Makeshift Says Goodbye

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I suck at goodbyes.

Let me get this over with: Makeshift is closing doors this month. Our last day is Friday, August 26th.

The first thing people always want to know is why, and the answer to that question is so complicated. Expenses were higher than income and for an old-fashioned storefront business, that’s the kiss of death. I’m not ready to go into it in any greater detail right now, but if you’re business-oriented, here’s a FAQ.

But what else? Makeshift is the fourth brick-and-mortar business I have started in the last 11 years, and the third one I have closed. (Happily, Rare Device is thriving under the care of awesome people.)

Makeshift was a grand experiment; it felt like the culmination of interests that I didn’t even know I had. And then a funny thing happened: it shape-shifted into its true self. I wanted a sunny window seat to read design books in and work on a laptop, a little room to meet with friends or clients, and a tiny loft that you accessed by a vintage library ladder so you could take a nap. And it had all of those things, sure, but that’s just the physical space. Makeshift started as a place and became a community.

A wonderful community! A band of creative people who talked and laughed and pitched ideas to each other and became friends and collaborators. People who shared homemade cookies and threw toys for the dogs and cooed over the babies who came to work next to their moms. People who recommended each other for jobs and edited copy for each others’ Kickstarters and took headshot photos and coded websites. The DNA of Makeshift is now a part of so many other businesses, and I still hear about the successes of our members all the time. Personally, I am still pulling from the network of people I met through this business to help me, every day. That means something.

Last year, my business partner Bryan wrote a far more eloquent goodbye letter when we closed the Brooklyn location. I’m going to keep it short and sweet and just say thank you for supporting us. You’ll see me around town.


PS Huge love and thanks to Ashley and Nicole who are everything.


Makeshift Brooklyn Will Close in Late October 2015


The Brooklyn location of Makeshift Society will close at the end of October. You can skip to the end if you’re a member and wondering about your membership; otherwise, please read on.

Running coworking spaces was never the plan. I mean, how could it be? It didn’t exist as a category 10 years ago (and in the eyes of the SBA and various tax authorities is still unclassifiable). Nevertheless, in 2012, with the support of friends, we took a giant leap of faith and opened Makeshift Society in San Francisco, a space for creative entrepreneurs to meet, to work, to take a nap, to hold a class, and to open themselves up to the messiness and randomness that is working around others when you are your own boss.

For us, the mission came first, and the label afterwards. It’s only three years later and it feels like everybody has heard of coworking. This industry has grown tremendously fast because it’s tied to real estate, and that industry ultimately has a huge effect on how cities and communities are shaped.

The funny thing is that we aren’t really interested in the real estate. For all that we value good design and great environments, we’re interested in people. They always have been, and always will be, the life of cities. Because the mission comes first, we strive to do things our way, and find people who jive with that. Bryan summed up our feels well in a blog post:

Makeshift is a trojan horse… It is a coworking space and a community, but it’s about providing people in the creative fields with new pathways to independence by giving them the resources, agency, and accountability they need to excel.

And so in 2014, we opened a second Makeshift in a gorgeous old industrial building in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. We felt the timing was right, the neighborhood was full of creative types, and people would want to work near where they lived. Using our experience of what works in San Francisco we tried the same thing in Brooklyn, only bigger! Lots of communal tables. A sane, low-pressure mood. A “pleasantly productive place to work”, as a member recently put it.


What we underestimated, though, is what people wanted. People want offices! They want a space with a door on it. Based on our own experiences collectively freelancing for decades, that didn’t really make sense to us. The last thing we wanted was to leave the loneliness of home and go into a tiny private cubicle. The shape of what people want in Brooklyn does not match our research and our best guess. Makeshift Society in San Francisco was thriving almost immediately, but Brooklyn has struggled to hit critical mass even after a year and a half.

How do we feel? Sad, of course, but also grateful. We’ve met so many friends, partners, neighbors and co-conspirators in NYC. We’ve held book launches and workshops and straight-up celebrations — even a magic show. The people flowing through the Brooklyn space have struck business relationships, spawned collaborations, and found plenty of mutual support. We’re proud of what we’ve done, and want to see it continue in some fashion.


