We’re going to Maker Faire this year! Please join us and another 100,000 people at one of the greatest events for DIYers. This will be our 7th time going.
I went the first year in 2006:
That year, Dale Dougherty had heard about our GPS clock and was nice enough to ask me to hang it behind the main stage. Of course I had to carry a rotary cell phone as I walked around. No booth, no business cards. I was blown away by what I saw. This was 20,000 of my people! After getting back to Boulder after that first year, it was obvious we had to come back!
2007 was out of control popular! We went for free as a Maker with just a folding table and a foam board describing our projects. I can’t describe how exciting it was to have hundreds of people stop by our booth. But with only three of us at the table, we were so overrun with people that we didn’t have the time to break for food or use the bathroom. Luckily, Make had some helpers able to get us water. It was an intense year that taught us we need to bring more help!
In 2008 we took the LED Pong Table:
As SparkFun was growing into a bigger business, Make decided we needed to pay for our first formal booth. It was $12,000. In 2008, this was a huge decision for us. Extremely expensive, but we bit the bullet and made it happen.
There were about 10 of us and we started figuring out how to bring enough water and chairs to keep people fed well enough to last the weekend. This was a good year but we realized we needed to do more hands on!
In 2009 we decided to start teaching soldering at our booth. In order to accommodate folks sitting down we expanded the booth to 20x40. This is a really big booth!
We made the decision early on not to sell parts or product at our booth. Instead, if you wanted to put together a kit and have us teach you, we asked for a donation. We raised over $4900 that first year and gave it to a local charity in San Francisco. We brought 14 people and didn’t have the chance to sit down! This soldering thing was popular…
In 2010 we continue to teach but now with support! 19 SparkFun red-shirts came to help each other. We even got some breaks!
We brought a new demo called Snake Stomp which was a great interactive game that had many kids and adults jumping up and down. From the kits we gave away, we raised over $6000 for two local charities that year!
Year number 6! In 2011, we worked with Make to bring back our soldering classes in our 20x40 booth for $15,000. We added a class on e-textiles and brought a sizable army of 23 people to try to cover the demand.
We gave guest lectures, sat on panels, and had a ton of fun. We gave away over 700 kits, taught folks how to solder them together and raised over $8500 for local charities in the process! By the end of the day all I wanted to do was sit in a quiet, dark corner and sip a tasty beverage. It was intense!
So as we started to plan for Maker Faire 2012 with new projects on the horizon, we used all the lessons we learned in the previous 6 years. Between the hotel, food, rental cars (we take up 6 cars!), and plane tickets, it’s shocking how much work, time and money it takes to get the army of SparkFun instructors mobilized from Colorado to California. But I always know that Maker Faire will be a great way to interact the people who are like us - people who build fun stuff. And that can’t be entered into a cell on a spreadsheet.
Unfortunately something odd happened in 2012. Getting quotes for our booth (20x40) the price increased significantly from $15,000 to $60,000. We talked with Make and brought this down to $51,000. We are grateful for the discounts that Make has given us over the years but this was not an amount we could swallow. To keep with our educational spirit, we’re kicking around an idea for a west coast teaching tour instead.
We sadly won’t be teaching at Maker Faire this year but it is still an amazing event that we can’t miss! We are going to take this opportunity to return to our roots. We’ve signed up for a $5,000 booth (10x10) and reduced the number of SparkFun employees going so that we can demo some of the projects that folks within SparkFun have been working on over the past year. If you’re planning on being at Maker Faire let us know! We’d love to meet up with you! While we are bummed we won’t be teaching soldering, this may be the first year we get a chance to step away and try the turkey legs.
As I mentioned, while we won’t be teaching at this Maker Faire, the possibility of a SparkFun West Coast Tour is in the works. Keep an eye out for updates for a stop in a town near you. In the mean time, if you’re coming by Maker Faire, look for the group of electronics enthusiasts in the red shirts - we hope to see you there!