Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes. Creativity is often a must when first starting. For designers and crafters, that’s no problem at all. But how to ‘go beyond Etsy’, and create a viable business out of crafts?
Last weekend during the Amsterdam Maker Festival ‘incubees’ of the Makerversity showcased their designs. As it turns out, there was no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit.
Makerversity was founded in London three years ago and this year it opened at the Marineterrein in Amsterdam. It has more than 10 members and several freelance artists coworking in the building. We spoke three starting entrepreneurs about their experiences with the venue. And, of course, about how to mix design with a startup.
Joris Lam from the startup TreeWifi creates wooden birdhouses for cities that measure the air pollution around. When the neighbourhood works together to reduce the level of pollution, the birdhouse gives a free WiFi signal to use. It’s obviously a project for the greater good. But according to Lam, that goes hand in hand with good business. “To make this project the most sustainable, I got to have a great businessmodel. Right now I’m dependent on donations. But I wan’t to run TreeWifi on my own. The healthier the business, the better greater-good projects flourish.”
Lam thinks TreeWifi will truly go live in October 2016. He’s thinking about two business models. One aimed at governments, who can buy the network to map the air quality in their city. The other is a consumer version of the house, which will be a DIY kit for measuring pollution yourself.
For the entrepreneur, having a space at Makerversity means access to machinery that otherwise is expensive. “The use of those machines is included in the rent, so this saves me a lot of money.”
Robert Shepherd of Games4Good, who at the moment is creating educational toys out of used material with the help of laser cutters, also acknowledges the benefits of access to machinery. “But just being here also helps. Everyone is helping eachother.” Right now he is self-learning to market his crafts.
Design duo Bob Vos and Alessandro Iadarola from Polimeer don’t think making a business out of crafts is hard. In their case, “there’s no conflict in the balance between design and commerce”, as they see trash as a business opportunity. “We make plastic trash viable by making design objects of them. So the value of the material doubles”, said Iadarola.
They also came to Makerversity for the machines (for rapid prototyping), because without, they simply couldn’t exist. “It safes us time and money. But we’re here also for the community, it’s great for feedback”, said Vos.
At the moment Polimeer is looking for a solid partner in delivering plastics. The design business is also looking for funding, to produce consumer items.