Business

"Visit to Vila Nova de Famalicão in Portugal"

I’ve just got back from a short trip to the “Textile City” of Vila Nova de Famalicão in Portugal – as it might be of interest to other members of the DoES Liverpool community, I’ve written this short blog about the visit. If there’s anything you want to know more about, get in touch – I’ve got contact details for all the companies too.

I believe the first links between Liverpool and VNF came about when representatives from VNF including Komlan Gnamasti, Isaque Pinto and Augusto Lima attended the Liverpool International Business Festival in Jue this year, and that as a result Deputy Mayor Gary Millar was asked to bring a group of people out to Portugal to find out about the textile industry there, and to celebrate international day. I went as a representative of DoES Liverpool.

The other people who went were:

  • Chris Russell from Virrata Ltd, a company that help increase efficiency of manufacturing processes
  • Chris Warren from the Fashion Hub
  • Fiona Armstrong-Gibbs representing LJMU and Baltic Creative (I was particularly interested to talk to her about a project involving 3D printed shoes she’s been involved in
  • Janice Egerton from Hope University
  • Suzy Jennions representing Try and Lily and the Fabric District
  • Mihaela Giuiu and James Darne, both fashion MA students at LJMU

We were also joined by representatives of the British Chamber of Commerce in Portugal.

Wednesday 24 October

I arrived in the evening along with Gary Millar and Chris Warren. We met up with the others in the centre of Porto and went on a quick sightseeing trip. It definitely deserves a longer trip sometime.

Clockwise from bottom left: tower of the Clérigos Church, a Porto street, and views of a street and the river Douro from the church

We then visited a shop called ‘meia.dúzia’ which sells a large range of different flavoured jams, honeys, and olive pastes in tubes – the owner was apparently inspired by the tubes used for oil paints, and the business is a successful graduate of the VNF incubator program. We tasted a selection of jams, along with cheeses and cold meats.

Clockwise from bottom: Selection of jams in tubes, group photo, olive pastes on bread

After that we went to a lovely restaurant en route to our accomodation in VNF.

Thursday 25 October

After breakfast, the coach took us to the town hall square to have our picture taken with the mayor,  followed by a visit to the offices of the incubator program for a presentation about the textile industry in VNF. It was very interesting to find out about how the textile industry was an integral part of the community and the major local employer, and also worked to involve students while they were still at school, and on pre-university placements.

Top: members of the Liverpool group with the mayor and VNF representatives, Bottom: watching presentation

Then it was off to visit the incubator businesses, which are housed in a building belonging to the Riopele textile company. Businesses can stay in the incubator for up to 2 years before moving on to stage 2 accommodation. I can’t remember what the rent was, but everyone was surprised at how low it was. There were several software companies, along with textile-related businesses including one producing streetwear  and another that acted as an agent arranging different types of sportswear manufacturing.

From bottom left: Gary Millar with t shirt (spun, woven, sewn and printed in VNF), Kortex software banner (use of OSB typical of incubators!), talking with developers, incubator signage

Following our visit to the incubator, a private/public partnership, we moved on to visit a more traditional part of the Riopele textile company, a factory employing more than 1000 people, of a type that has become rare in the UK.

Riopele was formed in 1927 and is still run by a member of the founding family. It’s a vertical producer so does everything from spinning, weaving, dyeing and applying finishes to producing finished clothes. 96% of its output goes directly to export, with the remaining 4% going to other Portuguese producers who then export their output! We were able to see the production and quality control process, before moving on to a presentation, visit to the design studio, and working lunch in the board room.

From bottom left: Dyeing machines, also dyeing machines, QR discussion, general introduction

From bottom left: part of a laser-controlled colour mixer, chief designer with fabric swatches, more fabric swathes, lunch

Group photo outside the Riopele factory before leaving

Following lunch, we moved on to  AAC Textiles, a production and development studio for high end brands. As well as interesting fabrics, finishes and embroideries, members of the group found elements of the interior design inspiring.

From left: AAC sign, inspiring quote in polystyrene, and table

Left: Embroidery examples, Right: Large flower skull hanging in stairwell

After AAC, we got back on the coach and moved on to the textile and nanotech research centres of citeve and CeNTI. These are housed in the same large building complex. After a presentation on their facilities (we’ll be getting a copy of the slides later if anyone needs more information on what they do), we were shown round both facilities.

citeve and CeNTI logos

Citeve run annual fashion design competitions on the themes of recycling and tech (maybe something DoES Liverpool could get involved in!).

Entries to a previous year’s competition involving recycling materials

Entries to iTechStyle awards

Following the presentations we visited the labs, and facilities that could be used by students – in many cases the equipment mirrored that which we’d seen earlier in the factory.

