For the dreamers who want to create the next Square mobile payments device or some other invention, a new workshop and fabrication studio in St. Louis will supply the machinery.
The ninth TechShop facility in the country has 12 employees and is 18,000-square-foot studio at 4260 Forest Park Ave. in the Central West End’s Cortex technology district.
The exact opening date for St. Louis’ TechShop will be announced soon, said Chris Ruzicka, director of business development for TechShop’s St. Louis location.
One entrepreneur who is enthusiastic about how TechShop will bolster startups and other creative endeavors is St. Louis business owner Jim McKelvey, co-founder of Square, the San Francisco-based mobile payments company.
McKelvey made early prototypes of Square’s first product, a small, square plastic device that plugs into a smartphone and processes credit card transactions, at a TechShop in California.
Square, which went public in 2015, now employs nearly 200 people in St. Louis across the street from the new TechShop studio.
“I think it’s fantastic for the St. Louis region because there are certain things that you need equipment to do and there’s a culture of experimentation there,” McKelvey said in a phone interview. “TechShop is a big playground for makers.”
TechShop members pay $150 monthly or $1,650 annually to access more than $1 million in advanced machinery and tools, including milling machines and lathes, laser cutters, welding equipment and 3D printers.
DON’T NEED EXPERIENCE
Tacony Corp., a Fenton, Mo.-based sewing machine manufacturer, donated a quilter and embroidery machine for future fashion entrepreneurs to use. Safety and instructional courses are provided.
“You don’t need experience to come here,” Ruzicka said. “Kids as young as 8 can use most of the equipment, with supervision.”
Discounts are given to students and active military personnel.
TechShop also offers corporate team-building events and electronics, silkscreen printing, laser cutting and other classes that are open to nonmembers for a flat fee.
“One thing we’ve tried to focus on is how to make some classes ‘date-able,’ so you can have a date night here,” said special member ambassador Emily Woods, who previously worked at a California TechShop before relocating to St. Louis.
The first shop opened in California a decade ago, and TechShop has since expanded to seven states and several international locations.
Since announcing the St. Louis location earlier this year, TechShop is on track to reach its goal of 1,000 area members before opening, said general manager Mike Hill.
Thirty-two businesses and schools have signed up for multiple memberships ranging from five to 100. Skilled experts who teach at least 12 hours a month at the studio can get free access to the facility.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from the St. Louis area,” Hill said.
McKelvey also is the co-founder of Third Degree Glass Factory, an art education center and artisan glass gallery on Delmar Boulevard in St. Louis. The entrepreneur said he had discussions with TechShop’s executives as they were expanding nationally.
“They created the same environment that we tried to do at Third Degree Glass Factory, making it open to the public so people can experiment with materials,” McKelvey said.
Workers put the finishing touches on the St. Louis location, including installing furniture made by a TechShop member at the company’s Pittsburgh studio. A massive wood reception desk in the lobby that greets visitors was made on TechShop equipment.
TechShop is a place for everyone from entrepreneurs to do-it-your-selfers who don’t have a garage and want a space to make things, Woods said.
“One of my favorite places in TechShop is the collaboration area with work tables and a seating area. That’s the hub spot where people go to talk, and create community and collaborate. We love sparking that.”