems to have a view that comes from the large space - but that is understandable. He works with one of the largest spaces (members, floorspace, equipment, etc) in the USA.  He also has the USA mindset with hackerspaces - they help people make stuff, to sell and for personal gratification.   I have visited a number of USA spaces, but have yet to make it to any outside USA.  I do get the impression that many european spaces are much more politically/socially active in hacking-the-system, or at least the vocal people here give that impression. 

There is a very very broad multi-dimensional spectrum of spaces out there… with very fuzzy dividing lines (and terms - hacker/maker/fab/etc) 

Gui talks a bit about these in the beginning of the article (Characterizing Your Space). The following sections (Identifying Expenses, Identifying Income…) are very important to figuring out how to make it a sustainable adventure (biz or not biz venture), however his examination of them comes more from his current BIG SPACE experience than the small space (<80 members).  I believe there are a lot more small spaces out there than Big Spaces.  

I would like to see discussion of some of the Expenses-Income?=Sustainable for small spaces.  These are much more varied and depend heavily on the core community.  

Being small, they require a lot more volunteer effort, as it is much harder to support an employee.  Some spaces have had an "Intern" who is nominally working at the space, doing basic maintenance and grunt work. Small spaces have relatively bigger issues with burnout of core volunteers, and potential abuse of the commons.  

My own space (Maui, Hawaii, USA) has a small population from which to draw regular members (<100k residents within 40min drive). There is also a very high turnover of 'residents' - most newcomers leave within 18-24mo.   There is a much larger number of 'transient' or 'visitor' population that might partake of classes/workshops, etc. This could lead to some variations in biz model for us that would not work so well in Minot or Olot, but there are still lessons we could share.

btw - one expense Gui missed is Cleaning/Janitorial.  who does this at Artisans Asylum and other large spaces?  who does this at small spaces?  hackers are not known for cleanliness, someone has to clean the toilets and sweep out the corners.  Having a cleaning crew (or person depending on space size) come in on a regular basis can make a big difference in the feel of a space.

Jerry Isdale
Opinions herein are mine and may not reflect those of other Maui Makers, hackers or humans in general. Please do not destroy Earth because of them.

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