Clockwise from bottom left: long corridor (lots of labs on either side), view through window of lab, room with fire testing dummy, cork coated cotton fibre

Equipment available for use by students

We were able to see some of CeNTI’s work with screenprinted conductive and electroluminescent materials. These produced flexible and unobtrusive circuits that could be used in car textiles, for example. CeNTI works with companies, including startups, to produce small volumes of product, for proof of concept etc.

Flexible and screenprinted circuits produced by CeNTI

The two Fashion MA students who were with us were very interested in getting placements in CeNTI, AAC or Riopele and it looks like they might be able to.

Once we’d finished at CeNTI, we went back to the town hall for International Day celebrations: in addition to the Liverpool contigent, there were representatives from the town in Galicia, Spain where Inditex (owners of Zara) are based, and a large group of French students.

People who had moved to VNF from other places talked about their experiences, as well as those who had moved away but still had good memories.

Komlan, who arranged our trip, is from Togo, and put on a traditional shirt. He’s married to a Portuguese woman and has a Languages company in VNF. Sandy from East Kilbride, also moved to be with his wife. He was involved in the Manchester music scene before moving to VNF and performed several songs.

Komlan and Sandy

There were more speeches; from the Spanish mayor (in Spanish), from Gary Millar, and from the mayor of VNF, then all the members of the partnership got up to take a bow. Then there was one more group photo opportunity for us (I don’t think I’ve actually included all of them here!) and Gary presented the mayor of VNF with some music produced at Parr Street Studios, before we left for another great restaurant meal.

Last group photo of the trip

Gary making a presentation to the mayor of VNF

Evening meal

Friday 26 October

On Friday morning we left early to get the flight back to Manchester (several people made the sensible choice to fly back to Liverpool later and had time to do some more sightseeing in Porto).

Definitely a worthwhile trip, and with several possible areas of interest for DoES Liverpool. I will try to follow up the flexible, printable electronics at CeNTI.

Although there was a lot of textiles-related equipment available to students, there didn’t seem to be anything like a maker space with a wider range of equipment and available to more people (at least we weren’t shown anything like that).

As several members of the Liverpool group pointed out, it would be difficult to implant something like DoES Liverpool, which has grown organically over quite a long time, in a new location, but maybe we do have experience that could help others.

A group from VNF are likely to be visiting Liverpool in February, so maybe we can come up with some interesting ideas for collaborations before then.

 

"Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems"

What a difference a year makes. When I wrote last year about DoES Liverpool’s finances we were celebrating six years in business, we had ten thousand pounds in our bank account and were expecting to make a profit for the year. We were also in something of a precarious position regarding our lease in the Gostins Building and were considering a move that could be a great opportunity but would also be a bigger outlay. We also seemed to find ourselves in a real downturn in terms of desks being rented and were unsure of whether we could get ourselves out of that hole. So, where are we now?

Well, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you should know that we *did* take the great opportunity and have moved into a fantastic space in the newly christened Fabric District. To make this possible we had to make sure we would have some new tenants. It turns out that there was at least a couple of people that would have loved to move in with us if it wasn’t for the awful state of the Gostins building! We also made friends with Find Out Digital, very interesting people who are setting up Liverpool’s first dedicated space for user experience testing and who agreed to rent an entire room from us. The space we took was mostly a stripped back shell in an old industrial building so it required some investment to get it laid out in a way that would work best for us. It felt good that we had managed to save up £10k over the previous years meaning that we could make the minimum of the necessary changes to the layout using our own money. To make the space truly great was going to take more money and that’s where you all came in. Our amazing community managed to raise £5000 in a matter of weeks and took us to a grand total of £7580 in less than a month!

A short refit later and we’re reaching the stars and rolling in money! Well.. not quite. This being the real world there has been complications. We’re waiting for the VOA to survey the newly split up building to enable the council to charge each tenant business rates separately and that has meant some expense for us. We’ve also had to consider whether to install sound proofing under our floors which has slowed us installing carpets. Not to mention the fact that we’re now responsible for a bigger space and have to deal with cleaning our own toilets, getting our bins emptied and various other chores and expenses which we just didn’t have to worry about in the old space.

That said, we’re not doing badly. Everybody that comes into the space loves it and seems to think we’ve done a great job with the layout, allowing workshop users and desk users to mingle a lot more, and providing much bigger spaces to work from, whilst still offering the best public workshop facilities in the city. Our lovely big events room is starting to prove popular, we’ve had Chase Johnson-Lynch in twice a week over the summer delivering courses on Scene Directing and Online Radio Production and we’re getting regular bookings from people wanting to use the room. We’ve also had more new people coming in, trying us out, and loving what we have to offer.

