Firstly, a big thank you to everyone who came to Make Day #4! It was our best attendance so far, full of new and familiar faces and people working on their projects. It’s really starting to feel like a community now, and that’s exactly what we set out to achieve. We’ll be doing it again in March (exact dates tbc) so we look forward to seeing you all again soon!
Meanwhile, we are continuing our search for a free (or nearly free) space to get us off the ground. Despite constant reassurances and encouraging noises, we’re still no closer to getting a hand-over date out of Network Rail for the Loughborough Junction site. Yet at the same time, attendance at our Make Days grows every time we hold one. It’s obvious that there are plenty of people out there keen to see South London Makerspace turned into a reality, but you all must be just as frustrated as we are by our persistent homelessness. We’re currently investigating a couple of promising leads in Crystal Palace and Tulse Hill, with the kind help of Lambeth councillors. With any luck, we’ll be able to bring you good news soon.
(No amount of photoshop can make spreadsheets exciting. I tried.)
44 people have now filled out our pledge form (and if you haven’t already, please do!). Between them, they’ve promised all sorts of tools and equipment, over £2,000 in start-up funds, and plan on paying an average of about £15 per month in membership fees. These numbers are very encouraging (thank you so much), and promise to put us in good shape just as soon as we open the doors. We have also been given access to historical records of the London Hackspace, showing approximate membership growth, income and expenditure right from their humble beginnings. With all that data in hand, we can make some encouraging projections about the future of SLM. Our conclusion from these projections is that we should ask for a “soft” minimum of £20 per month membership fee. Read on to see why.
First, a quick explanation of our method and assumptions:
We’re assuming that of the pledges made, we’ll actually receive half the funds and member sign-ups. That leaves us with a starting budget of £1000 and an income of about £75 per week from 22 initial members. London Hackspace grew at the rate of one person per week during their semi-private incubation period. We plan on being much more public with our launch, but have kept to this conservative growth rate in our model.
Here’s what happens if we take the results of the pledge survey and plug them into the model:
We find somewhere rent-free to incubate for 52 weeks. At the beginning, we spend several large chunks of money on tools and equipment. At the 52 week point, we have 70 members and enough saved up to pay a £2500 deposit for a commercially rented workshop. Our balance takes a nosedive and starts to drop even further as we pay the rent using savings. But the new, larger, permanent space puts a big bump in our growth rate to 3 people per week (for comparison, LHS have been growing at 4.5 people/week ever since moving into their first “proper” space). We eat into our savings for 6 months and can’t afford any other outgoings, but by the end of the year we’re starting to bank money again.
However, this plan is fragile. Just a small slip in our initial conditions could slow us down significantly or even kill the project. Here’s just two examples:
We start week 1 with only 15 members, find it hard to invest in the space and end up significantly in the red in year 2.
We get our expected 22 initial members, but our growth rate in year two isn’t as high as expected and we spend 9 months of it in debt.
However, in both cases, a simple increase in membership fees can save us from going broke. By raising the average membership by just £2.50, we get the following projections:
Reduced initial member numbers
Reduced growth rate in year 2
Both of which take us to the end of year two with a substantial amount of cash in the bank, which we can spend on high-quality tools and equipment for the space. We hope you agree that Plan B has a lot going for it. In order for it to work, we have to accommodate those who can’t afford the full rate. As a result we want to set the recommended membership amount at £20. Members will be allowed to pay more (yes please!) or less if their circumstances dictate it (we do not want to be exclusive), but if just half of the pledged member join up at the start and pay that much, then South London Makerspace has a bright, bright future.
You can help!
These charts were produced using a spreadsheet that you can play with yourself, if you have a Google account. Open this link, then create your own editable version by going to “File” then “Make a Copy”
What do you reckon? Can you improve our projections? What do you think the recommended membership fee should be? Are you aware of any useful spaces going unused? All feedback gladly welcomed – here or on facebook; remember, the space will be owned and run by You!