Monday, March 26, 2018

Hey, they're talking about me!

So there I was, just listening to my podcast fee, when the 3D Printing Today Podcast, episode 226, starts calling me out by name at around the 14:50 minute mark! They were doing a segment they called  "Makers vs DIY vs Crafters" and my work with the St. George Library Makerspace had caught their attention. They were talking about making sure your makerspace find it's audience and properly focuses on it.

Makin' sparks at the Makerspace
The St. George Library Makerspace, and my relation with it, puts us in a unique position to be successful, without being stressful. Our pricing model is ludicrously low. Our metrics for success are very lax. We're not running a business here. We're providing a public service.

Andy and Whitney were making a point about being flexible enough with your Makerspace to adjust to your audience, whether they be hackers, makers, or crafters. That's true. In fact that's just kind of basic business sense. If you don't have an audience you don't have anything.

But I would not want to run a makerspace/fablab as a for-profit business in this area. If we were in a big city with people on top of people and no one has any space of their own, it makes sense to rent out a corner of a shared space and have access to their equipment. But here, where a trip to the store is a chore, everyone will weigh the cost of a monthly membership, and then say "Naa, I can just get a few printers myself and put it in my garage, and I'll be good." The counter argument is that by having high end equipment that people couldn't buy for themselves, you can draw them in. And that's true, to a certain point. But equipment like that would drive up fees, and why would that equipment be a draw enough to spend $30-$80 a month in membership fees meaning they'd have to be high enough demand to justify the extra cost in the long term. I don't know of any equipment that would do that. I just don't see it being feasible in a rural area.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I have an idea that could work, but it would pretty much only work where I am. See, I live on the road to Zion's national park. Lots of tourist traffic. So, I set up a shop on the main strip, a couple of computers with customization projects, and a bunch of 3D printers. Let people come in, make their own keepsakes, get paid, get their address, print it off and ship it to them. Maybe eventually get a full body photogrametry 3D scanner to really drive the wow factor. And maybe have a fab-lab in the back if people want to hang out. But no monthly fees or at least no relying on that to pay the rent. And there's quite a bit of software to write for customized projects like this, but I think it could work.

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