As Hackerspaces continue to gain steam across the country, it's interesting to watch what drives the growth of new members, new revenue sources, and keeps the place from looking like an episode of 'Hoarders' waiting to happen. Denhac, Denver's local hackerspace, held a surplus sale last weekend to accomplish all three of these goals.
The sale gave the space an opportunity to quickly figure out if any of the unused donated equipment and books are worth anything. What's the best way to find out what something is worth? Sell it! It also allows the community beyond the membership circle to grab things that can be used for cool potential projects. I know that it can be difficult for hackers to let things go. All members have 10 projects on the pyre that could potentially use the spare parts, but there's just not enough time to make it happen! Encourage the members to either start the project or let the parts go to someone who is ready to use them.
For any hackerspace looking to follow suit, there were three key aspects to the successful equipment sale:
- Get organized. Label parts in some way to allow people to figure out about what they will cost. The parts also need to be set out so they can be seen. This is a tough job, but it's gotta be done.
- Assign one person to be the 'negotiator' and let him or her do their job as they see fit. It's best if this is someone who understands the goal of getting rid of equipment and enabling the community’s projects.
- Marketing and PR. Events are worthless if nobody new knows about it!
If the space is still cluttered after the sale, it is much easier to scrap unwanted equipment since it is clearly worthless. Remember, things are only worth as much as people are willing to pay!
Another favorite part of the event was running a grill all day. Selling burgers, dogs, and home-made baked goods for a few bucks is the second best way for an event to reach critical mass (beer being the best). The revenue from the food probably wasn't significant, but I noticed that there were several people who stuck around while their food was cooking to meet the members and take a second look at the sale. I know I went back to the books, this time noticing gems such as Develop Your Psychic Abilities, and The Guide to Becoming a Real Wizard.
Once a solid group of people have gathered together to hang out, the real magic happened. Introductions were made, shirts were bought, a couple folks become new members, and others kicked off a roller-chair-jousting match! If there's one way to gauge an event's success, ramming each other with mobile chairs has got to be it.