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Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019

A Collaborative Spirit

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Cohab partners with Makerspace in hands-on creative lab

Humble beginnings birth big things. Apple started in Steve Jobs’s garage. Chick-fil-A launched from an Atlanta restaurant called the Dwarf House. Now, creative entrepreneurs in northwest Louisiana have a new 8-feet-by-15-feet launching pad inside Cohab in downtown Shreveport.

The space is a partnership between Cohab and Northwest Louisiana Makerspace. Demetrius Norman, president of NWLA Makerspace, described his organization as an “open-source collective” of experts from a variety of disciplines, including engineers, electricians, woodworkers, metal workers and more.

“We kind of borrow knowledge from each other,” Norman said. “Whenever we have a project, it’s kind of like an old car mechanics shop. Somebody’s really good on brakes; somebody else is really good on exhaust. Everybody has their own mastery, and it all comes together to make the whole car run.”

It’s the same collaborative spirit that exists within Cohab, where entrepreneurs come together in a shared workspace. Jessica Schiele, executive director of Cohab, said that is how the partnership came about.

“We have been talking for a long time about how Makerspace and Cohab could partner in ways because it’s such a natural fit,” Schiele said. “It’s really an extension of common interest pools. We sat down and had an opportunity with our renovations to designate space for a clean makers’ space. It gives them a space they could utilize with a larger space for classes. It gives us the opportunity to provide tools to entrepreneurs who might need prototyping.”

Norman explained the difference between “clean” and “dirty” makers’ spaces.

“One of the challenges when making a Makerspace is clean space versus dirty space,” he said. “With electronic fabrication, part of it could be done in an office setting. But part of it, when you get to soldering and there are those fumes, that isn’t pleasant to someone working on spreadsheets.”

Norman said NWLA Makerspace has a separate facility for “dirty” operations near the old General Motors plant. “It’s more of a warehouse space,” he said. “It’s industrialized. It’s more set up for messy kinds of work. The two work hand in hand.”

The clean space at Cohab includes 3D printers, a drill press, a small collection of hand tools and a sewing machine for creatives working with textiles. But Norman said having the lab inside of Cohab offers the makers more than just a space to work.

“We have business guidance at Cohab,” Norman said. “We want to facilitate the ability for somebody to make a product they can become an entrepreneur with. We want somebody to be able to get a job with the skills they have in our space. We work in our discipline. We don’t work in workforce development. So, we’re partnering with an organization like Cohab that has produced startups. We feel that Cohab has the economic development experience to accomplish that goal.”

Norman said NWLA Makerspace already is offering classes in both the clean and dirty spaces. Makerspace recently conducted an introduction to 3D printing class at Cohab. Norman wants his organization to play a role in the modern maker economy.

“Entrepreneur development is such a big piece to bite off by itself,” Norman said. “We’re going to need Cohab more than anybody. All they do is produce businesses. When my makers come in here, they feel empowered to the level of, ‘I’m going to turn my product or my art into a business.’ It’s a symbiotic relationship. One drives the other.”

Jade Thornton, community manager at Cohab, said the addition of the Makerspace is a natural extension of Cohab’s mission.

“It’s definitely my favorite part of being on staff to watch Cohab’s evolution,” she said. “People don’t stop and think that running a business can entail so much more than having a desk. Like entrepreneurs who are chefs and woodworkers and mobile – they all need different things. Cohab is a space that understands those needs and works to become what it has to be for those people running businesses in northwest Louisiana.”

If you are interested in a tour of the Markerspace at Cohab, contact Cohab at (318) 759-7997. To learn more about NWLA Makerspace’s dirty space, visit nwlamakerspace.org.

– Scott “Scooter” Anderson


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