Another Makerspace needs our help

#1

We got an email today from the Greenville makerspace. We thought that perhaps the wisdom of our membership may be able to help them come up with an innovative solution.

Here is the message:

My name is Gabe Medina with Makerspace Greenville. May I begin with congratulating you all for becoming board members.

Makerspace Greenville has been in operation since 2014 with a hand full of members running out of my shed in my backyard. We finally got a facility last year around this time that is 15’ by 100’. We have major traction with people wanting to join “when we’re ready”. Our tool inventory and power needs far outweigh anything that the current members are able to fund. We’ve also been waiting for the Fuller Center for housing in Hunt County to determine if they wanted to stay in operation. Our rent with them is non existent. I am sorry to say that they have determined to dissolve.

This does however bring one of several opportunities up that I’d like to share with you.

The much larger store area is 8800 sq feet and includes an indoor delivery ramp. They are actively looking for some other organizations to take up the entire area of 10,300 sq feet. Which means one of two things, we loose our space or take over the rent and wares that are already there for roughly $2k a month which includes an employee to sell the thrift store items full time.

Our other option is to request a piece of property from the city that they are taking action on at tonight’s Greenville City Council meeting. I’ve been in active communication with the City Mayor, several council members and the city manager. It’s a nuisance property that they are going to demolish and decide what to do with later. The building that currently occupies the property is 17,000 square feet with a concrete slab foundation.

The third (long shot) is to take up residence in the space where our local news paper, The Herald Banner, used to print their paper. It has remained unused for the better part of a decade. I spoke with the paper’s editor and she said she’d have to ask corporate. So I’m not too convinced that would be an easy sell.

I say all of that to say this… We are at an impasse. Either we take the loss and move into storage until we can manage on our own. Or we ask for help from Dallas Makerspace. I don’t know what that would look like, but I am hopeful that this will all work out for the best of the two organizations. In passing myself and a few of my board members have visited your space and have had productive conversations with several of your members and Chris at one point.

Hopefully we can continue to support the maker community in our area with your support. Thank you for your time.

-Gabe

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#2

I’m unsure what they’re asking for.

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#3

Yeah, a $2K allowance?

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#4

To me, it sounds like they are looking to us for guidance on what we think they should do. This would also be time sensitive since the council meeting is tonight. Based on the very limited information, I would suggest they at least try for the property tonight, if it’s within their current means. Beyond that, we as a community would have to do a road trip and meet with them to discuss pros/cons on options based on our collective experience.

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#5

I think they are looking for insight into how we selected our locations as we have grown and possibly other ideas how to get a location. Also possibly just cash as @Bill noted.

If we were to grant them money we would need to vote on it. Our real estate advice is free though and I think a lot of members who have been around during each of the moves could possibly provide good advice.

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#6

How many members do they have and what do their finances look like?

Is the $2k total monthly expenses including a minimum wage worker? So a monthly rent cost of about $400? Or are they short $2k of a higher monthly expense?

For us to give real feedback I think we need a better look at the numbers they are working with.

For example if they have 50 members the $2k delta could me made up by raising dues to $60.

Does Gabe have a Talk account?

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#7

Not an expert on these things by any means, but throwing out some ideas…

The 8800 ft² is what? Empty space? Existing retail? The difference of 1500 ft² from 10,300 ft² is your present space that you are losing as a result of Fuller Center for housing in Hunt County winding down? Thus the actual option is to assume the entire facility and the sum total of its operations?

If you can bring together a credible plan to rehab this facility and can marshall the resources to do so this sounds like a great option on paper assuming the building can be preserved and its suitable for your purposes. In Dallas commercial construction is expensive and often has to be performed by licensed tradespeople - if you can work with local officials to obviate that requirement (i.e. have volunteers do the work) while maintaining sufficient compliance to meet code / insurance requirements that will save a bundle of money.

This does sound like a long shot. You may need to offset whatever the “loss” is worth on their taxes as well as being beholden to their whims. Upside - it may have much of the electrical/air infrastructure you’ll want for a makerspace.

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#8

Per @mrjimmy, moved to Maker Matters (public) so Greenville Makerspace can see/participate/answer.

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#9

This post was flagged by the community and is temporarily hidden.

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#10

I think we had something called founding members. They paid $100 a month to start off with. This helped fund the first building and stuff. The other members were alot lower payments. But it only takes 20 people at $100/mo for $2000. I was talking to another one of our founding members and you have to be able to be charismatic about it and really fire people up about the idea. Also, have a plan that people can see and be aware that the plan will change.

@Nick had some good suggestions.

@mrhavens … any suggestions?

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#11

I’m very curious to hear what their current membership numbers look like, both at the time of initially moving out of the residential space and at this moment (to gauge the growth rate that they were able to achieve in their one year of being in a dedicated, public space.)

