Don Wells headed west to succeed at his own business, tired of the 9-to-5. He found Hacker Lab, and soon, a group to help him.
After working as a manager at Home Depot, Wells, 24, is one of the successful new members of Makers Gonna Make, a new meetup at Hacker Lab made by members to promote community and peer entrepreneurship.
The group meets the first Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. with speakers bringing real-life success stories in building their businesses; which events to sell at in the Sacramento region; what pricing strategies work best; how to do marketing; et al.
“The biggest thing is try to pump each other up and help each other out. Eric’s whole thing is to help people to the next step. From zero to one, all the way up to a ten,” Wells said. “Helping people who are just starting out to those who come in and are a little farther ahead.”
Eric Phillips, a Hacker Lab member, made the group together for aspiring makers and entrepreneurs to support each other.
“It’s not unusual to turn a hobby into a business, and that includes crafting. If you have ever thought about selling your crafts or turning your crafting into a part-time or full-time business, this is the meetup for you,” Phillips wrote for the group’s Meetup.
Phillips sees the development of makers and small business owners on a scale: From 0 to 1 is the startup phase; 1-2 is selling up to $1,000 a month; and up from there. The last group featured Giana Galati, Hacker Lab’s jewelry teacher who went from house-cleaning to a successful business.
Read our Q&A with Wells below, who traveled across the country to join Hacker Lab, or become a member of the Meetup group (no membership required) here.
Hacker Lab: How did you come to Hacker Lab?
Wells:I sell leather goods. I started online; I’ve always been crafting and making. I went to a previous maker space after growing up in a small farm town in Ohio. The whole time, I felt I had to get out and see the world. I went to Cleveland for art school but didn’t feel like it wasn’t worth my time. My professor said I should pay for my own business or mentorship. So, I decided to drop out and figure it out.
At 19, I started traveling. I found a job opportunity in Chicago with a small startup, where I learned how to run a business, flipping products, shipping and pricing, how to market online.
Soon, I joined another makerspace. I had a passion for art, design and science. I started making wallets while working as a manager for Home Depot, and made my own website. The big turn for me, though, was when I moved to Sacramento — get this, for Hacker Lab. I know.
They don’t believe me when I say that. I decided to move somewhere with a lot of sun, out west with more opportunities in tech and design. I looked up LA, SF, Sacramento… a couple cities in Oregon and Arizona. But Sacramento kept coming up with Hacker Lab. Even though LA is huge, they don’t have stuff like this beyond hobby spaces or schools.
When I saw Hacker Lab had multiple locations, I saw this is an actual business: If machines are down they’re going to fix them right away. This isn’t just a hobby shop.
HL: Tell me about how you connected with HL.
Wells:I moved here in March of last year, where I made a van that I live in. A few months after, I met a girl and moved all the way back to New York until she finished school. My entire home on four wheels was made here. So, I take this space very personally.
The day after she graduated, we traveled across the country and came back here. I made some online sales through my personal sales and traction. It wasn’t until Eric Phillips decided to start the Makers Gonna Make meetup with Hacker Lab that things really began taking shape.
They started having the meet ups a couple months ago and 30 days since, I put another $1000 in my bank account this morning. Another member made $1000 too. That’s really meaningful to me.
I’m started to build my brand that way. I consider myself a business owner and am scaling up. I’m going to keep trying to grow that way. I hope to get up to Giana’s level, who spoke in our meeting last week. She’s able to live on her own by her craft.
HL: What makes us different?
Wells:It’s genuine here. When someone does well here, you’re actually helping someone grow a business. When you’re working at a corporation, you’re only helping the corporation grow.
It’s genuine here. When someone does well here, you’re actually helping someone grow a business. When you’re working at a corporation, you’re only helping the corporation grow.
That’s why places like this need to exist. It’s like an adult clubhouse, it’s a hangout. I’ve made so many friends here. I showed my dad this place last year and he said, now I get it. It’s more than the machines. The community events and being able to sit and truly cross pollinate. I’ve truly made so many friends being able to make coffee here.
HL: What do you do in the meetup?
Wells:The biggest thing is try to pump each other up and help each other out. Eric’s whole thing is to help people to the next step. From zero to one all the way up to a ten. People who are just starting out, and helping the people come in who are a little farther ahead.
The format is a guest speaker, talk about what they do, ask questions and mention events, farmers markets, events - chalk it up and get into tents there. All to boost us and Hacker Lab. I saw a lot of new faces in there last week. Lots of people signing up for memberships, too.
HL: Do you have tips for someone starting out?
Wells:Just keep looking for more. If you don’t feel you have enough, keep looking. Stay hungry, stay foolish. That’s something I truly believe in.
I’m starting a new job, but I hope in the next few months I can quit that job. Even just putting that money in my pocket, is this real? Getting people over that hump is what this is all about.
You don’t need to be locked into a 9-to-5. You can get away if you get a taste of it.
That’s something I want to do full time.
Visit the Meetup group of Makers Gonna Make to sign-up for updates, or keep an eye for the next event on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 6 p.m. All are welcome.