Rena Tom Rena Tom

Profile: Makeshift Society

Yesterday I signed a lease, handed over a check, and started a new business: Makeshift Society. I’ve been hinting about this forever, it seems, but it’s finally happening. I thought I’d talk a little bit more about the process here – it’s been a really long road!

I originally had an idea to create a lending library of art and design books. After selling Rare Device, I discovered that what I missed most about the store was 1) customer and vendor interaction and 2) buying books. It took me many months to come to that conclusion! I thought that I should do something about it and open a small space. This was back in October.

I talked to many friends about my idea. They were very helpful in asking questions that poked holes in my assumptions. How would the library make money? Would there be a cafe or sitting space associated with it? Would it have wifi? At first I was pretty adamant that the library was the main feature of the space, but my vision was refined by all of these questions, and eventually the idea evolved into creating a community, or Society, of creative people who could access a clubhouse space that offered classes and workspace. It’s coworking, classes, and community. It took half a year to get there, however – this is why people will say, “I’ve been planning the business for 2 years”. They really have been researching and refining their idea that long.

I worked on my plan while looking for an appropriate space. Let me say that the “plan” wasn’t a full business plan…it was just notes about what features of the space were important to me. I had bits and pieces and phrases and URLs all scattered in a file. That file started to get big and unwieldy and I recently switched to book writing software called Scrivener that let me organize my thoughts. When I made an actual business plan with the help of an specialized app called LivePlan, it was easy to move the pieces of content into place.

Finally, I found a space. I looked around for about 4 months. It took two months to get to the point of signing a lease…and that brings me up to today.

I want to reiterate that input from all sorts of people – folks who are potential participants but also those who don’t even know what a coworking space is, or that independent classes exist – was really important to this process. If you can’t explain your idea clearly at the onset, when you open doors, people are not going to know why they should buy what you are selling.

If you are in the SF Bay Area and want to know more, I’m going to have a meeting on June 20 so you can ask questions, join the Society, or volunteer to help out. I’ll have more details about the meeting soon, and announce it here, via my Twitter account (@rena_tom) and on the new account too (@MakeshiftSoc).

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18 Comments

  1. CONGRATULATIONS Rena!! How exciting :) I absolutely love your idea for a co-working / co-learning community space, and I wish it was in my town so I could help out and become a regular :) Have fun and good luck with all the planning and executing. Looking forward to hearing more.

  2. CONGRATULATIONS!!!! This is so exciting–I wish I lived closer, to experience in person. You’re awesome. :)

  3. Oh, I’m so excited for you, even though I’m way over in Virginia. Can’t wait to hear more as the business progresses!

  4. Oami says:

    Congrats Rena! Sounds like an inspiring place to hang out.

  5. Brittany says:

    I know exactly what you mean by “I’ve been planning the business for 2 years”. This sounds really wonderful and I look forward to hearing more about it. Will be at the meeting for sure. Congrats!

  6. Sarah says:

    This is a fantastic idea! I so wish I was in SF to be able to become part of it! But will watch & learn from afar in Canada! All the best in realizing this dream!

  7. Kristen says:

    Congrats! I can’t wait to learn more about your events and classes. Always great to hear of dreams being turned into reality.

  8. Congrats, Rena! This is such a wonderful idea…wishing you and the community much success and engagement. Would love to be involved and help out–even from the East Coast!

  9. Michelle says:

    Congratulations, Rena! I’ll definitely check it out the next time I’m in California!

  10. Deirdre says:

    So exciting! Wishing I could move back to SFO just to be closer to it all!

  11. Tara Swiger says:

    YAY!
    I am so excited about this!
    I can’t wait to visit when I’m next in town!

  12. Keely says:

    Congrats Rena! I’m excited to check it out! I’m local so if you need help let me know!

  13. Liana says:

    Congratulations, Rena! I’m so excited for you and can’t wait to hear more about your new venture!!!

  14. Lolafalk says:

    Wonderful news – congratulations Rena! I know this has been a long journey in coming to fruition for you – so happy to see you at this point. Your dedication and perseverance is truly an inspiration :).

  15. Mallory says:

    That sounds so amazing! I think it’s a great idea, and I love that you really listened and used feedback from other people in shaping your vision, especially since it’s such a community space.

    Best of luck!

  16. Andreea says:

    This sounds so exciting! Congratulations on this new venture! What a great idea.

  17. Blakely Bass says:

    Congrads Rena!

    I am so happy to have Makeshift Society in the neighborhood near RAG (and my shop within my shop, Market SF, run by Jenn Meyers). We will stop by soon!

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