For makerspaces like NextFab, which opened its Wilmington location in 2017, the COVID-19 lockdown meant that makers lost access to facilities and equipment, including a state-of-the-art wood shop, 3D printers and laser cutters.
With many NextFab members using the makerspace to either build or maintain a business, the organization looked for ways to offer classes that could be done virtually that have value and don’t require access to special equipment.
The solution, said NextFab Marketing Manager Rebecca Ledbetter, was a webinar series called “From Making to Selling,” offering two-hour sessions on things like online marketing, social media and relationship building. (This series is available in audio for free on NextFab’s website.)
The NextFab Wilmington Artisan Accelerator Program also launched in April with an all-virtual pilot of an eight-week experience designed to help artisans take their side hustles to the next level. Five members participated.
“Our initial plan was to have in-person only events, but COVID-19 changed everything. We had to quickly pivot and make the program completely virtual,” said Todor Raykov, NextFab’s venture services manager, who oversees the program. “We were anxious whether participants would find value in this virtual format, but the feedback we received at the end of the program was overwhelmingly positive. The participants made a lot of progress growing their businesses and products, particularly their online stores, during this challenging time.”
Applications for the Artisan Accelerator’s fall 2020 program, to be held Oct. 14 through Dec. 9, will be open from Aug. 1 through Sept. 30. Interested startups can learn more about the application process at nextfab.com/grow/.
But there’s good news for the IRL fans: Nextfab Wilmington’s doors have opened again to members as of June 11, aligning with the State of Delaware Phase 1 of reopening plan.
“Everyone wears a mask, safety glasses and we’re following room capacity guidelines,” said Ledbetter.
While members are starting to have in-person access again, NextFab’s virtual programs are not going away. They include Intro to Adobe Illustrator and several virtual classes to be added this month, including Arduino I, Welding Theory, Packaging Design for Solidworks and TinkerCAD Basics.
Classes are for members only; memberships start at $25 per month for the Pilot membership, which gives access to all classes.
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