We’re fortunate to be surrounded by a strong community of innovators and artists in Newmarket and Aurora; and yet, for years, these “makers” have been forced to travel south to the city in order to do the work they love.
But not anymore. The maker landscape is changing, thanks to the founders of NewMakeIt, a facility featuring the space, tools and expertise for innovators, entrepreneurs, artists and hobbyists looking to learn, collaborate, and bring ideas and businesses to life.
The not-for-profit opened its doors to makers mid-February, 2016. The three founders, Ryan Dibisch, Derrol Salmon and Bob Wickson met through a Meetup group 10 months ago. As dedicated supporters of the maker movement, they recognized a void in the York Region area.
“Everything’s always in Toronto,” says Salmon, director and co-founder of NewMakeIt. “We’re tired of that. We should not have to move out of York Region to spring some of those same opportunities.”
When you walk into the building located off Harry Walker Parkway in Newmarket, you enter a co-working space organized with desks, couches, a communal kitchen area, and a giant chalkboard coloured with rough sketches and ideas. To the left is a small printing room, featuring a 3D printer and laser cutter.
Head down the small staircase and enter a giant warehouse featuring a metalworking machine shop and traditional woodworking tools, including a giant CNC router. The back wall showcases a massive mural hand-painted by a local artist, with giant letters spelling out the word “create.” Up a separate staircase to the side sits the robotics and electronics room, which is currently under renovation, but will soon come to life with electrical projects and gadgets.
After a quick tour of the space, the creative and innovative vibes are palpable. You can’t help feeling inspired within these walls. “A lot of people come in and they haven’t heard of the term ‘makerspace’ before,” says Dibisch, executive director and co-founder of NewMakeIt. “They don’t really know what they’re going to do. Then they see the equipment and what other members are doing, and their heads fill with ideas; and they start coming in and building new things.”
The space also offers huge advantages for budding entrepreneurs. “We lower the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs to start their businesses,” says Dibisch.
This is the case for Justin Brown, founder of Jube Design. He created his company with the intention of keeping the manufacturing of products within Canadian or North American borders. He wants his projects to give back, providing social benefits and improvements to various industries. Brown is working with Lewis Family Tattoo Company in Toronto to disrupt the traditional tattoo market with a smaller and lighter machine designed to mitigate cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, a growing concern amongst tattoo artists. “It became clear that not only were prototype costs going to be high, but without having our own machines, production within North America was going to be impossible,” says Brown. Then he discovered NewMakeIt, which will soon feature the sophisticated equipment Brown needs, allowing him to drastically cut prototyping costs, fast track production, and essentially, bring his dream to life. It also cut his business plan in half, trimming $50,000 off his startup costs. But it’s not just about the tools and the space. “Part of being here is just being involved in the community,” Brown says.
To the founders, that’s what it’s all about. “That’s what happens when you have a facility like this, where you house different people, from different walks of life, with different experiences, knowledge bases, and educational backgrounds,” says Salmon. “You just feed off of each other.”
There’s no question that, after a few short months, NewMakeIt is already well on its way to fulfilling the dreams of creative people and innovators across the city. For what Salmon describes as the “cost of a glorified gym membership,” local entrepreneurs can transform what was once a modest drawing on a napkin into a viable business plan. When dreams are this accessible, anything is possible.
by CHARLOTTE OTTAWAY
Lewis Family Tattoo Company