I’m Laura James. I’m one of the co-founders and directors of Makespace and I’m also co-director of the Open Knowledge Foundation, which is an international NGO, empowering people by ensuring they have access to open data and knowledge and can use it and freely reuse it. But who are you? any founder members here? And of the rest of you - have you heard about makespace before?
I don’t think I should be up here. because makespace isn’t about me, it’s not mine. It’s everyone’s. and everything you see around you is the result of huge amounts of effort from a whole community. THey should all be up here - the 64 founder members who have bootstrapped Makespace with so much energy and enthusiasm. (although it might be a bit crowded)
anyway - welcome to makespace! You’re some of the first to see it. it’s a place for anyone who needs kit, space, or new skills for their projects. When we talk about kit, we mean the latest manufacturing tech like 3D printers, laser cutters, milling machines, electronics assembly, textile working kit, woodwork, metal work, and probably more.
Makespace is a membership organisation. we have the Founder Members already and we’re now signing up new members too. Members pay £40/month and get 24/7 access to the space, the kit, and the opportunity to meet others and share skills and collaborate.
we are two things - a non-profit company, a formal bit, and the community, which actually runs things. Some of us, like me, wear both hats, or at least juggle them occasionally
and it can be hard to describe us! We have great kit like the techshops in America, but we aren’t an expanding commercial franchise; we have a community like hackspaces, but we’re a bit safer and more accessible than many; you can work here but we’re not just a 9-5 place like coworking spaces; and we love to share the excitement of engineering like FabLabs, but we’re not constrained by the no-secrecy clause of the fablab charter. We worked out what we should be with help from interested people here, and also other hackspaces and fablabs around the world who shared their experiences with us.
We have a variety of aims with Makespace, all around engineering and manufacturing, which are incredibly important for Cambridge, the UK and the world. It’s a really nice combination of fun and education and making stuff.
We’re sustainable - or at least are working hard to be. We’re inclusive and welcoming. And we’ve created something which businesses and people are keen to support and sponsor, which means we can get nice kit.
and we got here in the same way most new businesses get going - with the addition of the community, who are like customers, only much much nicer and more involved :) Also, everyone is a volunteer - none of us get paid by Makespace. Ideaspace came in with seed funding for our startup costs through the Enterprise Accelerator Programme - many many thanks! and all this support was critical because
it took a while. the space was allocated to us in July 2011
we did admin
through spring 2012
some stuff went well
but there were a lot of hold ups
we thought we were nearly there in May with a draft lease
and kept working on it
our main contact was nearly eaten by snakes
we learnt patience - and to remain upbeat
because the delays kept coming
until at last
we got the space in September
.... but that was just the start
we had an empty space
but people came
and we took on Founder Members, each taking responsibility for the space, supporting us with £250 up front, and getting involved
people even came to help plan things
we started to get kit donated
we did the dull but necessary safety stuff
and it started to feel like a space
we got a kettle
then we got serious
and the working parties began
Britian is a nation of volunteers - thank goodness
and sometimes we got together to make stuff too
Kim donated our 3D printer; Roger fixed it up; that there is the first piece we printed, a component lead jig
more people came
more stuff was scavenged
the workshop started to come together
the space started to come together
we got a laser cutter and we started making our own signs and more
we added some colour
and more people still came :) we have 64 Founder Members - far more than we ever anticipated. And now -
you’re all here, and as of Maker Night last week on 28th Februrary, we are accepting our first non-founder members :)
Makespace will never be finished. It will grow and evolve as the community who uses it grows and evolves. We know we’ll be getting more equipment for new kinds of activities soon - textiles, jewellery, all kinds of stuff.
Just as an example, we needed a coat rack and one of our Steves made this, off his own bat, and it’s brilliant.
