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.