There’s one thing every would-be inventor needs to get their ideas off of paper and into reality, and it’s often the thing that’s hardest to come by: tools.
From wood and metalworking to computer programs and testing areas, it takes a lot of hands-on work to get an invention going. The founders of California-based TechShop realized this problem, and solved it.
“TechShop was started in 2006 and it was really built out of (founder Jim Newton’s) personal need to have access to tools,” explained CEO Mark Hatch, who joined the company in 2007. “But he didn’t want to have to do work for other people to pay for those tools.”
And for a membership fee of around $100 per month, thousands of artists, entrepreneurs, tinkerers and hobbyists now use TechShop for that same reason: access to more than $1 million worth of high-quality machines, tools and design software–without anyone telling them what to build, or how to do it.
The shops have resulted in some impressive inventions, too–including “everything from small jewelry and T-shirts to literally the world’s fastest motorcycle,” said Hatch.
The company now has locations in Raleigh-Durham, NC; San Francisco, CA; San Jose, CA; and Allen Park, MI.
The newest of those is the location on Ford Land property, right on the border of Dearborn and Allen Park. Like many of the businesses in the area, TechShop’s metro Detroit location has ties to Ford Motor Company.
“Some visionaries at Ford has been thinking about trying to do something along these lines and saw an article about TechShop in the New York Times,” Hatch said. “We’re in metro Detroit because Ford wanted us there.”
As such, many of their nearly 600 members are Ford employees–engineers or plant workers looking to take their creativity to new places. They also partner with the Maker Faire at , and other clientele include community members of every variety, from Etsy artists to Italian-born instrument-maker Luciano Golia, who is coming to southeast Michigan full-time to use TechShop as the base for his work.
But even when incredible inventions come out of TechShop’s space, they don’t take credit.
“It’s not about us,” Hatch insisted. “It’s about what the people who use TechShop can do.”
“Our mission is to engage, enable and empower people to build their dreams.,” he added. “We’re building global innovation by giving them the tools of the industrial revolution, and when you give people access to these tools, they do amazing things.”
TechShop is one of three Dearborn businesses nominated for the Dearborn Chamber of Commerce's Innovative Business Award. The winner will be announced at the on April 26 at . Learn more at www.dearbornchamber.org.