Joanie has a conversation with Jamie Leben, serial entrepreneur and co-founder of the Loveland Makerspace. A self-proclaimed nerd, Jamie has developed from a socially awkward kid to a community builder. He has a strong sales background as well. As a community leader, he exhibits humility, gratitude, teamwork, and giving.
Q: What is a Makerspace?
“It’s simply a community workshop. Makerspaces have been around for roughly twenty years, worldwide, starting back in Berlin and MIT, for example. You’ll also hear the term ‘hackerspace’. It’s a place where we do our best to make access to prohibitive tools, a workspace, and a community of people working on projects and hopefully motiving each other. We make that accessible physically and economically as well. The Makerspace is a volunteer project of mine. It’s my volunteer passion project.”
Q: Why is the Makerspace such a growing phenomenon globally?
“There’s been such a development in technology and tools. Computer controlled machines have come down in price such that most people can pool together to afford them, but they are often too large to fit in a person’s house. We pool resources to share tools. The resources are also available to the community.”
Q: What people challenges come up at your Makerspace?
“We have people of all ages, some very smart people, people who are very good with mechanical tools, some people on the spectrum. There’s interaction between people with different perspectives. In return of all that ferment and the different personalities, you get some wonderful things that come out of it.”
“For instance, our Makerspace has birthed several companies. It’s like a ‘try before you buy.’ You might think, ‘I’ve worked with this person on volunteer projects and I know I can spend hours a day grinding away on something that makes us success and I might like working with this person.’”
Q: How do you create an environment where people want to interact with each other across traditional boundaries, like age and culture?
“They look for hierarchy. I say, ‘no this is our place.’ We have a do-ocracy. We do things. This is our community, if you see something you want to engage in, please do it.”
Q: What kinds of conflicts have come up and how did you move through them?
“This is an interesting challenge. Sometimes it’s a case-by-case basis. If I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it, my colleague being able to take it on and deal with it is important. It is a team effort.”
“The first rule of the Makerspace is The Golden Rule, or ‘don’t be a jerk.’ Having the diverse experience and backgrounds of people who can say ‘I’ve got this, I’ve seen this before, let me give this a try’ helps in dealing with conflicts that arise.”
To hear more about Makerspaces, the benefits from being a member of one, and the joys and challenges of leading one, listen to the episode.
Words of Wisdom:
“You have things to share with me, I have things to share with you.”
“Surround yourself with smarter people and listen to them.”
“Be a mentor, not a hero.”
“Being able to laugh at yourself really helps.”