As far as regular anticipated income is concerned we’re currently hovering around the break-even point so we definitely need more people coming in. Whether that’s booking the events room, signing up one of our monthly plans, or even just popping in for a hot desk day from time to time it all helps. There’s still things we need to do to get the space just how we want it (did I mention carpets?!), also with the increased maintenance required by the bigger space we’d really like to get to the point where we can employ more staff, potentially even having a member of staff working 9-5 every day. We can only do that if we get more people coming in and using our services though so spread the word!

Let’s get into some more numbers. Last time I started with a table of our accounts showing profit and loss and suggested that though we’d made a loss the previous year we were expecting to make a profit in the year that had just ended – 2016-2017. As you’ll see below once the accountant crunched the numbers properly that was correct and we actually made a profit of a few thousand pounds. Though our income had actually dropped, we had become eligible for business rates relief as a small business so our outgoings had also dropped.

Financial Year Income Outgoings Profit/Loss
2016-2017 £35,349 £31,840 £3,448
2015-2016 £38,314 £39,219 £-905
2014-2015 £34,770 £31,730 £3,040
2013-2014 £28,757 £27,755 £1,002
2012-2013 £29,146 £24,455 £4,691
2011-2012 £20,771 £17,104 £3,667

We made a profit again, go us!

For this year just finished, 2017-2018, it’s obviously been an investment year. All of that money we had in the bank has been put towards renovating our new space. FreeAgent is saying we’ve made about £42,000 over the year but overall will have made a loss of almost £10k which.. is entirely unsurprising. I’ll repeat that IANAA (I am not an accountant) so the exact figures that show up in our official accounts may be different, for instance £42k would appear to be our highest turnover so far, but then FreeAgent reports we made £43k in the 2015-2016 year. FreeAgent and our accountant use different criteria to judge which accounting period transactions can show up in so things tend to come out a little differently.

Last year the finances looked great but the income didn’t look so great. Fortunately this year it’s mostly the other way around, here’s the graph of permanent desk income (I’ve had to make it total income rather than number of desks due to the way it’s dealing with the member discounts):

Permanent Desks 07/2017 – 06/2018

As you can see we managed to halt the downward slope and have managed to get things going mostly in the right direction. I’ve chopped that graph off in June so that it matches last year’s but we have had another sign up since then.

Last year I mentioned that Workshop membership had had an upturn and that has continued over the last year and since we’ve moved into our new space:

Workshop Membership 07/2017 – 06/2018

We also introduced a new thing in the past year of “Flexidesk” allowing people who know they’ll want to be in multiple times over the course of a month, whilst not quite requiring a full permanent desk, the option to pay a regular monthly payment and then not worry about exactly how many days or hours they’re using up. This is basically the office equivalent of the workshop membership that we’ve always had. The take-up for that has only really started since we’ve moved but this option is starting to prove popular too.

Last year I showed some graphs of our income distribution too. I’ve improved them for this year so that they span the accounting years. This means we don’t have the first and last of the bars only covering half a year. One problem with these graphs is they only work with income that is the result of an invoice so they will miss many of the cash payments that we take without a corresponding invoice (they just get listed in petty cash). Next year I’d quite like to improve the graph so that this is taken into account, I might have done it this year but I’m already very late with this blog post so I’m going to have to leave it! I definitely think it’s making a larger difference in the graph for this year, partly because the crowdfunding income isn’t showing up, but given we made £42,000 in the year and the graph below stops around £29,000 there’s still another 6 left out (I’m glad to say around £2,000 of that appears to be Friends of DoES!). Anyway, on to the graphs:

Income categorised, as a percentage, 2011-2018

I’m largely including this graph because I did last year and because splitting by financial year should improve it a little. You can see that the proportion of our income from permanent desk has dropped a good bit, other things staying reasonably stable although we pretty much didn’t manage to make anything from event hire. You do see some new entrants on the right with the brownish bar being the sublet room rental and the thin orange being the Flexidesk, hopefully that’ll show up more this year!

Income categorised, 2011-2018

This graph is a bit more stark! Really I’m tempted to include some of this year’s numbers so that you don’t get too nervous! I’m glad to say though that things have definitely improved somewhat. Comparing this graph with last year’s that used calendar years it’s quite interesting to note a few changes, for instance that we took quite a lot of money from event funding in that first year. This also increases the amount that we took in from hot desk days in that first financial year, so while that apparently took a little while, it did start to take off even in those early days.

Again for completeness I’ll take out the permanent desks so that you can see the breakdown of other income a bit better:

Income categorised, no permanent desks, 2011-2018

Again not too many surprises here. One thing I haven’t mentioned much so far is our registered business address or mailbox service. This has continued to be successful and is certainly something that makes sense for DoES to continue with. It’s interesting that we have very little event funding and no event hire. With our lovely new event room becoming so popular that’s definitely going to change in next year’s graphs.

