Lansing Maker Week: Providing a venue for garage-style innovators, creators and entrepreneurs

When passion for entrepreneurship, creativity, and economic growth harmonize with the opportunity to bring like-minded individuals together in a weeklong event- in a community of vibrant, local makers and entrepreneurs- Lansing Maker week is born.

Lansing Maker Week began with a kickoff event at the Old Town Temple building; a beautiful, vibrant space with stained glass windows and paint-cracked walls. It claims home to the Lansing Makers Network - seemingly a perfect fit to create a spark of innovative passion. It was here that Mayor Virg Bernero and other leaders spoke about new growth in Lansing’s entrepreneurial community.

"The democratization of innovation is a sort of ‘back to the future,’ in a sense that entrepreneurs are going back to the garages to create and innovate. It’s about rewarding and encouraging that kind of innovation that is as necessary today as it ever was," says Bernero.

Maker Week gives Lansing entrepreneurs -and people interested in becoming entrepreneurs- the opportunity to discover the potential of the community as a catalyst for their creative pursuit. Maker Week also gives entrepreneurs the chance to connect and show their talents to the Capital region’s private sector.

Jeff Smith is the director of the New Economy Division at LEAP, the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. Smith believes that Lansing is witnessing an entrepreneurial uprising and Maker Week showcased its positive growth.

"This event is built to be an inclusive event. Whether you call yourself a maker now or want to be a maker, there is so much opportunity here to discover what’s available to people who are interested in pursuing creative entrepreneurial ventures," says Smith.

Lansing Maker Week presented makers with knowledge and exposure to opportunities to reach out to their local market, obtain resources that were available at different venues and to learn more about what Lansing has to offer in its entrepreneurial community. Venues included the Broad Art Museum, The Hive, Impression 5, Allen St. Farmers Market and many others.

“When we built the makers space, we tried to create a quilt to appeal to a diverse group of people. Between ribbon cuttings, pop-up makers spaces and other events, there are a lot of events that tie into the maker’s movement that also coincide with great events around town. We’re seeing that there are a lot great first opportunities to makers and entrepreneurs alike to take advantage of, to find its way to the individual and the people of Lansing," says Amber Shinn, the marketing director at the MSU Innovation Center.

Lansing’s history involves early development in the automotive industry when automobiles were produced by REO Motor Car Company in 1905. In 1935, Paramount Coffee opened on 1210 N. Turner St. in Old Town creating a competitive, Michigan-made coffee industry. Today, Lansing’s entrepreneurial scope ranges from art, fashion and food, to technology, 3D printing and Circuit Building.

"We’ve built a robust ecosystem and set of logistics to make anything here in a way that is extremely competitive. When you realize this, you see that we’re so well established and so far ahead of other places in the world. It puts Lansing on the map for makers as a whole,” says Smith. “This is about expanding and connecting the ecosystem and preparing Lansing for the next economy. This is such an incredible time in Michigan’s history for how that turnaround happens and we’re witnessing it."

Wednesday night of Lansing Maker Week, hosted at the Allen Market Place, gave insight to ways the Capital region’s food businesses are beginning to compete, presenting resources the area’s aspiring food entrepreneurs can take advantage of. With a keynote speech by Matt Jason and Jeremy Sprague of Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale, hardworking entrepreneurs were able to explain their innovative and competitive process to their community, along with how Sleepwalker Spirits and Ale were about to get their start with support from the Allen Market Place.

"Allen Market Place is a great place for people like us to lean on, with such a supportive staff of really great people,” says Jason. “ Though this spot is temporary, we really consider this our foundation, because giving business owners resources to build off of is something that Lansing and the Allen Market Place does really well."

As Maker Week came to a close, a Startup weekend began. Startup weekend is a 54-hour event, which aimed to provide experiential education for interested entrepreneurs. Startup weekend participants are given the ability to create working startup companies while collaborating with like-minded entrepreneurs. Startup weekends are intended to be the first step entrepreneurs can turn their idea into a startup company.

"This has been such a great opportunity for makers, designers, entrepreneurs, business enthusiast and tinkerers to come together in Lansing for a celebration of making things. This weekend alone, Startup Weekend produced four unique products that have never existed, in 54 hours. One in particular is already making national news and is featured in," says Smith.

As Maker Week and Startup Weekend came to a close, much anticipation still remains in the heart of Lansing’s entrepreneurial community.

"We are very excited that this event will be a staple every year in Lansing and that we can continue to reinvigorate this community of makers and doers," says Smith.

Jared Field is a freelance writer for Capital Gains.
Photos © Dave Trumpie
Dave Trumpie is the managing photographer for Capital Gains. He is a freelance photographer and owner of Trumpie Photography.
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