UMS | Why should it exist?
Why is UMS important, and why is it important to me? Those are the questions I want to address in this article. While I’m sure these answers will take more shape once we are actually launched, I can give you my thoughts behind the concept and how I came up with it today. Let me know what does or doesn’t resonate with you. Always open for suggestions!
When I sold Tiny House Belgium, back in January 2017, starting a new company was the last thing I was thinking about. While I really enjoyed it, the Tiny House industry, and its supporters, were just not in the mindset I believed in. To be clear, I believe in the Tiny House concept and I’m sure some people use it to do amazing things. But in my experience, a lot of our clients and prospect clients wanted a Tiny House to escape from society and go live in the countryside somewhere, away from any societal influence. I’m sure that’s a healthy thing to do every once in a while, and I can see multiple reasons as to why you would want to take a break from society, but running away from it/ignoring the problems that exist in society today is not gonna help anyone. Including yourself.
So I did pretty much the opposite, by moving to New York City, arguably the beating heart of our Western-Society today. For one year, I explored what it means to be around people from all different backgrounds, ethnicities, countries who have different skills, speak different languages, etc. All in an attempt to see where I fit in. This could really be a post of its own, but all I’m trying to communicate here is how important it is to live in a place you feel accepted. A place you feel safe and included.
That’s goal one: Creating a space to create, open to everyone. Where people feel safe and comfortable to make mistakes and learn. Especially in the woodworking industry, which I originally came from, there’s a big stigma to who fits in and who doesn’t. If you’re not good enough, you’re out, and other people in the industry will ‘play with you’ forever. Even if you eventually get better. I know this is all supposed to be a joke, but it’s getting old, and it makes people feel unsafe to attempt ‘making’ anything.
On to goal two: Facilitating new ways to Learn and Discover. The only way to learn how to make anything, is by making. It’s like learning how to drive a car. There’s only so much you can learn from a book. You just have to drive and make mistakes and eventually you’ll get better. And just like learning how to drive, we want to give you that ‘temporary license’ to explore, learn and make mistakes.
Goal three: Facilitating the ‘Making’ process. If you want to build anything, there’s a lot you need. And that’s intimidating. Let’s say you want to build a desk. A small desk, for your daughter to make her homework or something. You need: Materials, plans, a drill, a workbench, a screwdriver, wood glue, a router, nails, screws, space to work… You get the idea. It’s quite intimidating, especially when you’re starting with nothing. It took me a decade and a $12,500 investment in machinery to make anything worth talking about. UMS wants to take care of all that for you. By offering the space, the tools and the knowledge to help you and your project succeed.
Goal four: Create a Maker community online and offline. For amateurs and professionals. I’m not a huge fan of how society boxes all of us in: “You’re a professional”, “You’re an amateur”, “You’re a student”, “You’re a woodworker”. “You’re the Tiny House guy” (for those of you who read my other articles, you know what I’m talking about ;)). At UMS, I want to mix all these people together. With the Private studios we want to offer, who are more targeted towards the professional, and the co-maker space, who is more targeted to the amateur, student or hobbyist. I want them all to learn from each other and have them share what they do under the same roof. I can envision people wandering around the hallways, looking through the big glass walls at what companies or professionals are creating. As well as the professionals locking-up their private space to then walk around the co-maker space and talk to people who’re creating something amazing they would never think off. I can see these startups or professionals collaborating with
Related article: “The What’s on my mind Series”
How the Digital, Online side of UMS could look like (Click on Image to expand).
Goal Five: Create more Space for Experiences. For those of you who’ve seen my pitch deck, I talked about something called ‘the third space’. It’s a term used by Urban Planners and it defines all the spaces in cities outside of the home and workspace (which they refer to as the first and the second space). It includes stores, coffeeshops, parks, libraries, the theatre, etc. UMS fits right into that. It doesn’t have to be the workspace, or your home, but it’s a space you come to relax, and explore and create. We’re seeing this big push for experiences, especially with millennials. Like bars who now offer ping-pong tables, 4D experiences in the movie theatre’s… We want to create experiences too, which is where the workshops we’ll be organizing really start to play in. Big inspiration for this was a guy in Belgium called Whout. (you should check out his website www.whout.be) He’s dutch, but you’ll get the point ;)
Related article: UMS Services
The Co-making idea is something I was fortunate to somewhat experience in real life. My company Tiny House Belgium was located in a 6,000 sq. ft. warehouse near the city of Ghent. We used about a quarter of the space, and shared the rest with the owners of the building: Wemaes Glass, and two other carpenters. While not officially called a co-making or co-working space, that’s really what it was, and it was amazing to see what collaborations and opportunities that entailed. We shared equipment, people, knowledge, and so much more. When we didn’t have a house to build, we helped the Glass guys to go install some windows, and when we needed a specific tool, or an extra hand to lift something, or whatever it may be, we had someone to help us too.
My second inspiration also came out of a real life experience. When I was 9 years old and wanted to start building stuff, I didn’t have the space, the tools or the knowledge to do anything. It took me a decade to really figure all those pieces and a lot of mistakes and frustrations. I don’t think things have to be that way. By simply charging a monthly membership, you don’t have to worry about finding a space, having to sign a lease or investing huge amounts of money in tools to then potentially have to find out that making is not your thing.
Third inspiration was Whout and Woodfactory. Two companies in Belgium I got to know when researching more about my UMS idea a couple months ago. One of them I talked about before, and the other, is a space fully equipped with woodworking tools that can be used hourly. They are more focused towards the professional that doesn’t want/ or can not put down a big investment to buy these specialized tools.
Why UMS? To make it easy for anyone to have access to a space, the tools and the knowledge to ‘make’ something. By facilitating workshops, offering co-make and private studio rentals for professionals and amateurs and by making expansive tools and machinery accessible to the general public.
Have more questions? Hit me up!
About Louis De Keyser
Louis is a 20 year old, in the process of moving from Belgium to his dream city, New York. He was the founder and CEO of Tiny House Belgium, a Tiny House Design and Construction company that focused on promoting the idea of 'smaller living' and 'living life without a mortgage'. He sold his business in January 2017 to pursue his dream of moving to North-America. Right now, Louis lives in Toronto Canada.