So… our seventh year was definitely eventful and as we plough through our eighth year in operation I’m glad to say we’re going from strength to strength. I sometimes think back to our old home in Gostins and imagine what people must have thought when they (you?) came in the door. If you had heard something of us before arriving you may have been surprised when you turned up to a slightly shabby office space in a slightly grotty building. We always had grand plans for what DoES Liverpool could and should be but it was difficult to reflect this in the Gostins building. I really feel that our new home in The Tapestry is a much better reflection of our aspirations and should really help to make sure that we’re taken more seriously in the future.

I was looking back at the blog post for our first birthday just now and came across this as the end:

Thank you to everyone who has helped and supported DoES Liverpool over the past year, we couldn’t do it without you, literally. DoES Liverpool’s services are paid for solely from people paying for our services, our running costs are not subsidised at all. So thanks to all of you friends, hot deskers, permies, workshop members, event sponsors, interns and everyone who has been involved in our events over the past year; here’s to great things in the future and hope to see you in DoES Liverpool soon!

This is as true now as it was then. So if you want to see us continue for another 7 years please do support us in whatever way you can! Whether that’s by paying for our services, becoming a Friend of DoES, or simply spreading the word.

One more thing that may interest some people reading this. A vacancy has opened up in our building, so if you are a larger business that wouldn’t fit into the space we have but would really like to be DoES adjacent – get in touch and we’ll pass your details onto Jason Abbott our landlord. In total there’s around 3500 square foot of space available across 3 areas with the potential to split, and there’s some lovely neighbours with some great equipment just upstairs 😊

Main room in DoES Liverpool combining coworking and workshop.

"DoES Liverpool Has Moved"

 

DoES Liverpool has now officially moved to The Tapestry building.  When we re-open following the Easter holiday, on Tuesday 3rd April 2018, our new address will be:

DoES Liverpool
1st Floor
The Tapestry
68 – 76 Kempston Street
Liverpool L3 8HL

Thank you so much to everyone who has helped so far. There’s still plenty of cleaning and arranging to be done but if you don’t mind a bit of dishevelment then you’re welcome to come along and take a look. Our internet connection is active and the coffee will be brewing so you should be able to get some work done, although there’s a decent chance someone might offer you a paintbrush or mop!

This does mean that from this point our new pricing scheme is in action, as mentioned previously that is as follows:

Description Price Member Price
Single Day
(Workshop* or Desk)
£12/day £10/day
Out of Hours Workshop £35/month £25/month
Monthly Workshop £65/month £50/month
Flexidesk £80/month £70/month
Monthly desk £180/month £165/month
Registered Address/Mailbox £99/year £79/year
Storage per cubic feet per month £3 £3

* – Gerald surcharge of £2/usage still applies

If you are interested in receiving the discounts mentioned above, or simply supporting our efforts, this page will show you how to become a member.

Any hot desk days you’ve previously bought are still valid in the new venue. If you have a permanent desk then we will work with you to determine where your new desk location will be. If you have monthly workshop membership then your storage box has been transferred and your membership continues in the new location.

If you have a registered address with us, please now update any records you have to use the following address:

Your Company
c/o DoES Liverpool
The Tapestry
68 – 76 Kempston Street
Liverpool L3 8HL

For the time being we will still be able to receive post at the Gostins Building but this will only be available for the next few months so we advise that you update your records as soon as possible.

As mentioned there’s still much to do so we don’t yet have glossy photos of our finished space, but below should give you a taster, together with the last moments in Gostins!

End. Of. An. Era. Goodbye Gostins, it’s been a fun 7 years. #weeknotes

A post shared by DoES Liverpool (@doesliverpool) on

"Money and ting"

Continuing our “DoES wants to move” season… we should probably start again with some background. DoES Liverpool was incorporated, after a few months of discussion, on the 10th June 2011. To speed things up we ended up asking an accountant to set up the company for us, as a result we ended up with a Community Interest Company limited by shares, with our articles of association declaring that we will operate as a non-profit. As it turns out we may have been better off setting the company up as “limited by guarantee”, we even suspect that this contributed to us being denied rates relief by the council, so we’re going to look into changing this probably as part of the general “move” process.

So, we’re a “not for profit”, does that mean we have to make a loss every year? Surely that means we’ll go out of business?! Actually no, the important thing is that any profit generated is reinvested in the company and the community rather than taken out by shareholders (which is why it would be easier if we didn’t actually have shareholders!) In fact DoES Liverpool was a profitable company from the start, with no real capital invested – just a small director’s loan which was quickly paid back – we really had no choice to survive any other way.

