Downtown makerspace, retail storefront up and running at the Idea Shop

A prototype 3D printer sits on a table with a bag of Jitterbeans’ coffee at the Idea Shop in downtown Starkville (Photo by Ryan Phillips, SDN)

Ryan Phillips
SDN Editor

Main Street economies are evolving as the avenues of business change with both technology and locally-minded consumers.

The Idea Shop — a highly-anticipated business incubator and retail space made possible through federal grant money and the Mississippi State University Center for Entrepreneurship and Outreach (E-Center) — recently open on Starkville’s Main Street and welcomed numerous guest on Sunday as part of the Christmas Open House.

Occupying a former part of the adjoining Aspen Bay store, the storefront of the Idea Shop serves as the retail space, while the expansive back of the store serves as a high-tech makerspace, complete with walls of tools, 3D printers and more.

Karissa Logan, a graduate assistant in the MSU School of Human Sciences , is task with running the retail space, using analytics to help aspiring entrepreneurs market and sell to their audience, while gaining a better understanding of what their customers want.

“We’ve contacted certain student entrepreneurs, and the ones on the floor are people who have already come through the E-Center and finished a lot of their products,” Logan said. “Basically, we buy their goods on consignment and we cut them a profit on it, and we are kind of using it as a test center. I have analytics and everything on this iPad to tell them how their selling, what products they’re selling, on down to what time of day they are selling.”

She then gave an example of how the customers of those selling coffee are also more likely to buy a novelty greeting card.

“They really get to test out what they have going on,” Logan said.

In her studies, Logan is focused on incubator spaces in local business and said concepts like the Idea Shop underscore the change in direction for downtown economies.

“Especially with the makerspace, a lot of teachers are saying this is becoming part of education, so the college of business and school of human sciences are testing out those concepts in bigger cities,” Logan said. “They already have all these cool incubators where retailers can come.”

The retail store features ceramics by Bonnie Brumley, EM-Boards by Landon Casey and Jitterbean's Coffee by Madison Grant.

Logan explained that the Idea Shop will also have a type of demo space, where, for example, customers buying one of Casey’s electronic longboards can come in and watch him actually work on the product.

“(Casey’s) really testing out what types of things sell along, with the skateboards he is making and he’s going to be manufacturing his skateboards right here,” Logan said.

While membership fees for entrepreneurs have not been formally set, Logan said they are considering roughly $45 to $65 a year, with the university cover the lion’s share of the day-to-day costs for the Idea Shop.

Work on the location began in August and was made possible in large part by a $100,000 Rural Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The Starkville Daily News previously reported that the the approximately $150,000 facility is located between Aspen Bay and Moe’s Original Bar B Que.

Logan then said they hope to have applications available soon, with the goal of getting local entrepreneurs in the space and working by January.

When asked how many entrepreneurs the makerspace could support at one time, Logan said it would be roughly 20, depending on what the individual’s business idea requires.

“We have several 3D printers and we can have several people 3D printing at the same time,” she said. “We’re also going to have a laser maker up here. It’s all on who’s doing what. But we have all types of equipment back here.”

While the goal of the Idea Shop is focused on promoting student entrepreneurship, Logan said the effects of having the new location downtown could be widespread in the local economy.

Children's events and events for teachers are planned for the future and Logan said the hope is to provide an experience that boosts engagement in the local economy.

“I think it’s a new idea we are trying to test in Starkville, but the idea already works in huge cities and I’ve been to spaces out in L.A., but, it’s really to help boost the economy for student entrepreneurs, local entrepreneurs then Main Street as a whole to get things generating,” she said. “If it’s a lot of different things in one space, it’s going to generate a lot of buzz.”

Logan said hours for the Idea Shop are not set for Thursdays, however the space will be open. On Friday, business hours will be 1 p.m. until 7 p.m., while Saturdays will be 12 p.m. - 6 p.m. and 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Sundays.