February 25, 2017

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Monday, December 1, 2014

TechShop

Mark Hatch and Jim Newton of TechShop
I’ve seen it happen over and over. Artists and would-be inventors stay in school long after they’ve graduated. They take a weekly class, not for the education, but for the perks; Photographers need a dark room, jewelry designers need a workshop, sculptors and inventors need expensive tools and equipment. You can study for years, learning a particular trade. But few people emerge from such schooling with the funds necessary to actually buy the tools of their trade.

And what’s more frustrating than having the skills to do something, but lacking the resources? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were some sort of community where artists, tinkerers, geeks, and inventors of all shapes and sizes could pay a small monthly fee and have access to expensive, technical tools, as well as a work space in which to operate?

Well, actually, there is. It’s called TechShop.

Play

Listen to the 90-second Why Didn’t I Think of That?® story on TechShop! [above]

Mark Hatch and Jim Newton of TechShop

TechShop was started by Jim Newton, an aspiring inventor who was frustrated. His chief frustration was that America’s ability to make things seemed to be disappearing. So he decided to do something about it. He launched a highly successful donation drive and started TechShop, a chain of workshops that gives everyday inventors access to thousands of dollars worth of design equipment.

“It’s kind of like a health club,” CEO Mark Hatch told Wired, “but it’s a health club for makers and geeks and tinkerers.”

“For $100 per month,” Wired explains, “you get access to the workshop and all the tools inside it, ranging from the simple (and somewhat archaic) English wheel to the high-end and extremely precise CNC milling machine. They’ve got everything in between too, including TIG welders, table saws, drill presses, laser cutters, sewing equipment and 3-D model prototyping machines.”

Not only that- but TechShop offers classes so you can learn to use the tools.

As their website puts it, “TechShop is perfect for inventors, makers, hackers, tinkerers, artists, roboteers, families, entrepreneurs, youth groups, FIRST robotic teams, arts and crafts enthusiasts, and anyone else who wants to be able to make things that they dream up but don’t have the tools, space or skills” to fully realize them.

And TechShop isn’t just a great business idea- it’s a breeding ground for great business ideas. Earlier this summer, CNET got a tour of TechShop in San Francisco, and founder Jim Newton took a moment to brag about DODOcase, one of the more impressive success stories to come out of TechShop. It began in the wood shop, “when a member created a bamboo iPad case. After taking a couple of classes to learn how to use the machines, the iPad case entrepreneur built a thousand cases and pulled in $3 million in revenue. Newton smiled and said he didn’t kick them out exactly. They ‘graduated’ and had to move on to find more space.”

What I love about the DODOcase success story is that it may have never happened without TechShop. TechShop provided the work space, the tools, and even lessons on using the tools. Then it was up to the inventors to design, market, and sell the product, which they did, to astounding success.

And therein lies the key to TechShop- It’s a place of pure potential. No one is guaranteed success just because they have access to tools. But having those resources at your disposal can mean the difference between having a great idea and having something to show for it.
TechShop currently has three shops in San Francisco and a fourth in Raleigh-Duran, North Carolina. Another location is expected to open later this year in Detroit, and they’re planning on opening an additional 20 locations over the next three years.
Here’s a video, courtesy of Wired, that will give you an interesting look at TechShop’s inner workings.

Thanks for reading, and be sure to follow Why Didn’t I Think of That?® on Facebook.

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