The WERKRAUM Story
In October 2018 the Werkraum turned three years old. In this article, Bianka, founder of the open workshop, tells you about dreams and doubts, initial euphoria and renovation hustle and bustle. The Werkraum has changed again and again in the past years and there is still no standstill in sight. Because we have far too much creativity and new ideas.
In October 2015 - just over three years ago - the Werkraum opened its doors to all Augsburgers. At this point, however, a good two years had already passed, during which the idea, concept and everything that had to be worked out by then had been prepared.
In this article, I would like to take you, dear reader, on a little journey back in time, back to the beginning, to where it all started.
The idea in my head
First of all, it started in my head, of course: back then, it was 2013, I was still living and working in Munich - 9 to 5 in a corporation - and loved to implement my own projects after working at the Haus der Eigenarbeit (HEI) in Munich. I spent most of my time in the wood workshop building things for my apartment and also a large kitchen table out of solid oak.
When I then moved to Augsburg, I couldn't find an open workshop here and didn't want to imagine living in a new city where such a place didn't exist. So I made plans to build one myself. To do this, I set up a website to find fellow workshopers and talked to a lot of people to tell them about my plans.
From my head to other heads
Over time, I built up a huge network - city council, politics, companies, college and university - from everyone I got input, feedback and further contacts, which I could then use to continue. When the company was founded in November 2014, there were four of us. Two of my co-founders left again relatively quickly for personal reasons.
After many hours of planning and another 6 months until a building was found, we stood in a huge empty hall in Martini Park on June 1, 2015. On the one hand we felt quite lost, on the other hand we were totally euphoric and couldn't wait to finally get started.
Through a crowdfunding Earlybird campaign and two on-site information meetings in "our" empty hall, we found 110 trailblazers who support us with a monthly contribution. This was particularly important during the first four months of the renovation, because the workshop had no income and still had to pay rent. Some of these earlybirds then became team members - and still are today.
From dreaming and realizing
We sat together for hundreds of hours, planning everything from room layouts to renovations and machinery.
Often we also dreamed. Sometimes we only spoke these dreams very quietly. They seemed absurd and we laughed about them.
But in retrospect they were more than necessary. Without dreams you simply don't get far and I think of a saying by Norman Vincent Peale: "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.
On June 1st we started renovating and for the next four months we gave the old hall a new interior. During this time, a hundred different people were there to lend a hand: team members, Earlybirds, an Augsburg company that held a social day with 50 people, and complete strangers who had heard about the renovation work on Facebook and just dropped by from time to time to help out.
Together, we remodeled a 520-square-foot empty space and divided it into different workshop areas. Together, we put up walls, laid floors, built interiors, procured machines and tools, and prepared everything important for the opening.
There is magic in every beginning
Together we brought this big empty hall to life and on October 1, 2015 the doors were opened to everyone.
This time was super nice for me because we accomplished an incredible amount. Emotionally, however, it was also very exhausting, because there was always the uncertainty of whether it was financially feasible or whether I was giving myself too much credit.
Since the opening until today, we have tirelessly continued to renovate and expand the range of services.
WERKRAUM in transition
A lot has also happened in the team in that time. We first grew steadily to around forty active members, only to reach a point at the beginning/middle of 2018 where we could no longer continue together and the way we had worked together until then. The entrepreneurial direction - professionalization and focus on customer needs - was something some people no longer wanted to go along with, and so they left the team.
In retrospect, this cut had been foreseeable for a long time and was necessary in the end so that the Werkraum could continue.
The organization and communication is more harmonious and appreciative than ever before - and everyone is pulling in the same direction. This, of course, means that the work within the Werkraum and in the team is progressing much faster.
A place for creativity and craftsmanship
After five years of working on the Werkraum concept and three years of being open, I can say: we've made it. Today, the Werkraum is an incredibly great and beautiful place and is not only financially on solid footing, but has "arrived" in Augsburg and is indispensable.
In eight different workshops - carpenter's workshop, locksmith's workshop, blacksmith's workshop, goldsmith's workshop, fablab, ceramics workshop, textile workshop and children's workshop - our small and large guests/customers and a team of about 40 men and women can let off steam with their crafts and creativity.
Our sofa corner
The wood workshop
The metal workshop
The goldsmith workshop
The textile and children's workshop
The indoor free space
The reception area
After these last 3 years, the interior construction is as good as finished and now a new time is slowly beginning. We can finally focus even more on customer needs, can develop and implement concepts for schools and companies and also purchase more "nice to have" machines... someday a big CNC milling machine for wood ;D that would be something.
I am soooooo proud of all of us, thankful for many new wonderful acquaintances and I am looking forward to everything that lies ahead.
I am soooooo proud of all of us, grateful for many new wonderful acquaintances and I look forward to everything that lies ahead. Yes, what lies ahead? What are we planning for the next 3 years of Werkraum? Well, this is the list of expansions we will tackle in the next 3 years:
- More machines and tools ajnd continue to push professional workshops
- Expand customer segments to include school classes and businesses.
- Get more sponsors and partners on board
- Partner and collaborate with other makerspaces
- Expand the range of courses offered
- Expand opening hours
- More events and meetups related to DIY/building/starting a business and prototyping.
If you have read this far and one or more of our future plans appeals to you and you would like to get involved - in whatever form, financially as a sponsor, a contributor to the Repair Café or because you would like to hold an interesting course or lecture in the Werkraum - feel free to get in touch!
Bianka Groenewolt - Founder of the Werkraum Augsburg