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 Post subject: Epitath to TechShop. Long live the maker-space model
PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 1:56 am 

Joined: Thu Nov 22, 2007 5:46 am
Posts: 2531
Location: S.F. Bay Area
The for-profit maker space Techshop, arguably the best and cleanest of the maker spaces, is no more.

That itself is a tragedy for preservation, because it gave under-equipped railway museums access to good tools... and it presented a superb model for how to set up your workshop and how to train up volunteers. Techshops, even the first hacked together location in Menlo Park, were spiff, clean and welcoming. Some, like the trophy-class facility in the old Ford skunkworks, were incomparable. No other maker-space I've seen compares, no other railway museum shop that I've seen compares.

A competing concept, FabLab, is a template for you to lay out your own maker space, but it only covers the basics. Techshop got all the details right.

Read their communication to their members. They readily admit that to be viable at their all-paid-staff level, they needed "public support" from towns, schools and business sponsors. But such support is generally only given to nonprofits. difficult to win if you're not a non-profit. in the form of civic and corporate sponsorships. But such support is generally limited to non-profits, And their mission is charitable: as a business incubator and supporter of STEM in education, especially for women.

They were in the middle of a pivot: to restructure into "TechShop 2.0” as a template/model/franchisor to nonprofits, who would then run the individual TechShops and of course be much more eligible for communiy and charitable support. Like the pilot who scud-runs too far into worsening conditions, they procrastinated at making the tough decisions, cut hours and closed locations too late, and by the time they threw in the towel, Chapter 11 reorganization was beyond possibility. Damn shame.

The bold message: This would've worked as a nonprofit.

That does not surprise me one bit. I see other maker spaces with simpler arrangements and membership fees a fraction of TechShop's, most organized in a nonprofit configuration. The ones I've seen do not, but if they owned their property in fee simple, they would be almost indestructible.

The nice thing is that the *concepts* still burn in the hearts of the founders and management, and I hope they can build their Techshop 2.0. Of course the business methods, design language and branding are still the property of the bankruptcy trustee, but since the business model is a failure, it's likely none will want it and they can recoup it.

What's that to a railway museum? A potential side project. I see railway museums trying to equip shops which will inevitably be 99% underused. How about incorporating a separate nonprofit to be a maker space, on property sold or leased to the other, and the railway museum simply become a client of the maker-space nonprofit (with whom they have some Board overlap)? The liability separation should be solid, as long as the maker-space is a bona-fide venture with local business incubation and STEM education. The railroad is just another customer. Meanwhile, all the activity - which would never come to a railway museum by itself - brings people in contact with the railroad, and becomes a hell of a recruitment poster, especially as people grasp that the maker space would not exist but for the railway museum.

 Post subject: Re: Epitath to TechShop. Long live the maker-space model
PostPosted: Fri Dec 08, 2017 7:23 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2004 10:54 am
Posts: 812
Location: Tucson, Arizona
Old Pueblo Trolley, Inc. is doing something of that nature right now. We have a non-profit carpenter's vocational training program that is leasing space in our building while looking for a new location. They needed a place to set up while they work on obtaining a permanent location for their program and we could use the income to help with payments, plus it's a deserving group. The high school students that graduate the program learn skills necessary to get a good job in the construction trades. Once our machine shop is up and running, that may present more options for drawing in additional programs and income.

"When a man runs on railroads over half of his lifetime he is fit for nothing else-and at times he don't know that."- Conductor Nimrod Bell, 1896

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