We are not entirely sure what to do next; we have ideas, certainly, but no clear answers. We need your help. It hasn’t been easy for us to know when to put on a brave face and act like things are going according to plan, and when to reveal our own struggles, knowing that being open with one’s vulnerabilities is what makes a community strong. We made some mistakes when we opened the Brooklyn space, regarding elements of the business, but we DON’T think our original mission is a mistake, nor the community that has formed around the space.

We’ve tried our best to do something for people, and what we’ve learned is that we need to go back to our roots a bit — to the idea of a society that’s right there in our name — and ask for your help in shaping the future of Makeshift. We’re open to your ideas, and we’re listening to you.

Makeshift Brooklyn is looking for a solution, and hopefully you can help us. Perhaps you’re a medium-sized startup that wants to move into a turnkey space in Williamsburg. Maybe you’re a coworking space looking to expand into Brooklyn. Or you have the organizing bug and want to make Makeshift a cooperative of sorts, while maintaining our mission.

We’d love to hear what you think. Email us at or catch Bryan or Rena live via Skype. We’ll be holding office hours to talk all things Makeshift. Rena will be available by Skype (username: rena_tom) every Wednesday from August 5 – Oct 14 at noon-1pm PST and Bryan will be available weekly to meet in person at Makeshift Brooklyn.

If we don’t find a solution, we’ll gently wind things down toward the end of October. Rena will fly out from the West coast, not to mourn but to celebrate and give thanks to the umpteen people who have made Makeshift Society Brooklyn into the quirky, awesome community that it is today.


A spread from our recent feature in Metropolis Magazine with excellent photos by Mark Wickens.

If you’re a Brooklyn member and have questions about what this means, we’ve done our best to compile a FAQ. If there’s something else you’re curious about, follow the instructions at the bottom of the FAQ and we’ll get your specific questions answered too.

Oh! Some final things you should know: Makeshift SF is happy and healthy and turning three (!) this fall.

And even though these will be our last months, we’re still cooking up great partnerships and events in Brooklyn with our friends James Victore, Kelli Anderson, Sha Hwang, Elana Schlenker, the kind folk behind the Adobe Creative Residency, and more surprise guests to come. Stay tuned.

– Rena and Bryan

Posted by on August 4, 2015 and tagged with: Brooklyn

Brooklyn Open House is Today

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Today is the open house at 55 Hope Street in Brooklyn! Even if you haven’t signed up to visit, please poke your head in and stop by between 9-6. We are having talks, demos and FOOD throughout the day. At 6, do we a little changeover and get ready for our Launch Party (which is a ticketed event and almost sold out). See you soon, NYC!

Be a Makeshifter in Residence this Summer

Do you know about our quarterly residency program? We started the Makeshift Society residency because we want to make space for things that are experimental, unfunded, risky but *loved*. Sometimes the ideas that are the hardest to explain are the most interesting and worthy, so they can go without support. The residency gives us the flexibility to throw our support behind great experiments and projects that provide benefits to the creative community, or to society at large. See some of our alumni below.


Read some posts from our blog about the work of previous residents, or apply here. The deadline for our second quarter residency (which begins June 1) is this Monday at noon PST.

Save the Date for Open House and Launch Party


It’s time to celebrate!

Our Brooklyn location has been open almost a month and it’s time to party. Visit Makeshift Society on Wednesday, June 4 and see how we make shift happen. There are two ways to do it:

DAY / 9am – 6pm: Bring your laptop or sketchpad and drop in for a day of free coworking with refreshments, demos and talks.

Explore the space, meet our community and participate in creative demos from Kollabora, a tasting event with Spindrift Soda, and a ‘making of’ discussion with co-founders Bryan Boyer and Rena Tom. And, visitors who apply for membership during the open house will receive a discount. The first new members are eligible for special giveaways donated by Photojojo and Adobe!

NIGHT / 7pm-10pm: Celebrate our second location during our evening soirée, sponsored by MailChimp and Adobe.

Mingle with Makeshift members and our friends in the NYC creative community! We’re proud to feature food and drink from local makers including Momofuku Milk BarBrooklyn Brewery and P&H Soda Co. and gift bags with treats from Social Print StudioTattly, JauntfulMOOD Magazine, Photojojo and VSCO.