Until the most recent financial year that accounts have been prepared for DoES Liverpool has made a profit each and every year. That financial year we had to start paying business rates, including some that were back-dated, so it wasn’t a big surprise there was a small loss. We ended the year with plenty of money in the bank

Financial Year Income Outgoings Profit/Loss
2015-2016 £38,314 £39,219 £-905
2014-2015 £34,770 £31,730 £3,040
2013-2014 £28,757 £27,755 £1,002
2012-2013 £29,146 £24,455 £4,691
2011-2012 £20,771 £17,104 £3,667

(Note that IANAA – I Am Not An Accountant, I’ll do my best with the figures in this post but there’s a decent chance I’ll make mistakes)

FreeAgent is also reporting we’ve made £37,394 in our last year that ended 30th June 2017 and should make a profit, it doesn’t offset for deposits we’re holding so that might drop but looks like we held our own.

So it looks like we’re doing pretty well going from nothing to quickly reaching around £40k/year. Really though DoES isn’t trying to make vast sums of money, all we need is to pay the rent and to have enough money to buy useful equipment like 3D printers and laser cutters. In fact the rise in income was matched by a rise in outgoings so that would have been around the time we took on the separate workshop (and kitchen) and then Dinky, our events room.

Unfortunately, while our accounts paint a fairly rosy picture, our income has been dropping over the last 12 months hence our recent pushes to get more people. Hold onto your hats, as here’s a graph of permanent desk invoicing over the last 12 months:

Permanent Desks 07/2016 – 06/2017

We’ve seen rises and falls before, an especially big one a few years ago that we did manage to pull ourselves out of as you’ll see in this graph:

Permanent Desks 2011-2017

Permanent desks have always been our main source of income. In some ways they’re the easiest things for us to sell as they make the biggest impact on our finances, but they also result in bigger problems when people decide to move on. Here’s a graph showing our income broken down into categories:

Income categorised, as a percentage, 2011-2017

That makes it quite clear how much of our income comes from permanent desks. We’ve always had the hot desk and workshop membership options. Hot desking has always been popular but has never reached the levels of the permanent desks for proportion of income. Workshop membership wasn’t so popular initially but has more recently seen an upturn.

Taking out the permanent desks gives a richer break-down:

Income categorised, no permanent desks, 2011-2017

Bearing in mind that permanent desks have always provided over 60% of our revenue it’s still interesting to dig down into the other categories. Our first six months in 2011 actually seem to have involved a lot of funding for events. This isn’t a big surprise, we were excited to have a new space so we ran a BarCamp and probably a few other events. We were also being given money to support Maker Nights which certainly helped in those early days. It’s actually a shame we’re not running events so often these days so hopefully that’s something we’ll look at more in the new space.

It looks like hot desks have become a smaller proportion of our income and, workshop membership seems to be growing. You start to see our registered address mailbox service creeping in too in the recent years. While hot desks may be a smaller proportion they’re still a large part of our income as you can see from the following similar graphs which aren’t scaled to percentages.

Income categorised, no permanent desks, 2011-2017

Income categorised, no permanent desks, 2011-2017

These do show that our hot desk income seems to be dropping, this is something we have perhaps noticed but not taken quite as much notice of as we should. If we’d picked up on it earlier it could have been a warning sign towards the more recent drop off of permanent desks. What reasons might there be for this? Well there’s definitely a lot more competition for hot-desks and flexible lets in the city now compared to 6 years ago. Few of these spaces offer the same community feel you get in DoES but some do, and just the number of people offering similar services can make it tricky for DoES to stand out. We’re well aware that our current space isn’t the most aesthetically appealing but there was little scope for improving it in the building we’re currently in. Our new home will allow us to much improve our co-working offering, both in terms of the services we offer and improving the feel of the space, so we’re confident we can turn this around.

What’s probably not shown so well on that graph is that some of the hot desk visits will actually be people using the workshop. We’re definitely seeing the workshop getting regular use, especially on the two laser cutters but also on the other equipment like the 3D printers.

What else can we do? Well offering new types of service is one thing. The registered address service that we introduced just a few years ago is going well and is bringing in increasing amounts. Similarly the “Friends of DoES” option that came about because Francis Irving decided he wanted to help fund DoES but didn’t need any of the specific paid-for services we had at the time has also helped (unfortunately it doesn’t show up well in the graphs, it will be spread across Funding & Other due to the ways the payments come in). We can also look at bringing in more revenue from hosting events and meetings, our existing events room – Dinky – is quite rarely busy during the day so there’s a lot of scope for doing more with this. If you have an idea of a service DoES should be offering let us know.

We’ve also mentioned in the past about bringing whole companies in to DoES Liverpool, that’s still an option if we can find companies that are interested and would be a good fit with the DoES community. While this would have a bigger impact on our finances, similar to the permanent desks it also gives us a bigger dependency as losing that single client will cause a big drop in our income. One to be careful of but something we’re definitely considering (get in touch if you’d like to move in with us!)

