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