Developing sustainable and fair business model for Maker spaces is key

During the MAKE-IT project, we had the chance to visit many Maker Faires and exhibitions to meet makers, 3D printing enthusiasts and FabLabs teams. Putting aside the passion for technology and sharing experiences and knowledge with others, we realized the difficult financial situations many (if not most) of these people or organizations could be. If you do not have a job on the side, it might be difficult to find the right balance to maintain or develop your makerspace because of the lack of funds. This is probably the true spirit, where people focus on giving their time to others to help them learn rather than trying to make money out of it. But if you cannot find quickly the right financial balance sometimes you need to close your space and stop sharing once and for all.

This leads us to define sources of revenue and we could see people are really creative beside relying on donations and standard members subscriptions. Trainings, 3D design for companies, consulting are often good revenue resources, but not always stable. Potential solutions like the secure print developed at Create it REAL could help 3D file designers to sell their 3D files online and get some revenue out of it in order to support the makerspace or FabLab (people can print but do not get the STL file, so you keep your intellectual property). The solution allows to define the price you want, so if you prefer to share your objects for free as you manage to get enough funds to maintain your team, so be it. But if you need to put a little price to contribute to your efforts, then that could be the right solution.

We believe people need to find the right balance between the full open source, everything free approach and a fair price to pay to help to make sure your project is sustainable. We have seen so many places closing because the smiles, the energy and enthusiasm at the beginning of the project turned quickly into worries and stress to fund it. We hope all makers around the world could find this important balance even between starting their project so we see more and more makerspaces in all cities.

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