A home garage workspace can be a lonely, stifling place for a maker trying to grow his or her business, said Pam Newton, who is leading the artistic vision for designWerx, a new coworking space and incubator specifically for makers in North Kansas City.
“You’re alone constantly. Sometimes it’s hard to get motivated,” she said. “As an entrepreneur in your home setting, it really can be an uphill battle.”
The 16,000 square feet at designWerx, a wholly-owned subsidiary of iWerx, provide an environment where makers can network and feed off each other’s creativity, Newton said. Her company, Uncommon Relics Design Studio, is among four businesses that have committed to the space since it opened Feb. 1.
In addition to providing startups with greater production and showroom capacity, designWerx features community woodworking, paint booth and welding capabilities, said Bob Martin, co-founder of iWerx and EnCorps45.
“As we grow, we’ll identify what tools our members need, and then we’ll invest in those. They’ll be shared with the businesses in here,” he said. “We’re trying to cut the costs, provide resources for these companies to actually sell their wares.”
The concept works best for post-revenue startups that already are viable with ongoing clients, which is the sector with which designWerx can have the biggest impact, Martin said. He expects the building to be full with 10 businesses by the end of March.
“We’ll operate much like a collective, where we’ll create a sales and marketing arm as well,” he added. “So we’ll try to develop channels of distribution for these businesses on top of the other resources. It’s about letting them focus on what they do best: Make cool stuff.”
The space at designWerx, 1313 Atlantic St., will mean “everything” for Newton’s business, which specializes in turning architectural salvage and vintage items — “anything that I find in a dumpster, at flea markets, or by barn digging” — into home, office or restaurant furniture, she said.
“It’s a landing zone for my materials,” she said. “Being able to sand and paint and get dirty — and then market my merchandise and literally sell it right out the delivery door — it’s heaven.”
Newton’s design aesthetic already is on display in North Kansas City, Martin said. She crafted the interior design at iWerx, which opened in October 2016.
“That’s all Pam,” he said, describing the look at iWerx. “It’s reclaimed and brought back into a second life.”
She’s known for turning what looks like junk into unique character pieces, Martin said, noting an old metal trough and iron frame that Newton found at an Oak Grove farm and plans to turn into a sink for the women’s restroom at designWerx.
“When my partners and I see her walk by, we ask ‘What is she going to do with that?'” he said. “But she’s all about the reveal. It always turns out great.”
Another recent find: a pallet full of can lights from the former Kemper Arena that could find a new home in designWerx’s planned cafe-breakroom-events venue.
“I like to create spaces that you never want to leave,” Newton said.