People who make stuff are both trendy and an emerging boost to the economy. One in three people who make products themselves, ranging from Lego replacement pieces to engineering systems, earn money from their efforts.
And 46% of income/commerce makers say their making activity is or is likely to be their job; 20% actually have maker jobs now, while 25% said that making things would be their job in the future, according to the Maker Market Study and Media Report.
Now, GE is inviting them to tinker in their garage. Experience design firm Sub Rosa and GE are launching the “GE Garages” event platform consisting of workshops and programming that offers participants hands-on access to advanced technologies (think 3D printers and laser cutters) and raw industrial materials via mentored prototyping and instructional learning.
"GE asked themselves the self-defining question of what would innovation and invention mean in the 21st Century?" said Jeff Kempler, COO, Sub Rosa. "It isn't a closed wall business, but rather a permeable place where like-minded individuals can come together to create, design and innovate."
The concept initially launched at SXSWi in 2012 with an event that included everyone from the founder of Tumblr to a 13-year-old girl who designed a bike rack for her school. After that, “Garages” expanded to local colleges, including Rice University and the Maker Faire in San Francisco.
Now, “GE Garages” has opened a location in Washington DC running through April. "We really shifted from an idea to creating a viable prototype to now enable people to develop on-going skills that can help them move into a new career path," says Kempler. The experience also now focuses more on the end result. Experts from Tech Cocktail, Local Motors and the United States Patent and Trademark Office will be on hand to address questions and troubleshoot throughout the ideation process.
At the same time, NY-based Sub Rosa and GE want to position “Garages” as another TED-type platform. The project isn't entirely a charitable cause, but GE isn't focused on monetizing its efforts just yet. "We want to become a brand that enables people to self-organize by offering open-source initiatives," says Kempler. As such, the “Garage-In-A-Box” concept includes digital assets as well as providing partner contact information and ways for potential organizers to obtain necessary gear, such as welder equipment. Therefore, anyone can open a garage in their local community.
GE and Sub Rosa have been focused on introducing online efforts - such as lessons, tutorials, and tools - that enable people to participate beyond the physical garage location. "Many of our participants have 9-to-5 jobs so it is hard for them to visit when they have work," says Kempler. Plus, "it's no good if your project will take a week to complete but we are only open for three days."
Ultimately, “Garages” will grow beyond the physical location to become a multi-channel, multi-faceted collaborative community.
International expansion is in the works. GE and Sub Rosa are planning to open a shop in Africa later this year.