So there you have it, DoES Liverpool is a company that has grown from nothing into a wonderful large community and a mostly profitable Community Interest Company. We’ve had some difficult times but we’ve managed to make our way out of them in the past and we’re quite sure we can do it again.

I actually began writing this blog post not long after promising it back in March and things have moved on a lot since then. While we’ve had the news that our building has definitely been sold and we have a more urgent need to move, we’ve also been able to find a great new home and are in the final stages of finalising that. In the next few weeks and months you can expect more blog posts with updates both on the new space and also on changes we might be making to our offerings to support it. I’m very excited for what the future holds and I hope you are too!


If you are interested in moving a small company in to DoES Liverpool or you would like to run an event in our delightful events room (named Dinky, after the toy cars born in Liverpool!) then simply send an email over to hello@doesliverpool.com. If you want to use the workshop or hot desk then you can mostly just turn up, although you’re quite welcome to fire an email over first. To use the laser cutters you will need to book a slot, and have an induction first.

If you just want to give DoES money to help us make this happen then that’s always an option too! We always appreciate our Friends who donate £9/month by standing order or via PayPal.

 

"Taming the Backlog…"

Featured image: Lego_messy_desk by pasukaru76 via Wikipedia CC-BY 2.0

To keep track of the various tasks, suggestions and issues that arise day-to-day, DoES uses an issue tracker in a GitHub project called “somebody-should” …and it’s turned in to a monster backlog!

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been poking around trying to tame it…

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"DoES Liverpool Wants to Move"

DoES Liverpool is readying a move to new premises and we’re going to need your help to do it. But first, let me tell you a story…

Five years ago, a group of six friends started an experiment.  They thought that a space to learn, work, and play with new technology and tools, and alongside others with similar interests, could help everyone in the city do epic shit.  They founded DoES Liverpool and took on a thousand square feet of space in Gostins.  It was one of the first wave of makerspaces and hackspaces founded across the country, and has always had a focus on diversity – of interests and of the sort of people using the space: hobbyists, freelancers and businesses.

Come to DoES Liverpool, we have cupboards!

They had big ambitions.  Believing that the best way to get a company like Google to open an office in Liverpool is to grow a company like Google within Liverpool.  However, that ambition is always tempered by a realism of what can be achieved at a given point in time; not because they’re happy to settle for less, but because of a belief that better living through technology is a journey rather than a destination and they’re in it for the long haul!

The open plains of early DoES Liverpool, where obviously the CNC mill is next to the coffee machine and printer.

In the five and a half years since setting up the DoES Liverpool space our community have been involved in some really great projects. If you follow our #weeknotes blog posts you’ll already know but we hack our lives, and the lives of others. Making efficient wave energy happen. The Wheredial to keep in touch with loved ones. A 12 year old girl 3D printing the new hand she designed and customised herself. 3D printed quad-copters, and rolling out technology tackling loneliness in older people.

DoES Liverpool has expanded a number of times over the years, taking on a dedicated workshop and then an events space but we’ve hit the limits of what the Gostins Building can offer and it’s time for a change.

By moving to a new home we are aiming to make big changes to what our community can do within our walls. We want to expand our workshop to fit more people in and to house more exciting equipment. We want to expand our co-working to let more hot-deskers and small companies join us. We want to make it easier for people to work to their own hours, allowing 24/7 access too. We also want DoES Liverpool to be an inviting space that people really want to visit, with considered aesthetics and a warm, welcoming vibe.

See, we can do aesthetics! (Ignore the cables!)

To put some numbers on it, we currently reside in approximately 2000 square feet of space in the Gostins building. We have decided that to make a move worthwhile the minimum space that will let us grow to support the community in the ways we want is 4000 square feet. We currently get a great rate for our rent so anywhere we move to is going to cost more, in fact more than double (pretty obviously given the size increase!) DoES has never relied on external funding for our running costs, instead charging a reasonable sum for services. This means that to be able to afford a new, bigger, space we have to be sure that it’s going to generate the income we need.

What do we need to make this happen? What can you do to help? Well the best thing you can do is to start making use of our services. If you’ve been thinking of taking a permanent desk, we have some available already in our current home. If you’ve been thinking of taking workshop membership then get in touch. Even if you just want to start popping in once a week or once a month, it will all help.

As our new space is going to be substantially bigger we intend to welcome in small companies too, around 5-10 people in a self-contained room for example. Obviously we would struggle to accommodate you now but if working alongside the DoES Liverpool community with regular access to our workshop is something that interests you then get in touch. Knowing that you’ll be joining us could make the difference.

We have lots of chairs!

