Business-Incubating Shared Workspace Seeks 'Awesome' New Tallahassee Location

Sep 25, 2014

Making Awesome co-founder Brad Harris stands next to the space's first 3D printer, which is now retired.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Tallahassee’s Making Awesome shared workspace is on the hunt for a new, more affordable home. The volunteer-led makers’ space that’s helped launched startup companies can’t afford to keep renting its warehouse from Tallahassee Community College.

Brad Harris is a Making Awesome co-founder. He’s walking around the group’s 4,000-square-foot warehouse Thursday, past large woodworking machines, tiny computers and a 3D printer that’s about a foot wide and a foot tall. Harris says it, or rather, she, was the group’s first.

“She’s kind of retired now,” he says. “She’s done her hard work.”

The vast majority of tools here were donated by Making Awesome members who range from hobbyists to inventors trying to get products to market. They share all the equipment and can take what’s needed from what Harris calls “the boneyard.” It’s a row of shelves overflowing with common household items.

“This is free for the membership just to use as they see fit,” he says.  Among the clutter are a couple of toaster ovens. Harris says, “Toaster ovens, believe it or not, are really useful when you make your own printed circuit boards.” Turns out, they heat up to the exact temperature needed to melt solder paste.

Making Awesome started in this warehouse owned by Tallahassee Community College in late 2012.
Credit Jessica Palombo / WFSU News

Harris says this place that’s been home for almost two years will be hard to leave. But donations, dues from about 15 members and fees for giving classes haven’t been enough to cover rent.

Another co-founder, Richard Benham, says Making Awesome has also served as an incubator for a specific kind of company.

“They’re different than a business that would go into, like, our new business incubator at Domi Ventures at Railroad Square. That’s a great facility, and it serves a super purpose for small-business development. But if what you need to do is machine metal, they don’t want you to do that there.”

One of those startups is Optimal Bagging, founded by FSU graduate student Patrick Breslend. His company makes a device that distributes garbage bags more quickly with no unfurling necessary. Breslend says he’s planning to hire four employees within a week. But the Making Awesome location limbo could put those plans on hold.

“We look to build a factory here, or a manufacturing facility here in Tallahassee, so we’re looking to expand soon. And the maker’s space is actually allowing me to grow slowing while I was getting the business off the ground. That space was definitely crucial for our business,” Breslend says.

Making Awesome founders say they’re optimistic a more affordable space will become available soon. TCC has asked them to vacate the warehouse by mid-October.