What was holding you back from being an entrepreneur?
Basically, the biggest hurdle I had to jump was finding location.
I spent about two and half years, planning, organizing, raising money, and getting everything together. The biggest thing was trying to find location. We had people interested in being members and we had a lot of support from the community. At that time, I had a partner, we probably looked at thirty plus locations through the city, and nothing was really a fit for what we were looking for. We were looking at doing around 5000 sq. ft. so we could have a portion of it setup for studio space as well as for all the tools and equipment. When we had found a location and during the negotiating, they came back and said that we needed double the money.
Yea, that was a big hit, but you know we had locked down on funding, a little over $50,000 and tools and equipment, all sitting there waiting to be used, and I just needed the hammer to fall.
We had spent about three months negotiating the lease with them. That shut my partner down and she needed to the leave the project. That was a kind of a big kick in the butt; hey now we are going to do this, I had fundraised and located a number of pieces of equipment, had it all in storage, and just need a place to land.
I then came back to the Delevan Center which was actually one of the first buildings we looked at. Once everything kind of been reassessed from running a business, this space could work. At that time, we had been looking at space that was large enough to accommodate two separate places. When we came back here, this large space that we are in today that was only 1600 sq ft, I had setup 3D printers, computer, and software, this was going to be way too dirty of a space for high technology. I immediately went to owners of the building; I likes this space, but do you have anything else that was cleaner, dust free, and he said let me take you down the hall, and showed me another space. We settled on that 400 sq. ft. space as the clean space for computers.
What was your worst entrepreneurial moment? How did you gain clarity and know what steps to do next?
The worst entrepreneurial experience is the time. Just knowing that you expect a certain return and you expect a certain response from your work. You do all this leg work and energy, all of sudden it takes twice as long or three times as long or someone doesn’t return a phone call. That’s almost always the worst. I have gotten a little bit thicker skinned, if it doesn’t happen, ok and I continue on, touch base later.
What did you get out of presenting at 1MC?
The big thing was having supporters, having a community that I could go to in the past for their opinion. I have never done this at this scale and always wanted to. I was working on getting my masters in sculpture, wasn’t thinking about anything other than being an artist and teaching. Once I graduated, done with grad school and teaching, I wanted to do something more in change and bring the experience I had in school, the access to equipment, I really wanted to expand that out. I was able to talk to some people and ask what do I need to do to make this happen. Having people to bounce these questions off of; how soon is it too soon to contact someone that I had called on the phone, what is the proper ways to do fundraising, and not offending anyone and not being overzealous.
I liked the interaction of people outside of my realm. A lot of people that I have been talking to or meeting with, have either been in business or industries, or other makers like myself who had looked for a space that I had created. Their experience, their view, and career, sort of surrounded what we were doing, they were already bought in, like preaching to the choir. Coming to 1MC was able to connect with professionals in other fields, to get another angle and another perspective, what I wasn’t getting, that was probably the best thing.
How can someone reading this help you?
You know I think the biggest thing is go to the website, take a workshop, and tell somebody. I think the biggest hindrance that we have in Syracuse is that people think that somebody else already knows. People don’t know necessarily say, “Hey, have you heard about this great thing?” They just assume that somebody already knows. So tell people, come on down for a tour, and come see what we having going on here. This is the type of place that you can walk in with zero skills and walk out with whole another view on the world and what you can do with it.