Starting a Maker Space
Resources for Creating A New Space
Use Maker Nexus Documents
Part of the Maker Nexus mission is to help other non-profit makerspaces. This wiki of information is one example. We also release all of our documents under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. You can see the material we have released at this public repository. We usually keep our documents in our members-only share while we develop them and move them into the public space when they are pretty much complete. If you want some kind of document not in the public repository, please send an email to email@example.com and we'll see if we can help.
What to do first
If you are thinking of starting a makerspace, here are some of the very first things you should do - like right now. This list came from what Maker Nexus did to get started and, frankly, includes a few things we didn't do right away but I came to wish that we had.
- Gather contacts. You will be talking about your idea with a lot of people. Every single time you talk to anyone, get their contact information. Email and phone number (and name). If someone was interested enough to hear your idea, ask them if you can keep in touch. Building a makerspace (or any local consumer based business) is about building community.
- Pick a temporary name. This is just a place holder so people can remember you. Use your location. Maybe "iowamakers" or "rapidcitymakers", descriptive is good. It does not have to be fancy. Maker Nexus used bayareamakers at first.
- Setup Gmail. Get a new GMail account with your temporary name. firstname.lastname@example.org will be a great place for people to send you email. You won't confuse email with your day job or personal email and you can search it to find those things you forget when you get busy. As things pick up you can have someone else handle this email account too.
- One page website. You need this so you can give people your URL. This does not have to be fancy, or reflect what you actually do long term. Don't wait. Wix provides free web sites that are super easy to create. Get a site with your temp name like iowamakers.wix.com and put up one page with your contact information. As your vision becomes more clear you can update this. If you're willing to pay Wix a $100 you can get your own domain for a year like www.iowamakers.com Your own domain looks more official, but isn't strictly necessary until you pick a real name in a few months.
- Facebook. If you aren't already on Facebook, create an account. Then create a "group" with your temp name, Iowa Makers. As you meet people and talk about your ideas, ask them to join your group on Facebook. This helps you build community.
- Cheap business cards. Many places on the web will make you 500 business cards for $20. iPrint is one. Get your website URL, your Facebook group, and your email on it. You may not need 500 cards, but let's hope you do! Every time you talk with someone about your idea, give them 10 cards and ask them to hand them to other people. You want to get people hooked into your growing community. You should always have a couple of cards in your wallet; so should everyone on your core team. Have some fun with it; challenge each other - "hey Tom, nice to see you. Can you show me an Iowa Makers business card?"
- Mailchimp is an online mass email service that is free until you have over 1,000 contacts. Get an account and enter all your contacts into Mailchimp. This is your first CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system. Once you have more than a handful of contacts it will be difficult to send updates to everyone through your personal email account. Mailchimp has some very sophisticated email features that you can grow into. Once you have 100 contacts, start sending out a short newsletter every 6 weeks. Let people know what you're thinking, what you're doing, and solicit their advice and help.
- Core team meetings. By now you should have 2 or 3 other people who are excited and passionate about creating a makerspace. If you really want to do it you need to meet once a week for an hour. Establish a regular meeting time and place. MN met every Sunday evening at 7PM for 18 months before we opened the doors. This may sound like a lot of work, because it is a lot of work. If your team isn't ready to start meeting every week, you might want to seriously think about whether you will be successful.
- A Place to Make helps you think about what kind of makerspace you want to have.
- Nation of Makers US non-profit helping maker spaces.
- SBA resources for writing a business plan
- How-to guide from Nation of Makers, an excellent document.
- How to set your membership price
- A presentation on the process of organizing, help guiding the conversation with your initial group of friends.
- Non-profit real estate development
- APROE, a company the specializes in machine shop set-up
- Open Works Baltimore, blog on how they started
- A guide from FormLabs: Incentives and Ingredients for Building a Makerspace
- Makerspace organizing experiences
- Tax Exempt Status
- Getting City Help in Opening a Makerspace
- NAICS code for a makerspace
- CRM: Managing Your Membership List - Some of these systems do a lot of the other functions all in one integrated system.
- Access Control Systems - For doors and machines
- Machine Maintenance Tracking
- Scheduling Software - To make reservations
- Asset Tracking
- Maker Network is creating free software for makerspaces
- Online class repository
- Member Handbook for Maker Works.
These solutions cover several functions you might need.
- Club Express affinity group management - like a club
- EZFacility makerspace management based on a gym model
- Amilia makerspace management based on a park and rec model
- An interesting concept: Standard Operating Procedures
- A great safety guide from Berkeley
- Safety training from Power Tool Institute
- Safety Training
Links to several kinds of education:
- Basic Operation Safety Standard (BOSS) - Use a piece of equipment safely.
- Skill Improvement - Projects aimed at improving a particular maker skill. Dovetail joints, Laser Cutter use of color, 3D printer wall thickness, anything you can think of.
- Project Classes - Classes where the students build some specific thing. Personalized 3D printed key fob, book case, bird feeder, purse, etc.
- Merit Badges - Classes for scouts that help them earn a specific merit badge.