Shapeways now has over 22,000 shop owners who are building their businesses using 3D printing. The ability to build a 3D printing powered business is very new and we are proud that it is our community at Shapeways who are leading the way in developing best practices for these creative, small business owners. To further support and celebrate our shop owners we organized our first ever Small Business Bootcamp on October 24th, 2014 in New York City. It was a day of entrepreneurial and design inspiration that offered concrete advice on business planning, marketing and designing 3D printed products from Shapeways shop owners with support from Shapeways staff members.
3D printing offers the opportunity of mass customization and making products you want, not just what is available. As Wayne Losey of Modio and creator of Modibot said as he discussed his discovery of 3D printing and possibility for customization after working in the toy industry, “We don’t live in a world where everyone loves Elvis. We have choices now.”
Wayne was just one of the speakers who shared ideas and resources the Bootcamp and you can find videos of the full sessions from the Small Business Bootcamp on our YouTube channel. We hear a lot from our community of shop owners and designers about where you feel you need extra information, guidance and inspiration as you build your business. We worked to highlight shop owners in our community that stand out as examples of marketing, branding, product development and their ability to create a unique business and audience.
The morning of the Bootcamp focused on business basics from a 3D printing perspective. We kicked it off with a keynote talk from David Gillespie, Shapeways Vice President for Manufacturing, about how 3D printing is driving the future of manufacturing and why he is excited to be working to solve the design and business challenges our community presents encounters. He was followed by Susan Taing, founder of bhold, who discussed her process of product development and iteration and how to choose a “winning” product. Melissa Ng, of Lumecluster, discussed her business planning process and how she finds and shares inspiration as an entrepreneur. Kacie Hultgren of Pretty Small Things and Jeremy Burnich of Joy Complex discussed how they brand and market their shops with Global Community Manager Savannah Peterson.
In the afternoon we focused on practical tips for designing and maximizing the potential of Shapeways and 3D printing in your business. Thomas Ellison, Customer Service Team Lead, about the basics of intellectual property for 3D printing. Design Evangelist for Education Lauren Slowik moderated a panel with 3D printed metal sculptor Bathsheba Grossman, artist Ashley Zelinskie, and Wayne Losey about how they have found a niche and established themselves in their fields using 3D printing. The day ended with a panel on how to optimize your designs for the materials Shapeways offers and featured presentations from Rob from Gotham Smith and Christian Brock of Wulong Toys along with Raphael Stargrove and Gabe Leader-Rose, Shapeways Physical Product Managers.
While 3D printing is a great way to create custom products, when you are launching a business there is always more to do to market and present your products to the world. In the spirit of the day, Bathsheba remarked, “The plain object, or the art, doesn’t sell itself – it’s the aura around it. 3D printing helps that, although it was easier 10 years ago. It’s starting to go away.” This also raises a challenge: as 3D printing becomes more widespread, what new challenges will arise for small business owners?
What do you think will the future of 3D printed business will hold? We plan to make this conference an annual event and look forward to your suggestions of what additional topics you would like to cover or delve into more deeply, and speakers you would like to hear from.
If you are in New York and would like to talk more about the small business of the future and how new technology is empowering small business owners, please join us for a Small Business Saturday Brunch at Wix Lounge on Saturday November 29 from 1 to 2:30 pm. You can find more details and RSVP on the Wix website!