While we do have a few viable options, if you know somewhere that could be ideal for DoES then we’re still open to suggestions. We need a minimum of 4000 square feet but would be happy with more, cost permitting. We’re not a fan of strings (except when they’re CNC controlled and drawing pretty pictures) so offers of space that are dependent on promises we can’t meet or that restrict who we can allow into the space are not going to cut it.

If you just want to give DoES money to help us make this happen then that’s always an option too! We always appreciate our Friends (who donate £9/month by standing order and PayPal) and we’re planning to run a Kickstarter campaign once we have a better idea of overall costs so there’ll be opportunities to help there too.

We have fantastic ideas for where we can take DoES in the future and we’d love to fill you in so we’re going to follow this post up very soon with some detail on that. For those who are really interested in the numbers we’ll also follow up with more detail about what we’ve been paying and how much we’ve been making over the years.

And what will we do when we get our new space? Well more Epic Shit of course! More 3D printed prosthetics, more laser cut artworks, more apps, more electronics, more cake, and of course.. more bubbles!

Not all of our desks are this small

 

"Finances Update, and Price Rises"

It’s been a couple of weeks since the start of our recruitment drive, so an update is in order.

There have been some promising developments, and a few things kicked off which should bear fruit in a while, but there’s still a decent amount to do to get back on track.

Thank You!

Since the call went out, we’ve gained six new friends, two more business address accounts and three new workshop members, which straight away takes us a sixth of the way towards our target.

Thanks, all of you.

Difficult Decisions

We’ve also had a couple of meetings to work things out.

Mark W arranged a meeting to discuss ways to help promote the space, which threw up some useful new ideas, and gained some more hands to help with things that are a work-in-progress. Minutes/notes from the session are on the wiki.

We also called a Directors and Organisers meeting, to explore worst-case scenarios and ensure that we take steps to avoid such outcomes. There were two key decisions made at that meeting:

Firstly, we decided that – unless our finances improve dramatically by the end of the year – we’d have to give up Dinky, the event room. Given that most of our outgoings are on rent, losing rooms is the main way we can reduce our costs; and Dinky is the obvious, if painful choice as it brings in comparatively little income. With your help, we’ve got three months to turn things around.

Secondly, from 1st November we’re going to raise some of our prices, for the first time since we opened over three years ago.

Our daily price – for hot-desking and workshop access – is going up to £10/day. That will have the benefit of separating the full-time and daily prices more, to make people more likely to switch to full-time desks. Obviously, any hot-desk days you’ve already purchased, but not used, will still be at the old price; and to help current hot-deskers with the transition, you’re welcome to purchase a generous block of days at the current price until the end of the month.

The monthly workshop membership is also going up to £50/month. We’d like to thank our existing workshop members by keeping the old price for them until the end of the year.

Finally, we’re bringing in a charge for laser-cutter inductions. Getting inducted during Maker Night or Maker Day will of course remain free, but if you need someone to show you how to use the laser-cutters during office hours, there’ll be a £20 charge.

Keep spreading the word.

"Building a Self Sustaining Community Space"

DoES Liverpool is three years old! Over these three years we’ve gone from 6 people who thought it might be an interesting idea to set up a shared space for co-working and making stuff to a much bigger community including great tech startups, published authors, internationally recognised conference speakers, and awesome moustaches (and all that’s just Adrian).

It’s been mainly good times during these years but we’ve also had some difficult times. We’re getting to a tricky time at the moment so please read on to the end to hear more about that, but first…

A Little History

Actually DoES Liverpool did exist as more than 6 people before we opened “DoES Liverpool” the space. We had already been running “Maker Night” at the Art & Design Academy (now the John Lennon Art & Design building) at Liverpool John Moores University. These events were great and their popularity helped to confirm that there would be a market for a co-working and maker space in Liverpool.

Setting up a new company and opening a physical space was always going to be a big step though. It’s one thing to run some free events in a space graciously provided to us, but in DoES Liverpool we wanted to build something important, something that would change the landscape of Liverpool and Liverpool’s position in the world (as Adrian says – return Liverpool to it’s rightful place at the top!)

One of the earliest decisions we made was how to fund the space. As we were looking to nurture a community, and one of the ways we might be doing this would be running events, it was tempting to look for funding. Many times we were told “there’s easy funding out there, you just need to apply for it” but we’d also heard of experiences from other people running similar spaces that funding led to paperwork, and could easily cause you to change your mission to match what the funders would be looking for.

On the other hand four of us in the community were already paying around £120/month for a desk in a small office. We realised that it may actually be possible, and more scalable, to build a business charging people money in exchange for services.

