So I attended the Kansas City Maker Faire at Union Station, which according to its website “…is a gathering of fascinating, curious people who enjoy learning and who love sharing what they can do. From engineers to artists to scientists to crafters, Maker Faire is a venue for these ‘makers’ to show hobbies, experiments, projects.” Overall, it was a very fun and enlightening experience that served as a showcase for human ingenuity and creativity.
The event appeared to be one part entertainment, one part science fair and one part a vendor expo for amateur inventors, artisans and creators (as well as many professional ones). And outside there were plenty of other vendors selling arts and crafts as well as food and drink. Overall, it had a very festive, family-friendly atmosphere.
Some of the exhibits were half exhibit and half sales pitch, so of course, there were items to buy. For example, one exhibit was showcasing their specially made honey and obviously offering some of it up for sale as well. Another one I interacted with specialized in making various toys and figurines of pop culture, science fiction items. Their name was Hammer Space and it is basically a design studio for amateurs who want to learn to build things.
For only $65 a month, you could have access to every tool you could possibly need; from table saws and routers to 3D printers and the like. Indeed, if it wasn’t for my busy schedule, I would strongly consider attending. As their representative noted, “it usually costs about $60 a day to rent a table saw and with us, you have access to everything like that you could possibly want for just $65 a month.” A quality sales pitch if you ask me.
Indeed, this type of thing has become more and more common. There are now many shared worked spaces such as WeWork for individuals or small business who want to rent out an office space but don’t have the funds to afford an entire office. They also enjoy the open-spaced, new-aged “vibe” that comes along with many such shared work spaces. Many amateur actors and directors—especially those who focus on using YouTube to spread their content—rent out shared studios with costumes, sets and the like that they can use as needed to create their videos. It’s only natural that inventors and artisans, be it professional or amateur, would follow suit.
The science fiction theme was also very obvious throughout. In fact, there were a good number of people dressed up as Storm Troopers or Darth Vader from Star Wars as well as Iron Man an others. This fits in well with the science exhibit that made up a large portion of the gallery.
The science exhibit was less about local creators showcasing and selling their creations and instead felt more like a science museum. Although there was definitely an element aimed at children as there was a playground and a lot of other participatory activities and jungle-gym type contraptions for kids to try and play on. Perhaps my favorite (although I did not partake) was a bike that suspended on a thick galvanized wire that allowed kids to act as if they were living out the famous scene in ET as they biked 20 feet above the ground.
Some of the science exhibits included DNA, aviation, sustainable energy and a miniature zoo-of-sorts with a python, sea turtles and what looked like giant cockroaches. There were also several exhibits that set up some fairly entertaining optical illusions. One such illusion had you stare at a spinning wheel with some lines spinning in and some spinning out. After 20 seconds you would look at your hand and it would appear to be pulsated in and out simultaneously.
There were also booths for both JE Dunn and Pier Magic, which are both in the home remodeling space. Given construction is integral to the industry I work in (real estate), I found this to be interesting. JE Dunn had a large space where kids could try out various wood working projects. And Pier Magic was advertising there foundation repair. Although, having actually had houses that have needed foundation repair, I can tell you it’s never fun to have to call a company that installs piers.
And of course, there was a large exhibit on trains with some fairly intricate train sets as well as an old, full scale locomotive. That certainly brought out my inner nine-year old.
Another exhibit allowed you to fly a miniature drone through an obstacle course the designers had set up. It may be hard to see, but in the picture on the left, you can see one of the drones flying by the various obstacles. I waited patiently in line for this, unfortunately, by the time I got to the front, they had to take an extended break. So quite tragically, I never got to fly one of the drones.
My favorite exhibit, though, was the robotics exhibit. A lot of amateur inventors had put together a wide variety of robots which they showed off to all the various attendees.
Many of the robots only did simple tasks, but some of the others look quite complicated and intricate. On the far right of the opening gallery was an arena for robot competitions, which were very fun to watch.
Two robots competed in putting as many yellow, foam boxes into a central holding pen as possible while two others competed in lifting up those foam boxes onto a tower at the back of the arena. Each robot had a team that designed and piloted the robot. Apparently, there are national competitions for this type of thing. Robot 1986 dominated the competition.
Overall though, the Maker’s Faire felt like a celebration of human creativity and ingenuity. Some of it was built by amateurs who appeared to desire nothing more than a fun hobby. Other creations were by professionals who were looking to showcase and sell their goods. For example, at one area in the gallery was a marble maze that looked like it had been home made with small plastic tubes that acted as the shoot for the marble to fall down. Next to the display were kits with the materials to make such a maze yourself. At another area in the gallery, there were intricate, professionally designed marble mazes that the kids found very enjoyable to play with. Indeed, the entire Faire was both a celebration of the amateur and professional creator.
And that would be my main takeaway from the Maker Faire. The wide range of printings, paintings, art, crafts, robots, drones and other creations were a celebration of innovation; both amateur and professional. Many of the people there seemed to have created or invented something simply for the joy of inventing. There seemed to be a large amount of passion that was poured into these various inventions, arts and crafts.
Thinking about this in terms of entrepreneurship, I believe it highlights the importance of passion when it comes to business. A good idea is just that; an idea. To truly get such an idea to flourish as a business requires a large amount of energy and work. And it’s difficult to put in such work if it’s just for money. There has to be a passion for the work that will become obvious to any potential customer you interact with.
It reminds me of a quote from Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, “Profit is like oxygen, food, and water, and blood for the body; they are not the point of life, but without then, there is no life.” A life with just oxygen, food and water is empty. And a business with just profit is nice, but it lacks purpose. And as a matter of fact, without some sort of purpose, that profit will probably dry up sooner rather than later.
Many of the creations on display at the Maker Faire represented a passion for creating and innovating. That kind of passion is what entrepreneurs need to bring to their businesses in order to truly succeed.
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
Star Slate Codex
Consulting by RPM