After reopening with limited capacity last summer, Station North’s Open Works is officially reopening fully on Monday, July 5, for the first time since the pandemic started. But you can expect a few changes to its membership and pricing structure.
The 34,000-square-foot makerspace space that’s launched many craft and manufacturing startups is doing away with the tiered membership system that separated Open Works’ downstairs builder spaces for wood, metal and digital fabrication from upstairs shops with textiles, 3D printing, digital media and electronics. Now, all of them are bundled in one membership price: a more affordable $80.
“We think equity is a good business model,” Will Holman, executive director of Open Works, told Technical.ly. “When we really looked at the numbers, we only have to modestly grow our membership base to make up for any potential loss.”
It all came down to averages. The fewest number of members were at the highest price point and most of the members were at the lowest price point. Before the pandemic, the price for all shops, aka pro membership, was $125, while the lowest memberships were at $70. After feedback from focus groups, customer surveys and data from cancelations, the new, less complex and more affordable system was implemented. This data-driven change in pricing model was spearheaded by April Lewis, Open Works’ director of community and culture.
Here’s the full pricing breakdown:
- Day pass — $20 per day
- Pro membership — $80 per month with access to all shops
- Micro-studio — $175 a month now decoupled from membership; micro-studios are seven-foot-by-seven-foot (or 49 square feet) modular plywood cubes with built-in workbenches
- Group membership — $80 per month for the first member and $15 per month for each additional member
At the end of the day, everyone loves a price cut, but the most salient issue was simplicity. Many members assumed Open Works would work like a gym and one membership would let you use all the tools, Open Works’ leaders said. In theory, the choice allowed people to choose the most cost-effective option — but in practice, it just confused members and gated more members from full access to the facilities than the organization would like.
“By making membership simpler, cheaper, and easier to understand, we are continuing to put the means of production within the reach of anyone,” Lewis said.
Open Works has stayed busy with purpose during the pandemic: Early on, it pivoted to making face shields for medical workers. The organization mobilized its network to fill a need it saw in the community, and called on folks with a 3D printer at home to help produce materials. In 2021, the same mentality of seeing a need and being a resource to the community manifested in using an open source design to build at-home learning desks for youth in Baltimore.
Donte Kirby is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.