If you wish to start your own makerspace or collaborative workspace, you will need to make decisions about space, location, budget, and purpose.
An important consideration is what your visitors or members wish to do or get involved in. Every makerspace is different and unique and can be used for different purposes. There are different types of collaborative spaces such as maker fairies, digital media labs, fabrication laboratories, co-working spaces, and hackerspaces. Co-working spaces, for example, can be used for project development and teamwork and are usually equipped with televisions, projectors, white boards, tables, and other equipment. Fabrication laboratories or fab labs have computer projects and technologies as their main focus. Other types of makerspaces include mobile vans and portable carts with machines, materials, and tools that can be brought to different venues.
The type of equipment and purpose also depend on how much space you have available. Rent can be a major expense when starting a business. To this, you may contact your municipality and ask if they have unused spaces. They sometimes have such spaces they cannot use or sell and may be willing to lease for less.
The financial commitment can be an issue when starting a makerspace but there are ways to cut expenses. Encouraging members to upcycle or recycle is one example. Items that can be upcycled include peg boards, shelving, filing cabinets, and desks. Looking for deals is another way to save money. Visit your local hardware store to buy lights, batteries, toolkits, and other items that you need. Some stores also offer weekly coupons.
The equipment required for your makerspace depends on its purpose /type/. For example, if you are offering 3D printing and laser cutting, you may need to purchase the following equipment and supplies: refurbished computers, silk screen, traditional tools, makeblock robotics kits, vinyl cutter, 3D printer, Raspberry Pi’s, etc.
There are different ways to secure financing for your makerspace – one is to self-finance and another is to borrow from a bank or another funding entity. Banks offer personal loans and secured credit cards to finance the purchase of equipment, renovation, refurbishment, and so on. Another option is to start a campaign on a crowdfunding platform to raise funds for your project. Alternatively, you can apply for grants that are available through local funders or apply for sponsorship. If you choose to apply for a grant, the main focus should be on the competencies and skills that members will learn. It is not a good idea to focus on just buying toys, gadgets, or electronics as the main purpose of the grant as it will be passed over. What you can do instead is explain how your project will result in improved learning opportunities and outcomes. Some companies offer sponsorships for innovative projects while others offer scholarships. If you are a teacher and plan to start a makerspace in your school, one idea is to create a donation wish list and send it to parents in summer. This is when they buy items such as art supplies, cardboard, craft sticks, yarn, glue sticks, and so on. You may also add phones, phone chargers, and other electronics that you need for your project.