Loveland-based Colorado Maker Hub expanding programming beyond faires

LOVELAND – The organizers behind the NoCo Mini Maker Faire and Denver Mini Maker Faire are looking to leverage their new status as a nonprofit organization into a full slate of year-round programming.

Now dubbed Colorado Maker Hub, the Loveland-based organization was granted its nonprofit status last fall. But executive director Elise VanDyne, who runs the organization out of her home, said the benefits of that milestone are just starting to come to fruition.

“For us it feels like a relaunch because all of this stuff is happening,” VanDyne said Monday.

In addition to the faires, Colorado Maker Hub is now working with Front Range school districts and counties on things like youth entrepreneur programs. It’s also partnering with businesses and philanthropic organizations for various programs like linking entrepreneurs with mentors, maker education events and inventor showcases.

“It was obvious from the two faires we’d done that there were all these connections throughout the state that needed to be grown,” VanDyne said. “The first year we were just focused on getting the faires done. But now that those are developing and growing, we have the opportunity to dive into a bunch of different program areas.”

VanDyne’s background ranges from international marketing in the telecommunications industry to business development for nonprofits. She and a group of other volunteers held the first NoCo Maker Faire in Loveland in the fall of 2013. They added Denver last spring and did the NoCo Faire again in the fall of 2014. She said that before it was a sort of “motley connection of people” who raised money through sponsorships and attendance fees to put on the faires.

The nonprofit status, VanDyne said, is giving the group more of an official standing needed to work with school districts and other nonprofits.

VanDyne said the nonprofit is operating now on an annual budget of about $180,000, about half of which is from attendance revenue from the faires, a quarter of which comes from sponsorships and the other quarter from nonprofit grants. VanDyne is the lone full-time employee, but there are about eight part-timers and consultants who help with the organization.

The Mini Maker Faires bring together a hodgepodge of entrepreneurs, small businesses and tinkerers to collaborate and showcase many of the unique innovations blooming in Colorado.

A Boulder group called Maker Boulder held one earlier this year in Longmont, but that group is gearing its focus more toward children with a Rocky Mountain STEAM Festival in September. That has left the door open, VanDyne said, for her organization to talk with potential partners about holding a Mini Maker Faire in Boulder at some point. Colorado Maker Hub’s faires are geared toward all ages but have a particular interest in serving entrepreneurs and inventors trying to figure out how to get their ideas and inventions manufactured.

Aside from the possibility of a Boulder event, adding more maker faires isn’t Colorado Maker Hub’s main objective, VanDyne said.

“What we really want to do now, rather than replicate faires, is to leverage those events to deepen program possibilities,” VanDyne said.

The Denver Mini Maker Faire is slated for June 13-14 this year at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. The NoCo Mini Maker Faire, meanwhile, will be held Oct. 11-12 at the Rocky Mountain Center for Innovation and Technology in Loveland.