If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. And you will make a million dollars.
But first, you need to create a schematic, apply for a patent, build a prototype, find a way to commercialize it, contract a manufacturer, devise a marketing plan, build a sales force and develop a distribution plan.
This is why million-dollar ideas are million-to-one long shots.
But Yukonstruct has made the odds better by giving creative Yukoners a place to meet and a place to build on ideas.
They call the place “Makerspace”. It is in Yukonstruct’s sprawling facilities at 135 Industrial Road, where Total Fire Protection Services was located.
Just inside the door and to the left is the boardroom, which is not much more than a folding table. To the right is the computer lab/classroom.
The place instantly feels like a really cool clubhouse; really comfortable.
Towards the back are a kitchen and a washroom. Members and volunteers built these themselves.
And then there is the “crafty room”, says Tom Bamford, a “core team member” who is leading the tour. It has a drafting table, a 3D printer, a laser cutter –- “For all kinds of work,” he says –- and a “big ol’ Singer sewing machine”.
Michelle Clusiau, another member, points out that it is an industrial model that they haven’t had for long.
Bamford is now on his hands and knees looking at the sewing machine’s undercarriage: “It has a one-horsepower motor in it.”
But John Glynn-Morris, the Yukonstruct board president, has found something else that interests him. He is holding up an intricately designed paper airplane: “This is the exciting part of Makerspace: prototypes.
“ We won’t build a car here …”
“ Yes we will,” Logan Sherk interjects. He is the facilities manager, and an enthusiastic supporter of what this place can offer. He had just caught up to the tour.
“ Well,” Glynn-Morris concedes, “yes we will.”
“ Makerspace is one big replicator,” Sherk explains, invoking the first of many Star Trek metaphors.
Bamford continues the tour outside, but he can only wave his arms to indicate where new projects and buildings will go.
Inside the large shop on the other side of the compound is an industrial shop that contains the usual assortment of planers, lathes, casting oven and sandblaster.
“ There is a ‘do-er’ culture here,” says Glynn-Morris, as we climb the stairs the members built. “We build things, we just make it happen.”
We reach the metal shop with a CNC milling machine, lathe, grinder, horizontal band saw, MIG and TIG welders and a … and a … whatever the heck that is!
“ Do you want to see magic?” asks Colin Prentice, turning to face us. He then fires up the induction forge, cooled by an old vehicle radiator. Within two seconds, he has turned the end of a steel rod a glowing red. Turning to an old-school anvil, he hammers it into a new shape.
“ Things are evolving here every week,” says Clusiau. “I come in here and, ‘Whoa!’”
So, from the front door to the back loft — from the computer lab to the metal shop — ideas are born and shared and brainstormed and tried and tinkered with.
Does Prentice have a million-dollar idea he is working on? He laughs at the question, but says, “If I make a million dollars, I’ll give half of it to Yukonstruct.
“ They are wonderful group of guys who are genuinely interested in helping people.”
I ask again.
One of his ideas, he finally allows, is a dice tower for the game of Dungeons and Dragons.
Celebrating its first anniversary (these folks celebrate one year after the “idea”, not after the ribbon cutting in September), Yukonstruct has up to eight such ideas incubating.
“ We don’t know when or if that million dollar idea will come up,” says Glynn-Morris, before being interrupted by Sherk.
“ Oh, it will come up.”
“ Okay, but when it does happen,” Glynn-Morris continues, “what a great success.
“ People who want to make things happen now have the tools and the knowledge they wouldn’t have had before.
“ And that inspires people who were creative, but never thought they could do these things.”
It should be pointed out, here, that contemplating million-dollar businesses is more of an intellectual exercise than a goal; it is very much like how the goal of the Canada Games Centre is not to develop each member into an Olympian.
“ People who come here want to be a part of a community,” says Clusiau.
She says it is easy to get started: just drop in on a Tuesday for the free open house between 7 and 9 p.m. All of the tools and advice are there to be used.
Two to five people are joining in each week.
Computer geeks can be found helping out the shop geeks and vice versa.
“ I’m amazed at how many young kids just love it,” adds Glynn-Morris. “A place like this is great when it is dark and cold.”
“ I came in here on a Friday night to grab a pair of pliers or something,” says Sherk. “And there were, like, nine people in here and a pizza on the table, half eaten, and some guys out in the shop, building something, and that is when I felt that we had reached success.”
But what about the mousetrap?
“ You come in with an idea for the world’s best mousetrap and your family looks at you like you are crazy,” says Sherk. “You come in here, and we say, ‘That is awesome!’”
“ Or, ‘Did you think of this?’ or, ‘This material might rust’,” adds Clusiau.
“ And I can provide resources,” says Sherk. “And there are other members you can talk to.
“ While we don’t offer official advice, there are a lot of people here you can talk to and most of the time they are more than willing to help you.
“ Otherwise, we can point you in the right direction: where you can get funding and where you can extend your research.
“ We can point you to merchandising your mousetrap. We don’t help you directly, but we have a lot of resources for you to help yourself.”
Meanwhile, everything is there to make the prototype along with your new friends.
More information can be found at www.yukonstruct.com.