Making you do together, DIY you do alone, says Craig from Elmwood Electronics
Maker Festival’s Month of Making is coming to a close and we wanted to take a moment to talk to some of the people who make the event possible – like Craig from Elmwood Electronics – and find out why their in the business of making, and what the movement means to them.
Chris from Maker Festival (MF): Can you tell me the story of Elmwood? How it began, grew in Chicago and expanded to Canada? And why Toronto?
Craig from Elmwood Electronics (EE): We’re named after a street in Wilmette, Illinois, just outside of Chicago. As for how we started our business, we started using Raspberry Pi ourselves, and found it a bit confusing at first. We thought others might also find it confusing, so we thought we could start a business selling configured Raspberry Pis. We actually started with Raspberry Pi before Arduino, though it’s usually the other way around.
I thought the Canadian market was underserved and overpriced for our products, and given my wife was born in North York and grew up in Peterborough, the opportunity to expand to Toronto was there for us.
MF: Why do you think Maker Festival is a good fit for Elmwood? What goals does Elmwood have in attending and being a sponsor at Maker Festival?
EE: Maker Festival grows awareness in the maker community and shows people they can build stuff. We like supporting the initiative and recruiting people to be part of that community.
MF: How do you see “Making” as different from the old “DIY” movement?
EE: For us, the main difference is there is more community around “making”; DIY was often something you did on your own, in the basement. As a maker you feel like part of a bigger movement.
MF: How do you see yourself in relation to larger vendors, e.g., Adafruit?
EE: Actually, Adafruit is one of Elmwood’s biggest partners; our advantage is that everything is Canadian, so no worrying about UPS, and other cross-border hassles. We ship quickly, usually the next day and have the widest selection of Adafruit products in Canada.
MF: Do you see your products as focused on a niche market (i.e., technology enthusiasts) or is there a broader market that taps into your products?
EE: We have lots of types of customers: tinkerers, students, corporate customers doing small batch production. One example of a corporate customer is a wine maker – he buys Arduinos and boards about 10 at a time and makes wine-making tools with them, then sells those devices to help other winemakers.
MF: How could making become truly mainstream vs. a more niche area?
EE: Making really is exploding & continues to grow rapidly; the key is to integrate it into the educational curriculum; kids get excited by computers when they can physically interact with them, e.g., robot, making lights blink. It’s more exciting than writing code.
MF: What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs interested in starting a business with a maker focus? How do you make it successfully work?
EE: Start on the side, likely with a different full-time job, then grow it from there. Lots of people I’ve known have started that way.
MF: What’s next for Elmwood? Further expansion? More products?
EE: We’re expanding our product selection: we’ve just launched PyCom products, based out of the Netherlands and UK; it’s a wifi device for Internet of Things applications powered by microPython. It’s a cross between Arduino & Raspberry Pi, a micro controller with aspects of a computer to it.