1-2. Chris Meyer and Heather Wentler
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PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRIS MEYER / SECTOR67
Members of Sector67 explain their current projects and offer updates at monthly meetings.
Sector67 celebrated its third birthday last month. Upon reaching the milestone, Meyer and the crew are proud of Sector’s growth.
“For the first year, it was totally an experiment,” Meyer says.
After winning $7,000 in cash from the Burrill Business Plan Competition in 2010, Meyer had just enough money to purchase some machining and electrical equipment and keep the lights on. He lived off his savings and gained members by word of mouth.
In Sector’s second year, membership more than doubled. But still unable to pay himself a salary from Sector’s membership revenue, Meyer took a job with UW–Madison facilitating a business plan contest, much like those he competed in for five years, and has since taken on a different post at the flagship campus helping run a brand new contest called the Agricultural Innovation Prize. His hope remains that someday Sector will be financially stable enough to pay a salary.
How will he know when that’s possible? When membership ticks up to sixty-seven. That’s the number that he arrived at in his business plan when after calculating the cost of keeping the space open and maintaining equipment with the revenue generated from membership dues.
“We’ll be there in the next couple months,” Meyer says. But even without it, the space shows signs of continued growth and success.
In March of this year, Sector67 was granted 501(c)(3) status, officially making it a not-for-profit. It’s doubled its physical space, now occupying just over 8,000 square feet, and is looking to move into —and anchor—a proposed space on East Washington Avenue called StartingBlock that’s ten times as spacious.
A big part of the equation here is Meyer himself. Referred to as the “benevolent dictator,” he can easily command attention during one of Sector’s monthly meetings or while leading a class, but does so without losing his infectious enthusiasm or his genial nature. He’s a kid from Milton, Wisconsin, in the best way possible.
Attend one of the open-to-the-public monthly meetings and you’ll get a sense of how Meyer creates a welcoming culture and tight-knit community.
“I can say very confidently that Chris is the most competent person I’ve ever met, but he’s also the most humble. And that transfers to the whole space,” says Scott Hasse, who now sits on Sector’s board in addition to being a regular member. “His vision has been spot-on for how to make a space like this.”
And makerspaces like Sector aren’t just cool. They’re predicted to alter the way products are manufactured and distributed, and are part of a larger “maker movement” that encourages do-it-yourself culture, creativity and innovation. The maker movement has even been dubbed the next industrial revolution.
But for now, Meyer isn’t pondering a revolution. He’s just doing his thing, working hard to keep Sector67 the geeky-cool Mecca that it is and introduce Madison to the makerspace lifestyle.
Says Hasse, “He’s got a vision that people can believe in, and it’s happening.”
Read more about Heather Wentler here.