For the last year, Fi Scott has been the AirBnb of makers, listing the artisans and manufacturers of Scotland on her platform Make Works. It has since been the birthplace of many successful projects.
(Glasgow, special envoy)
It’s great to have local producers, but how to find them? In 2011, Fi Scott came back from a year in New York working in a Brooklyn wood workshop to complete her product design course at Glasgow School of Art. As she tried to find suppliers and partners for her projects, she quickly reached the conclusion that if industry still exists in Glasgow, it is well hidden. So she decided to start her own company, an online resource to link makers and designers. This company is Make Works.
To go from an idea to a project, there is one crucial step: funding. For six months, the new entrepreneur filled public funding applications only to be knocked back. “I just graduated. People didn’t really understand what we were talking about and we hadn’t started to build the website at that point, it was very much just the concept. I guess people didn’t really believed that the industry still existed.”
3,000 miles and 100,000 public funding
Not one to be put off easily: Fi was determined to prove to the doubters that Scottish industry is not dead. In 2014, she borrowed a tartan VW van from a friend and set off on a Scottish tour to meet makers and manufacturers. She asked a photographer and a cameraman to join her and invited a few artists for a travelling residency. 90 days and 3000 miles later, Creative Scotland, the national agency for the arts and creative industries, blessed the project: Fi and her team received 100,000 pounds to start the platform.
Presentation of the Make Works Tour (2014):
As of today, Make Works lists around 140 producers, “from individuals to big scale industry”, Fi explains. “The idea is about finding practical ways you can make things. There is a workshop and open studios, places you can go and make things yourself or you can just send a file and have them done by someone else.” Searching on Make Works, you can find stone masons, ceramic artists, print studios, fablabs, weavers and much more.
Local industry is still alive, and provokes big interest: each week, 8,000 users visit the site. “We have quite a variety of people coming here. We have individual designers or artists that are working on a particular project, larger fashion brands or other small businesses who are looking for a new product line, or even restaurants that are looking of signage but are interested of getting it locally.” The users too have their gallery for photos of their completed projects.
And now, what business model?
Now well on track, the team work toward building a lasting project. For the listed manufactures as for the users, the website is free; the issue now is to find a business plan that doesn’t involve public funding. Fi is considering, amongst other ideas, developing their own line of products. “There is quite a lot of revenue stream we could get into the platform because it’s a market place. I’m really keen to stay free, so we are going to try a lot of things over the next year and see what sticks.”
Meanwhile, Fi Scott enriches the already well furnished database with a view to taking the concept overseas. Expansion will include a greater number of industries, of course (more than 200 are on waiting list), but also includes adding a glossary and advice on starting a good working relationship with manufacturers. “A lot of the vocabulary is being lost over the years so we are trying to bring that back, explains Fi. You have things like the maker movement but a traditional manufacturer wouldn’t understand what that meant. At the same time a new designer or artist might not understand what a specific type of welding means. People talk about the same thing but just in a different language.”