The Art of the Start

I found it ironic and inspiring that I stumbled across The Art of the Start, the Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything, buy Guy Kawasaki, while working on yet one more draft of a grant to the Rhode Island Foundation, asking for funding for a consultant to do discrete work in developing our business plan, board, and fundraising strategies. Ironic because the clarity was unexpected and inspiring because FabNewport is on track. Let me explain.

Kawasaki is adamant that start-ups must accomplish five things: (1) Make Meaning: (2) Make Mantra; (3) Get Going; (4) Define Your Business Model; and (5) Weave a Mat (Milestones, Assumptions, and Tasks). We are there, or at least close to there, with Meaning, Mantra, and Business Model, even though we’d had not defined our progress in that order, but what Kawasaki aptly calls the “weaving of that mat” is our biggest gap, Step 5, that is where we need professional help, an expert to guide us. To:

compile three lists: (a) major milestones you need to meet; (b) assumptions that are built into your business model; and (c) tasks you need to accomplish to create an organization. This will enforce discipline and keep your organization on track when all hell breaks loose—and all hell will break loose.

It is clear to me that FabNewport will (1) Make Meaning by offering Newport County students and adults a unique venue for learning and innovating. A (2) Mantra – “Innovate now: FabNewport;” or some such phrase that our team can hang its hat on – makes sense; (3) Get Going, heck, we are rolling. Look what we’ve accomplished:

?   Won $25K grant – van Beuren Charitable Foundation (1/12)

?   Team building in progress, two have volunteered to be on board

?   Held meetings – more than 30 attendees at two open meetings

?   Training our team – three at MIT’s Fab Academy at AS220

?   Ordered 3D printer

?   Been given equipment by Roland – vinyl cutter, milling machine

?   Writing more grants –

?   Approaching philanthropists

?   Hosting workshops – Computer Aided Design, Graphic Design

FabNewport is even on target in terms of defining our (4) Business Model. There are several models, as outlined by the International Network of more than 100 FabLabs, to emulate, and we’ve chosen the Community Model. One that taps into Newport County’s unique resources including 5,000 high-tech employees at the likes of Raytheon and NUWC; nearby educational institutions; tourism; artists; entrepreneurs; and artisans. Potential revenue streams and intellectual support exist. The great challenge, however, is weaving all the pieces together into a model of leadership and sustainability, a model of form and function.

Our RIF funded consultant would do the discrete work, over a 4-5 month period, of weaving our volunteer core into focused team set on accomplishing the goals required to move into the Florence Gray Center by February 2014, when the Met School is in their new, adjacent facility, and there is 2000 square feet in Florence Gray Center available for FabNewport’s digital fabrication equipment: table-top router; laser cutter; vinyl cutter; milling machines; 3D printers; and electronics.

Does this make sense? Input welcome. Grant is due Friday.

Steve

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