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I’m Adrian McEwen. I’ve been building Internet of Things devices for a few years now – the best known is probably Bubblino, who’s pictured here. I run an Internet of Things consultancy – MCQN Ltd – which is based in DoES Liverpool
What is DoES Liverpool? It’s a co-working and shared workshop space in the heart of Liverpool. We’ve got a little over a thousand square feet, about 10 people working there full time, and lots of others dropping in to use the workshop facilities or hot-desk for a day.
But there wasn’t always a maker space in Liverpool...
...well, not all that long ago, but 2008, so a fair while back. Thom Shannon and I had been playing with Arduino and electronics for a while, and at Barcamp Liverpool we hatched a plan to start running an Arduino enthusiasts group.
And that was the seed of a community of makers. We planned to kick things off with an Arduino hackday, and ran our first Howduino hackday in May 2009
...but while we were planning that the hackspace craze swept the UK, and resulted in the NW Hackspace group being started, and so the Liverpool Hackspace had its first meeting in April, just before Howduino. Initially it was just us meeting up in a pub, which limited the amount of making we could do.
At the same time I was looking for a space to work from, and that we could have as a hackspace. I wanted something where we could build things that were messy, and that would work for lots of people... However, in the end, I moved into a shared office with a few friends, which got things moving. For the first space, it’s okay for the making to be restricted to an extra table with a soldering iron on it...
So in August, four of us moved into the Room of Things 29 (International). (I’m not sure if overblown names are a requirement or not, but they’re more interesting :-)
Through the office, and the continued meetings, I got to know the five other guys who became the co-founders of DoES. Getting more people involved makes things loads easier – there are people to help make decisions, and everyone will bring different strengths to the table. Through Andy Goodwin we got to know the people at the Art & Design Academy at LJMU...
...who have all sorts of interesting kit, and a fully kitted out workshop that wasn’t being used (much) in the evenings. We joined forces with them and started running Maker Nights – a monthly evening where people could come and work on projects, learn about Arduino and electronics, or 3D printing, or laser-cutting...
Things seemed to be going nicely, but then in May 2011 we found out that the building our office was in was being let to someone else, and so we suddenly had about a month to find somewhere to work. We’d been slowly moving towards setting up a company so we could start taking donations from people and look for a space, but we were still a way off that, yet finding another shared office felt like a bit of a cop out...
So we jumped in and endured a rather manic six weeks or so – looking round potential spaces, incorporating as a CIC (a Community Interest Company, which means any profits go back into helping the community), working out prices, etc. All while we were still running our own companies.
One way of funding your space that often gets mentioned (at least it does when there’s regeneration money around, which there’s quite a bit of in Liverpool) is looking at grants and other such government handouts. We’ve deliberately avoided that at DoES Liverpool, because we don’t want to be tied to “outputs” (having to match whatever claims we make, such as jobs created, or people helped, when we were applying for money, when the world shifts and we end up doing something else) and want to build a sustainable model that’s funded directly by the community we help, rather than constantly chasing the next pot of grants.
We’ve been profitable (given that none of us organisers take a salary) since a week or two after we opened. I guess it helped that we had four of us ready to move in from our shared office, to reduce the shortfall in our rent to something where we were happy to take the leap.
One of the things we’ve found useful in getting people to come and visit is to offer a free first day if you bring cake. It means people can “try before they buy” and also gives people a reason to chat to other members, as they’re the one bringing cake!
People can have a permanent base at the space for £150/month, or access just to the workshop facilities (so no desk) for £30/month, or drop in whichever days they fancy at £8/day.
And that £8/day is probably one of the mistakes we’ve made in setting our prices. There’s hardly any difference between the daily rate and the monthly rate, and while that’s not a big issue in terms of profitability, it makes it trickier to plan for the future as we don’t have as clear an idea of how much we’ll be earning on a regular basis.
Anyway, on 8th July 2011, DoES Liverpool opened for business!
It’s been a bit of a whirlwind, but (with the odd exception) huge amounts of fun.
We’ve run all sorts of events and user groups – Barcamp Liverpool, developer breakfasts, sewing club...
We still run Maker Night at the Art & Design Academy, but have added an extra one each month down at DoES, and have been adding more tools for people to use, our 3D printer here
...and a laser-cutter
In May 2011 we found out that the building our office was in was being let to someone else, so we suddenly had about a month to find somewhere to work. Maker Nights had been going well, and we’d been slowly moving towards setting up a company so we could start taking donations from people and
One final “Do”, the “Do” in our name. Do Epic S**t! It was our challenge to Liverpool, and we’re happy to extend the challenge to anywhere else too.
Makers Guild: Making More Making in Liverpool - DoES Liverpool
Making More Making in Liverpool
Adrian McEwen doesliverpool.com
The Dos and Don’ts for Maker Spaces