712 Innovations is the region’s first combined makerspace and coworking space, located at 712 Kansas Ave. Jared Starkey, executive director, has been overseeing the construction and developing policies since the first of the year and 712 Innovations officially opened the first week of February. Jared is an active entrepreneur and owner of LAMP Development and was heavily involved in the organization and fundraising for 712 Innovations. He also led the volunteer group “Ad Astra Labs” in their efforts to build Topeka’s first makerspace, which is now part of 712 Innovations.
So what is a cowork / makerspace and why is this new business monumental to our community?
Coworking spaces are created for individuals who want to make the leap into self-employment by offering space that is palatable to an emerging entrepreneurs’ wallet, as well as an environment that is more productive and professional than the neighborhood coffee shop.
Makerspaces aim to enable creative and engineering minded individuals by providing tools out of the average “garage tinkerer” price range under one roof. 712 Innovations opened with tools from a CO2 Laser Cutter and 3D Printer, to a computer aided milling machine that can rapidly fabricate hard-to-build parts.
712 Innovations will be a hub for entrepreneurs, students, artists and small businesses to come together and work in a community environment to enhance creativity, decrease costs and share in the access of tools, office space, expertise and more. Beyond the coworker space, makerspace encourages members to pursue creative ideas, create prototypes and products – resulting in market-ready business opportunities that go beyond the walls of our area code. The 5,000 square-foot creative space will it also fully utilize economic and workforce development benefits that our community offers through Washburn, Topeka Shawnee County Public Library, the Chamber and more.
It’s a place that offers opportunities for people to turn their dreams into reality while getting help making the next big product or even just testing ideas.
To further convey the significance of this recent ribbon cutting…let’s quickly rewind four years. A simple search, you’ll find an article in seveneightfive by Rio Cervantes-Reed summarizing a trip that Zach Snethen, HTK Architects (and project manager for 712’s rehab) and myself took in fall 2011 to Greenville, South Carolina as part of the Greater Topeka Chamber of Commerce intercity visit. During our visit, Zach and I took a side-trip to a CoWorker Project and immediately recognized the power this low-cost, high productivity and creative cowork space could have on our emerging entrepreneurial community. In fact, it arguably was one the impetus for creative conversations between other locals such as Karl Fundenberger and Matt Gassen. To see the Topeka business community band behind the idea and see it come to fruition in less than five years, is encouraging and speaks volumes to our cities entrepreneurial spirit and focus on retaining young talent.
A large chunk of funding ($156,000) for 712 Innovations came from GO Topeka, with JEDO’s approval. GO Topeka is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and 712 Innovations is the regions first attempt to combine coworking space with makerspace.
Membership range from $50 per month to $650, applications are available online along with the perks and services from each.