Jelena Vidovic went to talk about makerspaces to coworking centre KOVAČNICA, Slovenia, lead by BSC Kranj.
· Hi KOVAČNICA team. First of all, can you define what a makerspace is? And what it means to you?
First of all it is community. A community of similar yet very different individuals, who mostly work on their own project, but don’t mind contributing or helping towards common, or other people’s, projects. As a coordinator of this space I feel very connected to it and to people in it. We all consider it an extended family. It is a place where ideas are born and (some) realised, where personal and business contacts and deals are made, where we learn and develop.
· Where did the idea/inspiration come from for opening a makerspace?
From young people, who didn’t have many opportunities during the economic crisis a few years ago. There were no jobs, but there were many creative young people, who had similar problems and wishes. They wanted to have a space where they could meet, cooperate, work on their individual or common projects, where they would receive some support and could be productive. Municipality Kranj and the regional development agency of Gorenjska helped them to make this space possible.
· How much capital is required to start a makerspace?
We did it on very low budget. All together the renovation of place and some cheap furnishing cost us less than 10.000 €. It is not problem to establish it, but it is challlenging to develop it. The fixed costs of our community are pretty high (rent) but during the existence of Kovačnica, the community started to grow organically. The first year was hard – there was almost no promotion, only a little circle of people knew about us, and there was no money for advertising. But slowly we gained different projects where we brought interesting and informative events and workshops, a number of inhabitants started to grow, and before our second anniversary we needed to expand.
· What is your aim for the future?
To slowly grow – we cannot grow in quantity but we can in quality. To grow in focus and direction of our incubator, to attract different companies into cooperating, to bring even better events and content, to become financially independent (currently we could “survive” without the help of the local municipality), to combine different fields (e.g. business, creative, IT ..), to attract other similar services.
· Who are the type of people that use these spaces?
It is hard to describe the type. We have young entrepreneurs and 'not so young' entrepreneurs, we have beginners and students, and those who are well on their own entrepreneurial path. We have a nice combination of everything. Most common to all is: that they don’t want to feel socially excluded because of working at home, that they appreciate the company and relaxed atmosphere.
· Were there any challenges in starting your own space? If so, how did you overcome them?
Yes. Budget, promotion, lack of knowledge how to run it. In the beginning wasn’t easy. We used personal favours of different people to help us: to get some promotion, to get some money, to bring in different lecturers free of charge. They all saw some added value and understood that all beginnings are hard. After two years it is now much easier, we are well oiled machine but facing different challenges.
· What are the learning goals and outcomes you want to achieve in this space?
We want to be a part of a support environment for entrepreneurship, not just a part, but a leading organisation in our region. We want to help the beginners and be an equal partner to well established entrepreneurs. We want to grow and help our users grow.
· Do you have any tips/lessons/do’s/don’ts that you’d like to share with others that may be thinking of doing something similar?
Just don’t give up. It is hard, it gets easier, just use a lot of enthusiasm, use all the favours you can, just don’t give up. It is so worthy.
· What do you see as the future for makerspaces? What is your message to any innovators out there?
Don’t go through the process alone. We won’t steal your idea, but we can help you: with getting the right connections, mentors, and we can even help you find financial sources.
Stay tuned for part two of this interview for more great tips and advice from KOVAČNICA, coming soon...
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