Opening up to members is a huge deal for us - the FOunders have been great, super involved, and expanding is really exciting, but also scary. We’re trying to pace ourselves - adding a new member takes quite a bit of volunteer effort in induction - and we’re going to be working the bugs out of the process for a while. So we’re not looking for a huge influx of people, which we couldn’t handle anyway. And there will be a big opening ceremony, where there will be some kind of ribbon cutting or something, maybe with a laser or circular saw. Still thinking about that one :)
So, I want to tell you a bit about how we work and what matters to makespace
The company doesn’t direct makespace, it doesn’t decide what happens here. THe community does that; and the company ensures structures are in place so it all works. Of course we can veto community decisions, primarily for legal or safety reasons.
The space is what matters. There’s nowhere else like this. Keeping a space open for making and learning and building and playing is more important than having the latest 3D printer.
We’ve got to be sustainable. Membership fees keep us open and operating.
Everyone pays something. makespace is valuable and it’s not free - but
we are going to find ways to support students, unwaged and others who can’t afford the full fees without help. We’re talking with companies who will sponsor memberships.
We are open to everyone. it doesn’t matter if you are a beginner or an expert, doing work for money or creating for fun.
Everything is fair and clear and transparent. Everyone is subject to the same rules and fees. If we get it wrong, we’ll change it for everyone.
When you are done, you clear up the space you were working in and leave it empty for the next person. You don’t get your own bench or desk.
We want to keep makespace open and that means we need money in the bank to cover emergencies. We don’t take out loans. When we have contention - for example for use of space for events like this - If money is tight, we’ll be biased towards events which will pay good money. When money is OK, we’ll go for events which are makespace-ish -
which we’ve defined as, well, a bunch of things, which you probably can’t read here, but there’s a higher res version on our website :) sharing and solving problems, fixing stuff, learning and arty and geeky and inspiring and technical things...
What have we learnt? I always used to say hardware was hard. Physical space is harder still. You can’t do this without having time between 9 and 5 - it’s not an evening and weekend project. Lawyers and surveyors don’t work evenings. It takes a long time and you need to be ready for that. Keeping going! Not getting distracted by minor things. Not bikeshedding - volunteer energy is so precious, you can’t afford to waste it. Having a community was so critical, it helped us get funding on board and get buy in from people who have helped us. Keep talking about what you do. Note we have done no publicity - no PR - it’s all word of mouth, but what’s really mattered is ensuring the people who care know what’s going on. And focus from day 1 not on day 1 but how you’re going to have a day 2 and a year 2. We’ve thought hard abotu how to be sustainable from the start. There’d be no point creating all this to see it die.
That’s me reading 300 pages of insurance policy
even if you are good at this stuff you’ll need professional support
The support we’ve had from groups and companies locally has been terrific. Thank you, Ideaspace, the institute for manufacturing, the companies who are coming on to sponsor us, and those who have donated or loaned kit. It’s been great to get a lot of calls from people setting up spaces around the UK who’ve wanted advice - and just last week, Makespace Madrid visited, they say they’ve been inspired by us :) But mostly it’s just been all the people here -
doing so much to make Makespace.
You can be part of it too! Join the conversation or become a member. We’re taking signups - we’re still improving the process for this so bear with us if we don’t get you set up instantly. First, you’ll need to meet the community at a maker event, give us your address, we’ll mail you a membership pack, and then you need to come here for induction and to pay. We’re looking forward to more people joining us to build and improve Makespace in years to come.
we are two:
run the space
Makespace Cambridge Limited
what is Makespace?
it’s the best bits of
support existing businesses
create new businesses
share wonders of engineering & show people that
they can do it too
to have a creative space
to hang out
meet, learn, build, play
what makes Makespace
how did we get here?
we built / found a community
3 founders did a bunch of work
the community provided a load of
Ideaspace helped with seed funding
mentors & supporters kept us going
physical space is hard
some of the fun
public liability insurance
fire escape route lengths
utility meters and pricing
who cleans the toilets
who pays for site works
VAT, corporation tax
a great accountant
a great lawyer
a great accountant
a great lawyer
let me know if you find either of these
support from local groups & industry
other makespaces inspired by us!
community, community, community
community is amazing
be part of it
or, rather, thank all our awesome
founder members :)
Photo credits: Tom
Oinn, ste5eu, Steve L
UK, Digital Flapjack