A conference is coming up and a small business has a booth to set up.
Expenses can quickly add up. At a minimum, the business will need a banner; otherwise, the cardboard panel provided by the organizers should do the trick.
Would be nice to have a custom table skirt and maybe logo shirts for exhibitors. The company could hand out giveaways, like branded tote bags, or something creative, with a logo engraved on aluminum or leather by a laser engraver.
Of course, a company shows up at a conference to attract customers, not to go bankrupt. The Springfield-Greene County Library District has a solution: makerspace at the Midtown Carnegie Branch Library.
In the maker space, individuals, associations and for-profit businesses in the region are invited to tinker and create for free on equipment including 3D printers, a laser engraver, a vinyl cutter, a heat press, a slide/negative scanner, a VHS scanner and soldering stations.
Use of the equipment is free, according to branch manager Eva Pelkey. Some materials, including 3D printer filament, vinyl, or solder, are provided for a fee.
So far, word about the maker space, which opened during the COVID-19 pandemic, has yet to spread, according to Pelkey.
“I don’t want it to be a well-kept secret,” she said. “We have so much to offer. It’s time for people to discover us.
Jacob Helterbrand, a library training assistant who helps run the maker space, said visitors often come up with ideas as they experiment with the equipment. It starts with customers engraving their name on an item or 3D printing a figurine, and the creativity takes off from there.
On a recent visit to the maker’s space, there were many sample projects on display, from custom-engraved slate coasters to branded leather goods. Helterbrand said it has helped customers complete a variety of projects, including a billboard, blind brackets, tiny model train signs, and even a prosthetic cat’s paw.
Pelkey pointed out that companies are welcome to use the maker space.
“Small business owners don’t think of the library first,” Pelkey said. “These are do-it-yourselfers. It’s a way to facilitate that. »
The library offers more than just a creative space for business owners, Pelkey added. There are also meeting spaces, software support, and partnership opportunities.
“They need a place where they can get verified, authoritative information,” she said. “That’s what libraries have always done.”
Rachael West, owner of Niangua-based Eating the Ozarks, has found her business transformed by the possibilities in the maker space.
Eating the Ozarks teaches foraging classes, helps students identify useful plants and wild edibles, and offers herbalist training, special event catering, and primitive skills camps.
In the maker space, West designed engraved wooden tree tags with QR codes that lead to the Eating the Ozarks website. There they can learn how to find, harvest, use and store food from the type of tree they have found, including redbud, gingko biloba and juniper.
But West didn’t stop there. She has made directional signs for her campground, engraved menus, farmer’s market displays, menus and branded cutting boards.
“Being able to have things that are handmade sets me apart,” she said. “That makes it all the more – I don’t mean gourmet – but very upscale, thanks to a free public resource.”
West found she could buy a small amount of vinyl from the library and buy t-shirts from a thrift store and produce her own logo outfit for next to nothing.
She can also practice the sustainability she preaches by making business cards from recycled cereal box cardboard engraved on the blank side with her information.
West discovered the designer space through his friend Amanda Francis, owner of Reeds Spring-based Forest Garden Yurts.
Francis attended a wood bookmark carving class offered to children at the Carnegie branch, and she was eager to tell West about it.
“It’s such a cool space,” she said. “Any creative person can just go for it.”
West and Francis had been talking about plans for a long time. The two host events together, including dinners in Francis’ yurt or at destinations, such as an upcoming 19th-century themed meal at Crystal Cave.
The pair started with vinyl logo work on black aprons for use at Forest Garden Yurts weddings and other events. They are currently working on a foraging apron for use in West’s outdoor classes.
The two small business owners consider the maker space an invaluable tool for their businesses.
“We work harder because we have to grow the profits,” West said. “We have to be really creative to be able to put on a profitable event.”
But with the maker space, creativity has a luxurious side, according to West.
“We can make something look like a million dollars because we’re willing to do the work,” she said.
Pelkey said people can experiment and learn in the maker’s space with the help of library staff, and no previous experience is necessary. In fact, educating people on the use of the 3D printer and other equipment is one of the goals of the space.
Located on the ground floor of the library, the space must be reserved in advance to ensure staff availability, she added. The plan is to continue adding more equipment and moving to a larger workspace in the building.
Pelkey said there’s no way to tell how many companies have used the creative space, because creators aren’t asked to identify their end goal. Everyone is welcome to use the library resources.
“We’ve probably only had a handful at this point, but it’s a great little secret we have here with a lot of potential,” she said.