TechShop Shuts Down

One of many who have tried this idea, and not the first one to fail.

That must have been something in the business model or strategy, because overall having a makerspace works very well in every city I know.

Working well and being a good business model aren’t always the same. I can see that being especially hard in the US where high tech cities like SF or NYC have sky high rent making large spaces incredibly cost inefficient. That combined with what I assume to be relatively high overheads for equipment maintenance, training labor, insurance means you’re always operating with a very fine balance between capacity (not enough space or equipment) and membership (too many members or not enough members for the equipment everyone has). As soon as the membership drops below a threshold you’re instantly done for.

Our nearby university just launched a new Makerspace, but they were right in that it takes the American tax breaks of a non-profit, plus corporate backing (corporations can donate equipment for tax writeoffs in the US) to make it more sustainable at a valuable cost point.

The Pittsburgh location was losing over $30,000 a month, doesn’t sound like a good business model.

To what Cyberdemon and Ralphzoontjeans said, and as far as I can say not being on the management side of the makerspace that I’ve been member of for many years… The space I belong to, has/does have, its financial battles but is doing alright enough as we’ve (it’s an independent, non-profit, member run space) renewed the lease for another 5 years the increasingly expensive Boston metropolitan neighborhood, Somerville.

Artisan’s Asylum
From Adam Savage’s Makerspace tours

I know the part time ‘management’ works very hard to keep this place going on numerous fronts:
-On the corporate side: They are always talking to companies. SolidWorks, Autodesk, MathWorks and many others have renewing support on one level or another. Our computer area was just updated with donations from Dell.
-Fundraisers: It seems there are always on going, in one form or another, whether for the place overall, or for particular spaces such as the jewelry lab.
-Rental Space: About 2/3rds of the space is rental. You can rent varying sized spaces and make into your own mini-work shop. There has always been a waiting list.
The other 1/3 is shop space. CNC equipment, wood shop, metal shop, welding area, digital, Jewelry, electronics and computer ‘labs’. Some of the equipment is member owned but leased to Artisan’s, some of it is Artisan’s purchased, and in one case 4 laser cutters are from a start up in Artisan’s and so the laser cutter area doubles as a showroom of sorts.
Also there’s a social area, as the founders thought it was important to have a social area to help foster a community spirit.
-Community outreach: If there’s any sort of art, science, creative event going on, you can pretty much expect there to be some level of ‘involvement’ from members here. Also Artisans’s management is very much in touch, talking with, town and city governments about many aspects related to us and the community.
-Internal Community: ‘The management’ is constantly working to help and support the wide variety of members and their needs, wants and complaints, while at the same time keeping this place running and accessible to everyone possible and adhering to our mission.
-Good neighborhood: Somerville is an active community, one of the reasons it’s popular and increasingly expensive and clearly Boston and area is strong with Ed and tech. Contained in the same warehouse building as us, is Brooklyn Boulders (a (trendy-hipster) rock climbing gym), MIT has a storage space and at the end is one of Boston’s many good microbrewerys, Aeronaut Brewing. Both Brooklyn Boulders and Aeronaut often have community focused events and food trucks. Across the street is Greentown labs a green tech startup incubator.
-Anyone can teach classes here: If you have an idea for a class, you can teach it. Part of your class cost goes to Artisan’s, the rest to you.
-Members: Besides the elected management, there are members that are devoted to keeping this place running. Some officially volunteer, others just do what they see if needed to help out.

Depending on which membership you get, you can have 24/7 access.

With all that said, this place has, and does have, its share of issues. Although finances have gotten better there have been big issues in the past. As this is a community run place there are many issues related to that, and at the same time there are many strengths related to it as well.

And as I type this, I’m freezing, clearly the heat is not running well in my part of the building.

Finally, this year both Autodesk and SolidWorks have opened Makerspaces, in Greater Boston. Though they have very different missions and are for different users than Artisan’s.