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

Pete Prodoehl raster at gmail.com
Wed Jun 5 20:59:03 CEST 2013

Milwaukee Makerspace moved into a 16,000 square foot building in January 
(we were at a smaller space since 2010) and we have only volunteers at 
this point. Some are Board Members and some are just Members, but we all 
pitch in. Build a community is one of our top goals. So far it's worked 
out well, though I'm pretty sure a few Board Members may not run for a 
second term due to the amount of time/work involved.


On 6/4/13 11:08 AM, Gui Cavalcanti wrote:
> Stitch,
> 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.
> -Gui
> 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.
> http://www.artisansasylum.com
> Cell: (857) 389-7669
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss

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