I was sad to learn today that Techshop has declared bankruptcy. (details in a PDF at http://techshop.ws) They were a terrific resource that gave access to tools and technology in many cities and communities. I’m particularly sad for their customers, who are losing access to those tools and that community, and who will lose the memberships they paid for.
Agree - our local one wasn’t around for too long (although I did have my first experience with a laser in a class there!). It really was a great way for folks to have access to tools and instruction that would otherwise be out of reach.
Terrible to see and am shocked they did not reach out in some funding manner. They have touched a lot of people and it would have had appeal.
No details on this but it would not surprise me to see some shenanigans. I have seen local business ventures that looked spot on. Lots of customers willing to pay a premium cost for great product and service, excellent location, etc, and yet they fold. Once the truth is out you find someone (or a group) in the hierarchy was skimming profits instead of managing costs responsibly. Apparently there is a tipping point that you cannot recover from in these instances.
But back to the point. It would be grand if they could recover at least a few core sites, just to keep the dream alive.
In this case we may be looking at it through maker-colored glasses. The maker culture is still a nascent one despite our immersion in it. Yeah, there are a lot of makerspaces, makerfaires, etc but how many are just pulling in the same people/customers/clients is unknown but probably not a small percentage. And then you add the cost of setting up & running a professional operation like Techshops and the cost per hour or per month gets to be significant. Lots of people who may be interested become not so interested at the price needed for sustainability.
Our Makerspace is in the capital city, lots of tech folk around, lots of millennials, lots of crafters. But it’s hard to keep members when the price goes over $50/month. If ours wasn’t all volunteer and a non-profit that gets grants (& the founder/president does the grant chasing) we’d be shuttering the doors. We’re in an arts complex and during last week’s open studios I mentioned to one of the artists that we could do the etching she was doing on a glass window with our laser which brought up the Makerspace and she said “I’ve known you were down there and I always mean to stop by but I never find the time”. And she didn’t make it to Open House last night either
Our makerspace has classroom facilities, a clean lab, an electronics lab and a shop. We do everything from metal milling to lasering, CNC, 3D printing, glass work (small stuff - we don’t have a full hot glass setup yet - I do that elsewhere), lathes, saws, routers, ceramic/pottery (including a full size kiln), robotics lab (& a robotics group), fiber work, etc etc etc. And we are open 24x7 once you’ve qualified (usually taken a class) and we almost never have machine contention.
But everyone is passionate about what they’re doing and amazed that not everyone else is too Still we’d never make it as a for-profit venue.
Nothing close to me either. Closest is either Pittsburgh or Arlington VA. But if you consider the stats, they averaged less than a 1000 members per site which equates to about 1M in fees to cover equipment that cost 1.4M, teachers, staff, rent, etc. Seems like a lot of money but the locations weren’t cheap and the operational costs could easily burn through a million bucks a year.
On the other side of the coin - would you be willing to spend almost $1,500/year for makerspace access?
Or because makers tend to specialize, would you spend that on your own CNC or laser or whatever?
My wife and I spent about that to join a local space. Learned 3d printing, basic Lasercuting, some cnc skills. And learned how much I disliked sharing shop space with a bunch of guys that saw us as low-class members that kept the power on. We bought a Ultimaker 2 printer and I was about to buy a Carvey when the GF was announced. IMHO, if I have to spend an hour cleaning before I can use a tool, it ought to be mine in the first place.
It might have been mismanaged (or just unsustainable), but it doesnt seem like anything nefarious was going on. Apparently they were in the midst trying to change the company to a franchise model. But I can’t seem to find of they had money problems and were trying to solve them by franchising, or if they ran out of money because of a push to franchise. Probably the former? They released a little “history of the company” pamphlet that says they tried raising funds from members and investors, but couldn’t make it work.