We knew straight away that before we could go ahead with the plan, we had to make sure that we had enough people paying for services so that we could afford to pay our outgoings. In the end we did cheat a little. ScraperWiki (one of those aforementioned “great tech startups”) donated £300 and OpenLabs (John Moores University’s team of startup action men & women) donated £175/month for the first 3 months but these really were just going to help us get started and we knew straight away that we had to have a sustainable business or it wasn’t going to last very long.

We moved into our new home in the Gostins Building on Hanover Street in central Liverpool on the 8th July and opened our doors to the public just a week later. Not long after we’d sent out our first invoice for 10 days of hot desking (thanks Chris!) and a short while after that welcomed our first two new permanent desk members. From that moment on we haven’t looked back, we’ve made new friends and welcomed new people into our space. From that point we’ve been consistently profitable, well almost…

Making a Profit

Although we’ve asked for sponsorship when we’ve put on specific events, such as BarCamp Liverpool or Howduino, beyond those first donations we’ve never asked for outside funding to cover the general running costs of DoES Liverpool. All of our costs are covered by the services we provide. We have tried to keep our list of services short and simple: permanent desks, hot desks and workshop access, but have recently extended this to include a registered postal address service.

Originally, when looking at our finances and balancing the books, we tended to only consider the permanent desks. At £150/month and reasonably stable they were a lot easier to consider than the hot desks which could be so variable. However when we did eventually look at the hot desk figures – by adding up all the revenue and dividing over the number of months we’d been running – it turned out that we were making £150/month, so equivalent to an entire permanent desk, not to be sniffed at.

Francis Irving decided 2 years ago that he wanted to pay us £9/month as a “Friend of DoES”. He saw that, while he was an active member of the community, attending events and participating on the mailing list, we didn’t actually offer him a service that he could pay for. Others followed suit, many set up a standing order and pay each month but some people donate a few months at once. While £9/month may not seem like a huge amount it does add up. Since Francis suggested the idea we’ve had 169 “Friend of DoES” payments, amounting to over £1500 in donations. That’s pretty awesome, thank you Francis for starting this and thank you to all of the friends that have donated.

Down to Brass Tacks

This blog post was inspired by a recent conversation on the mailing list in which Karl Ablitt – who’s looking to set up a hackerspace in Norwich – asked for some information about DoES Liverpool. My response went into some of the information above and also gave a run-down on the current state of DoES’s finances. Adrian’s response suggested that it would be useful for there to be more visibility on these numbers and that led to this blog post.

So here’s our income:

Hot desks (avg) £193.95
Permanent desks £1,200.00
Workshop £60.00
Friends £114.75
Events £50.00
Petty Cash £125.00
£1,743.70

And our outgoings:

Main rooms rent £850.00
Workshop £324.00
New Dinky rent £350.00
Electricity (approx) £150.00
Phone & Internet £175.03
Sundries £200.00
Recycling £16.20
TiR £150.00
Cleaning £40.00
Hosted Services £38.80
Admin Role £292.93
Laser Payments £150.00
£2736.96

You will probably notice that one of these is actually bigger than the other. If you’re even sharper-eyed, you’ll spot that it’s not the good way round. For most businesses that would be a sign that things aren’t going right, but as with many things relating to DoES Liverpool it isn’t quite that simple.

Our mission isn’t to fill a certain square footage with paying desks, nor provide a laser-cutting bureau. We have a bigger aim – providing what Liverpool’s tech, maker and startup community needs to prosper.

What does success look like then?

It could be a business using the laser-cutter to prove the market for their jewellry, and growing it to the point where they can justify buying their own machine. Or a startup forming from a few hot-deskers getting to know each other, and then heading off to focus on their idea at an accelerator programme. Or a startup using DoES as a base until they get their own office. Or local businesses finding talented freelancers who join them on-site for a few months to help both business and freelancer thrive.

There are other definitions of success for the DoES community, but we highlight those for a reason – all result in people giving up workshop membership, full-time desks or hot-desking, even if only for a while.

Normally it isn’t a problem, but over the summer we’ve had a few of those coincide with some growing pains which had already pushed our costs up to just over our income.

The admin support that Sean is providing is proving really helpful, and we’d hit the limits of our Internet connection so the new bonded line and router are still essential upgrades.

Obviously we need to address the shortfall, but rather than shrink our capacity, we’d rather ask the community to help us push through this to the next level.

How you can help

The best way you can help is to move in, then we get the benefit of your cash and your presence adding to the activity, conversations and connections being made – be that at a full-time desk, workshop membership or just as a frequent hot-desker.

If that doesn’t work for you, then consider becoming a Friend of DoES or setting up a regular donation. We always appreciate any donations, no matter how small… or large 😉

Everyone can help get word out about what’s available at DoES – tell your friends who are looking for a desk, or who might be interested in laser-cutting or 3D printing. The more people who know about us, the better.

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