Again, our experience is that its hard to get people in London to commit to it, until they have been through it, by which time they say things like “Just to say thank you for your help over the 6 weeks, it has been extremely useful to me.” and “Thank you for all the support you have given me on my project”
After a false start, we ran the first session in Machines Room, a maker space in the heart of Hackney on Vyner Street. The initial six became four as we moved into the second week, and a really interesting group of people started cooking up on their ideas.
Sam and his manufacturing matchmaking platform, bringing manufacturers and designers together – who we connected up with the Manufacturing group. Audra Dawes-Knowles, who’s initial business, reselling antique pins and delightful brooches is already going well, and who wanted to think through new ways of bringing her skills to people in some form. Chanelle has an existing and emerging product range which uses reclaimed leather for beautifully designed purses and bags. What she starts here is to not only make more ethically driven products, but also to connect them culturally to the African diaspora, with Stephanie from Clear Village was challenged with a new project aimed to bring making and youth together in an innovative way.
So what happened?
Through the 6 sessions we got to work both in the Machines Room and also in a local cafe The Hive, who demonstrates some of the art of multiple uses – that is to have a shop that doubles as a store for the stock you use everyday, and other products people might buy. I first saw one of these in the US, and have increasingly seems shops in the UK doing the same – whether it be the fresh bread or the oil used by a restaraunt, or tins of raw ingredients for something you might take home and make.
Ideas usually morph a little over the 6 weeks, either changing to something that feels more authentic and actually needed, or that vibe comes clearer as an idea. Whilst Sam’s and Chanelle’s’ ideas became more pronounced and articulated, Audra’s idea (she already has one business thriving here) became clear that her superpowers of selling things and being prepared were her uniqueness and also necessary skills for others. Now, how to make that delightful to participate in? For Stephanie, running a new community project with making, and her challenge was to give the project a clear form and break down how to get it to happen, and to compete with all of the attention grabbing activities that exist around young people. Stephanie wants to bring making directly to young people’s doorstep by establishing a pop-up maker space in their neighborhood and challenge them to invent and execute a project that can help improve the neighbourhood they live in.
Testing it all on the Market Stall
Finally we had a testing session – for Sam with makers from Machines Room and recruited for an idea testing session. For Audra, Stephanie and Chanelle we took it to the market – in fact to the new Well Street Market. Each brought an idea as a proposition to test on people at the market. For Sam it was about his idea, and understanding the appeal for makers, and their needs from the service.
There is an art to this. You can’t just say to people: ‘well, what do you think about my idea’ and expect a useful answer. For example, Audra wanted to test out what people thought was sellable on EBay, and she made this into a brilliant game, which people were absorbed by. There’s so much to selling that she knows intuitively, and is a mystery for many of us. Chanelle made a sweet device for people to show what they think each of her items are worth. Laser cut ‘coins’ were used to help people to share their thoughts, without being too embarrassed by saying the wrong thing. Stephanie wanted to try out some of the activities she might use in her project, and so turned these into family activities, and she drew a great crowd.
Its not just about numbers, though, its about the quality of intersaction we have with our potential customers, in order to understand how they react to what we are planning. And in this setting, Upstarter could ask people about whether they would do classes, or drop-ins or whatever people think might work for them. It allows us to get contacts for people in the future and to extend our mailing list. Its all good nourishing stuff.