Starting up at Factur
“We must never go it alone,” believes Factur founder and Orlando native Doug Brown. In early 2013, he set out to bring his vision of the growing maker movement to his Central Florida hometown. In so doing, he stumbled upon a community of entrepreneurs and artisans that desperately needed a place to build and to share their knowledge. “I was so surprised how quickly the news about us spread, and the number of people who just showed up because they believed in this idea,” remembers Brown. “Even today we are still 100% volunteer-run,” Brown said.
Factur is located in the heart of Orlando’s Ivanhoe District. This non-profit makerspace provides a community resource educating people on the art of making just about anything. The 7200 square feet workspace consists of a woodshop, metal shop, electronics studio, and crafting area; cataloging over 200,000 dollars in machinery from three-dimensional printing and large format CNC machines to small vinyl cutters and laser etchers. “Our members are making everything, from custom leather fashion accessories, robotic telescopes, and large public art installations; basically we’re like a gym, but instead of working out, you get to use powerful tools to build your ideas,” Brown shared.
His own obsession with technology he said, “Began the day my grandfather gave me my first computer, a commodore 64. Even my first entrepreneurial endeavor was building custom computers for people. I’ve spent my life learning technology, from very early days programming computers to advance database design for modern business.” Like many technologists, Brown built a number of successful businesses before starting Factur.
Sharing the Sense of Wonder
While there are other makerspaces and artisan clubs in the Central Florida area, the focus on business and the entrepreneur sets Factur apart. Since opening its doors 2 years ago, Factur has helped many local businesses learn faster and create more. They’ve done this by fostering a culture open to knowledge transfer and by vastly decreasing the capital cost of starting up. “Our sharing resource model allows entrepreneurs to much more rapidly test and bring their creations to market,” Brown said.
DeltaMaker, a local 3-D printer manufacturer and early supporter of Factur, provides Factur with machines and classes on how to turn digital creations into real objects. Brown recalls, “I’ll never forget the first time I saw a 3-D printer and the sense of wonder that came over me; for DeltaMaker to help us provide that moment and offer that resource to other people is why I started Factur.”
A challenge of 3-D printing continues to be the size and speed in which they can produce, but one of Factur’s newer members Andy Tran, of Modern Inventor, plans to change this with his Mille. The Mille is a huge 3-D printer the size of a shipping container that can be linked together forming a network of giant 3-D printers.
“Watching Andy pull his team together from existing Factur members in order to get the Mille built is so rewarding. The challenges of finding the right talented people to get an idea moving can be exhausting for a startup. We solve this at Factur with our culture of Learn, Create, Share, and it’s only getting better as we grow, and more members join, bringing new talents.” With growth and new members come different challenges for Factur, and providing the right business education for their members is one.
Learning to Make a Business
Brown, recognizing Factur could use help formalizing a business education program, and following his “never go it alone” philosophy, formed a partnership with the local non-profit BizLife in order to bring business education to its members. The primary focus of BizLife has been educating U.S. military veterans and impoverished individuals in general business.
However, after running two introductory classes at Factur, the team behind BizLife quickly recognized another community that could benefit from their program. Many of the members work full time jobs while others are running their full companies out of Factur; both groups of members have very little, if any, business education, and they all lack the time and resources to go back to school.
As products and businesses continue to pop up organically inside of Factur, the partnership between Bizlife and Factur will provide these entrepreneurs with the knowledge they need to be successful in their business.
Currently, Factur is supported by sponsors and membership levels ranging from Club Level at $75 up to $250. These levels afford various degrees of access and support for others involved in the Factur experience. “Technology is unforgiving when we stop learning and when we, as a group, stop advancing. It’s this simple idea, to help others and continue learning, that brought me to the maker culture, Brown explained. “Factur was an opportunity for me to give back to the community all that I have discovered on my journey, while in turn learning so much more myself. At the core, Factur is about helping entrepreneurs and dreamers advance, by fostering a culture of making, and offering, resources and education to this diverse and underserviced local community.”
Factur is located at 520 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL | factur.org