Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Makers' Use TechShop to Build Their Businesses

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'Makers' Use TechShop to Build Their Businesses

Article excerpt

Bobbie Carroll always thought of herself as a creative person, but she never expected to become an expert on a laser cutter and use it to make money.

Craig Caesar was already an entrepreneur with his own 3-D printing equipment, but didn't envision himself as a product designer and artisan.

The August opening of TechShop, a membership workshop in the Central West End, has propelled both Carroll and Caesar into the vanguard of the so-called maker movement in St. Louis. Both are using their technology and design skills and TechShop's equipment to do small-scale manufacturing, and both are encouraging others to do the same.

Carroll, a freelance writer from Alton, toured TechShop before it opened and was wowed by the more than $1 million worth of equipment and tools. The $150 monthly membership seemed steep but her boyfriend, Adam Hosmer of Staunton, talked her into it.

"We thought, we're creative people, surely we will find ways to make use of this equipment," Carroll recalled. She quickly got trained on TechShop's laser cutter and used it to make wooden keychains, which have sold well at craft shows.

From there, she branched out into snowflake ornaments and wooden door hangers with interchangeable seasonal designs. She and Hosmer have set up a website, Innotations.com, and are considering renting a mall kiosk.

Caesar came to TechShop with a plan for how he was going to use the machines. He needed customized parts for an electronics kit that his company, MakerMakers of St. Charles, sells as part of an educational program for children, and making them on a laser cutter would be faster and cheaper than ordering them from a contract manufacturer.

The first class on the machine "lit me up" with ideas, Caesar recalls. He made an acrylic-and-wood table for a display at the Murmuration festival in September, and "people were more interested in the table than my kits. …

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