I recently took a tour of a/the makerspace in Plano, “The Lab”, and the person giving me the tour indicated that their facility was about 1500 sq ft with a membership of ~100 @ like $30 a month. I think the Greenville folks might get some valuable insight by speaking to the leadership at The Lab, since they were formed relatively recently and are of a more similar scale to what the Greenville space might be trying to accomplish.

The history page on their site gives a quick but informative story on how they got started: https://thelab.ms/about/history/

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#12

From the letter, it seems there membership is less than 10 people and they haven’t opened up to public members yet. Quote Below:

It really looks like they are letting offering something good in the future stop them from offering what they have now. Community built the DMS to what it is. We were nothing at one point and just asked if anyone wanted to do this crazy thing with us. Then we grew to the level of almost no one and doing nearly everything wrong. We learned, built, broke, and rebuilt till we got where we are now. They need to do the same if they are trying to build from almost nothing like we did. The trick is staying low in costs as long as possible and selling a less than perfect product with the opportunity for members to volunteer to make it better for themselves and the group alike.

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#13

Charisma was one of the secret sauces in the beginning, yes. But one of the advantages of DMS meeting at X-Max games in 2010 was that it was within walking distance of many restaurants and bars (this was deliberate). Every Thursday, we gave a free talk to the public, which was posted on Meetup and physical fliers all over town. After the talk, we invited everyone to dinner, and there would sometimes be as many as 15 or 20 of us eating dinner together (although usually 7 or 8). This is where we would pitch the dream of a Makerspace in Dallas.

During this recruitment and fundraising phase, we promised “founding member” status to all those who began paying dues before we had a physical location. In addition to dues, these new members made a one time payment of 100 dollars to help us reach our move in goal of $6000.

While the talks were important for getting people in the door, fellowship during meals was critical for building trust for recruitment and fundraising. It’s one of the oldest sales techniques there is. Once founding members had committed between 100 and 150 dollars, they usually became very dedicated.

I think, at that time, charisma played a big part; we just didn’t have anything else to work with. We had no building. We had no tools. I think most people were made to feel like they had finally found a family that they couldn’t find anywhere else. We were misfits and weirdos with odd interests and above average IQs that got bullied in school. And we accepted and encouraged practically everybody that could tolerate our special brand of crazy.

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#14

One thing I forgot to mention was that we went out of our way to make sure DMS was not dependent on any one person, group, or resource. One person COULD have easily financed our Space in the beginning. The city, a business, a Good Samaritan, or even one of our own COULD have let us move into one of their buildings, rent free. But we purposefully decided not to give anyone leverage over our group… not even anyone among ourselves.

I don’t think anyone would have trusted any of us with a dime if we started the Space out of a building I owned personally, for example.

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#15

What exactly does “founding member” status mean today? Being grandfathered at the $30 or $40/month rate?

You/we had one other thing going and that is the dream as to what a makerspace can be. This had never been done before, so nobody had any idea what limitations may lie ahead. Some of the fantasies were probably beyond what we are/can do today.

Also, someone starting one today has to face the competition from existing ones. Want a makerspace today? Instead of building a new one, commit to driving a bit further and join an existing one, even if it does not present all that you may want. We also effectively set an effective “glass ceiling” of $50 or $60 per month that a new makerspace can get away with charging.

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#16

TheLab made a bad mistake. They wanted a physical location to “get on the map” so badly that they leased a space before meeting their original fundraising goal.

As a result, the original and current space is not really large enough to include a workshop. For the longest time, all they had in the way of tools were two 3D printers and some soldering irons. Not much of an incentive for people to join and start paying dues.

They have since added a couple of electronics benches, a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter and they made room for a small woodshop. I hope that is enough for them to finally reach critical mass.

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#17

The Plano Makerspace, the last I heard, also had limited Internet bandwidth with a DSL connection only. Broadband is available across the street but not on their side. The cost to lay fiber underground was prohibited. Just one of the other things to watch out for when assessing a property site. Learn from other’s mistakes.

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#18

Forgive my stupidity. What exactly is being asked? Advice? Equipment? Membership drive? I tried to read this with understanding in mind but I have no idea what they actually want. A little help here.

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#19

I say all of that to say this… We are at an impasse. Either we take the loss and move into storage until we can manage on our own. Or we ask for help from Dallas Makerspace. I don’t know what that would look like, but I am hopeful that this will all work out for the best of the two organizations. In passing myself and a few of my board members have visited your space and have had productive conversations with several of your members and Chris at one point.

@steve_a … I think they feel like they are moving backwards out of their current space and into storage. I think they want advice and space.

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#20

Probably be best to invite them to DMS and have an in person discussion or meet in the middle for some burgers. Our best work is often over burgers and beers. :wink:

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