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We were in Vancouver recently and took some time to visit the Vancouver Hack Space and MakerLabs. These two spaces operate under different business models and we thought comparing the models was worth reflecting on.

The Vancouver Hack Space (VHS) was established in 2009. It is a not-for- profit society, governed by a Board of Directors. It has no employees or volunteers and is based entirely on membership. VHS pays its rent and utility bills via membership dues only. The membership fees are $30/month. They receive no grants, donations, sponsorship, etc. They use donation jars for extras for the space.

Vancouver’s MakerLabs is a for-profit corporation established in 2014. They raise funds in four separate categories: memberships are $100/month, studio space rental is $2/sq ft (storage shelves are also available for rent), education/workshops, and manufacturing. They have a MakerStore in the lobby where members feature and sell their wares. They employ 9 full-time staff members. In 2 years they have gone from an 800 sq ft pop-up coffee shop to a 26,000 sq ft space.

After speaking with members and operators at both places some distinct benefits became apparent with the different methods of operation. The VHS is more affordable and more idealistic, it is a space created by community for community. MakerLabs however runs a pretty efficient operation, their tools are always in good working order, and like any good sustainability model they don’t put all of their eggs in one basket.

To bridge the gap between for-profit businesses and non-profit enterprises, British Columbia has recently launched a new hybrid corporate model, the Community Contribution Company (C3 or CCC) in response to an emerging demand for socially focused investment options. A C3 must allocate at least 60% of its profit toward a social purpose, have three directors (a for-profit business requires only one), and are required to publish an annual “community contribution” report describing their activities. Non-profit societies (including registered charities) cannot issue shares or pay dividends, and may find it difficult to attract investment. For-profit companies suffer from the opposite problem – they can pay dividends, but cannot assure social investors that their investments will be used for social purposes. The new C3 model allows social enterprises to receive equity investment (societies cannot currently do this), with the assurance that the investment will be used for community purposes (companies cannot do this now). It is anticipated that C3s will attract philanthropic investors who still expect some financial return. For such investors, the C3 model offers a simple framework that is legally and commercially recognized.

So what business model is best suited for our own community space? To discuss this and other ideas come out to a meeting and join in on the conversation. The next meeting will be held at the Fire Hall on Wednesday June 22 at 7:00pm. For more information visit our Facebook page “Happy Hornby Hackerspace”

By Leanna Killoran and Quana Parker