Scott Young of Protospace tells us about Calgary’s original makerspace.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Scott Young: As far as we are aware, our members have all managed to stay healthy. I personally could really go for some of those precedented times again.
Tell us about you, your career, how you joined Protospace.
Scott Young: I joined Protospace at an open house event about 5 and a half years ago. I wanted to find a place like this for years but I had not ever heard of a makerspace. I have learned a huge variety of things from home brewing and soap making to using a metal lathe and CNC mill.
How does Protospace innovate?
Scott Young: We offer extremely affordable access to a huge variety of tools and equipment, as well as a fantastic community of knowledgeable members. You would be hard-pressed to find something you couldn’t make or learn about at Protospace.
We have tools of every flavor, from traditional woodworking to metal casting and machining to robotics, 3D printers, and laser cutters. We have just gotten a large CNC router and a CNC embroidery machine to help round out our sewing and textile area.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business and how are you coping?
Scott Young: We have had to close for several months. We have closed again currently. We have lost a significant amount of members and will likely lose more before this is over. We are lucky to have a group of members who believe in our space and continue to help us stay afloat.
Did you have to make difficult choices and what are the lessons learned?
Scott Young: We have not had to make any cuts or changes yet. We are entirely volunteer-run as an organization which really helps keep our bills and membership dues low. I don’t know if being a low-cost space for people to enjoy will balance out the people who can’t afford to keep being members.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Scott Young: We have generally been frugal as a company and had some emergency funds to weather this. We also have taken on very little debt over the years which helped. Our members have been using social media and virtual meeting services to stay in touch and help each other out along the way which is one of the biggest values of our community.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Scott Young: We don’t really have much by way of competition. The only other space similar to us in our city is a for-profit space with a very different structure and catering to a bit different set of people. There are plenty of non-profit makerspaces in other towns and cities and we are on friendly terms with lots of them. We have members who have moved away and keep us posted about spaces in other towns provinces and countries, and we have members who have moved here from other countries and other makerspaces. The entire maker community is generally very friendly and supportive.
Your final thoughts?
Scott Young: Local community makerspaces are everywhere and offer an incredible service for all types of makers, inventors, and anyone who wants to get started creating.