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MakerB

I believe that having creative aptitude is the key to a life well lived. 

Throughout my life I've been interested in 1. making things and 2. magic. The first one is easy to talk about, the second not so much, especially when put like that. I became a designer because I loved using it as a vehicle for discovery and learning. There is such magic in that. In today's workplace, there aren't always affordances for using design to discover. I began to notice that this is a cultural trend, not just in the workplace, but in our education system as well.

My son is up to his eyeballs in the Common Core Curriculum. Like many of his peers across the nation, he is meant to learn what he is told to learn and get it right, nothing more nothing less. His thinking will conform to everyone elses' thinking as he performs according to strictly rational standards within particular boundaries. 

I very much want my son to be a non-conformist thinker. I want him to be curious. I want him to be steeped in the art of asking a really juicy question. I want him to be comfortable with questions that don't have right/wrong answers, but have answers that have varying degrees of validity. And I want that for his peers, too. It's no fun without friends. 

So I'd like to provide them with maker experiences couched in imaginative play. MakerB is a maker space and service that provides children with the opportunity to stoke their creative juices by making things. This takes a few different forms: 

  • Maker kits: a thematic kit that includes a well-rounded set of maker activities aimed at imagining and creating a world. The activities would range from highly structured to very open-ended activities. For instance, a spy training kit that includes cryptology code-maker/breakers, pieces to create a simple circuit that would be attached to a wrist cuff for communication back to headquarters and PVC pieces to be assembled in various ways as a marshmallow shooter for target practice.

Spy Training Kit - a maker experience + play

  • Maker mobile: a maker space on wheels that can go to summer camp, the local library, school, wherever. It's equipped with tools and materials. The kinds of things that would get made would be determined in part by community interest. It could be as low fidelity as cardboard, tape and scissors to make cardboard arcades or as sophisticated as 3D printing. It could be expressive like painting or geeky like Makey Makey. 
  • Maker parties and workshops. Here's an example

The goals of this project are multi-faceted:

  • provide children with activities that sharpen their creative aptitude and do it in a way that inspires them and engages a sense of play,
  • build community and specifically maker-culture within the community,
  • provide parent/children with opportunities for meaningful shared activities,
  • provide teachers with opportunities to leverage maker spaces & tools in their curriculum at school.

Assets: 

  • With a bootstrap model, I would only need to aquire the maker materials to make the kits. I already have a lot of tools. I know with my prototypes that I can make a kit for under $10. 
  • A more expanded version would be a truck/trailer that is gutted and outfitted with maker wares. I don't have a truck/trailer. 
  • An even more expanded version would be a fixed space in a building. I don't have the money to rent, buy or build a space at this time. 

Human resources: 

  • With a bootstrap model it would be mostly me to start, but with collaborative opportunities with local camps, libraries and schools. 
  • A more expanded version might include hiring 'contractors' (i.e. teachers, caregivers) to help with workshops or tinker time. 
  • I may need to consider hiring crafters or designers to help construct maker kits.

What part of this is hard: my lack of business knowledge and savvy.

Which part is unique: we don't have any maker experiences or spaces in the area.

How you're going to repeat it again and again: I could prearrange times/dates when I would bring the kits/materials to different locations (with or without the truck/trailer, depending how I bootstrap this). 

Freelance vs Entrepreneur: I don't feel ready to hire people (psychologically and logistically and financially) so that immediately puts me in the freelancer category. I think this is a good thing for starters. I think I need to experience the full breadth of everything before I delegate. I do want to transition to entrepreneurship at some point with this project. For now, as a freelancer: 

  • I will ensure a steady stream of work by seeking collaborations with local organizations, schools and camps who would be willing to schedule events in advance and provide a steady source of kids as clients.
  • I will create an environment where I don't go crazy and melt by: 1) refurbishing my old office into a studio and adjusting the space for better storage, 2) some of the artifacts can be made once and copied thereafter - I will figure out a balance of what is hand made and what can be mass made, 3) rework some of the projects so that substitutions can be made for any given kit. 
  • I will consistently raise my prices, increase the quality of my work and generate a waiting list for my time (at the same time) by listening carefully to feedback and being flexible to how things need to evolve. I will need to change / refresh regularly so that people are not only interested in what I've done, but what is coming. 

Funding my business: 

I believe that there are creative ways to bootstrap my way into any assets I need to take off. It will require a huge push and leap from me, but it is not impossible to do. I can start by selling kits and doing events. From there, I can purchase a truck that I can convert into a maker mobile. If I feel like it, I can expand to more trucks and/or invest in a physical space. Although I'm not convinced it's necessary to have multiple trucks or a physical space to make postive cash flow. 

Timeframe before the money invested starts turning into money returned: I feel like I need to make a spreadsheet and estimate lots of different factors in order to answer this question - or is there another way for me to think about it? My rather naive hope would be a year of selling kits and doing events in order to get the truck. 

I don't have an expectation one way or another about selling the company. If I did, I would like it to happen when I want to retire or vastly reduce my responsibilities. So, maybe about 15 years from now. 

I aim to get my business paid for directly via the customers I serve. I expect that they will choose my service over others because no one else is offering them maker experiences and opportunities to collaborate in the making of them. 

What my human resources look like:

  • Who are the first employees you need? Creative designers to collaborate on maker kits. A gracious community outreach person who knows where/how/who to pitch to in the community. Teachers/caregivers to partner with me (not for me to hire, but for me to find and work with).
  • Where will you find them? I'll find the creative designers through my contacts. I might be able to find a community outreach person locally (i.e. parents in the school district). Teachers and caregivers I will also find locally. 
  • Why would they join you? Designers will join me because I will give them creative license to express themselves and make change - their style and signature will accompany the product and they will get exposure. Their creative philosophy will also get exposure (designers love to be known not just by their output but also by their sensibilities). Community outreach and teachers/caregivers will be keen to join out of excitement for positive change and community building in a new and intriguing way. 
  • How will you tell the good ones apart from the convenient ones? I will need to practice this. I suspect that I will be able to tell when they can give me examples (show me, prototype, paint a picture) of how ideas can be fulfilled and successfully forge relationships that support the cause. 
  • What's your funnel? (I don't know what a funnel is in this context)
  • After hiring people, how will you evaluate them? My gut reaction to this question is to find a way to gain an understanding of how these people are doing with making meaningful connections and relationships. 
  • How long after starting will you give people a formal review? 3 months
  • What's your approach for talking about the uncomfortable? Go for a walk together.
  • Are you asking people to do work that's been done before, or to explore the edges of a new universe? A little of both. Making things is not new, but I'm wanting people to see it and experience it in personally transformative ways - in inspiring ways. This means that I need to get quirky and my employees probably do too! 

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