A young man approached me at a conference last month, trying to figure out how to get started on his big idea. He’d like to start a maker factory in Alberta, Canada. He can picture it filling thousands of square feet downtown with maker equipment, tools, specialized workspaces, and room to grow. But he can’t see where he’ll find all that space downtown, and he can’t figure out how to start on such a big scale.
How can I start something big, something that needs a lot of space?
Are you sure you need a lot of space to start?
Let’s run this through the Innovative Rural Business Models:
Start smaller. Instead of going straight to a full-size maker factory, start with just one piece of maker equipment in a small space. If you don’t do the whole big project, what one part could you do now? The last maker space I toured was just one room inside a co-working, training and meeting facility. Start tiny.
Start with a maker/hacker weekend. Invite all you making, hacking and crafting friends to a weekend event in an open garage, or in the firehouse, or in a borrowed building, or even in a parking lot or open field. Use that to show others what could grow of the maker movement and to learn more about managing big groups of makers and a lot of equipment in one space. When you get good at that, follow up with a pop-up maker month in a borrowed space. Start temporary.
Start by borrowing a little space inside an existing related business. Split the big dream up into multiple spaces, borrowed or rented from multiple sources. Bring lots of people in on this idea, maybe gathered from your temporary and pop-up events. Start together.
Trucks and trailers:
Start by outfitting a truck or trailer to make a mobile mini-factory. It could serve as a demonstration space, showing more people what making is all about. It will also give you more experience working with a group of makers together. Not only can the maker trailer be present downtown to build the downtown maker community, but it can also go to events, show up at schools, reach different towns, or park outside of a meeting of town officials and let them get hands-on experience with your dream. Start with a trailer.
Gather your crowd
Derrick Parkhurst told me that if you want to build a co-working space, build the community first. I think that applies to maker factories. In fact, I bet it applies to almost anything you want to build in a small town. Gather your crowd, and build your community first.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.