Incubators provide small business startups with business resources, mentoring, support and education. Many provide coworking space and access to investors. Maker spaces are a type of incubator, but they begin with a peer-to-peer model. Imagine you are Luke Skywalker and you have a new startup in your mind. Do you take it to Yoda, or do you take your idea into Han Solo’s garage and work it out with Leia, Chewwy, and the gang? Yoda is the incubator. Han’s garage is the maker space.
Maker spaces are mostly regional, and many are designed to share the cost and space of industrial equipment and supplies. So they tend to be industry based, as well. Most have a coworking component and education, support, and networking.
There are several maker spaces that are online platforms. Maker’s Row is a design/production maker space that focuses on helping designers find American manufacturing partners. They have a vigorous boot camp of workshops and courses to help designers get their business skills where they need to be. The online platform allows manufacturers and independent designers to interact and work together first online, and then in person.
Mi Kitchen es Su Kitchen is a commercial kitchen incubator that works as a maker space for entrepeneurs with food startups. Food businesses are popular for their low start up costs and ready markets. For many entrepreneurs, a food business is the gateway into entrepreneurship. Access to a commercial kitchen, shared space and equipment, and business education, support, and mentoring make Mi Kitchen a popular and successful maker space.
IE is the Portland Incubator Experiment, a beloved regional coworking space and idea incubator. The collaborative focuses on support and encouragement, as well as creative sharing. The organization is evolving with the needs of the startup community. Their newest project is an open-source book of resources for other incubator startups called, of course, the Pie Cookbook.
TechTown Detroit is an established tech startup incubator. Their maker space is divided into laboratory space, for tech startups, and place space, for entrepreneurs working with underserved neighborhoods and communities. The local movement in Detroit is changing this city into a model for regional entrepreneurship.
The Staten Island Maker Space is a collaborative project of two artists who brought together the large equipment and space for artists, metal workers, fabricators, and community tinkerers. They have digital fabrication equipment, a metal shop, woodshop, computer lab, and sewing room, as well as shared workspace and studio space. They have a number of education programs for business startups, and a workshop-based kid’s education program.
WESST is a mature business development incubator that offers startups mentoring, education, investment funding opportunities, and business loans, as well as coworking space. Like the Detroit maker space, WESST was begun to meet the regional economic challenges in New Mexico. Their new incubator is located in Albuquerque. The majority of their startups are women-owned businesses, and they have developed education and support materials specific for women. They also have a veteran-specific coworking space for no cost for active duty military and veterans.