Robinson has 65 employees now, and keeps overhead costs low by not printing any product until an order is placed. Columbus not only gives her access to great talent, but allows the start-up, which has raised over $6 million, to pay workers a fair wage. At her manufacturing facility, for example, workers are making $14 an hour, and have benefits like paid time off. Ohio's minimum wage is $8.10 an hour.
Nearby, The Idea Foundry is also helping would-be entrepreneurs get ideas off the ground. Launched in 2008, the incubator is self-described as the world's "largest maker space," home to start-ups creating drones, 3-D scanning technology and video games. Here would-be entrepreneurs can develop product prototypes, get training, and gain access to tools and technology provided to them as Foundry members.
The concept was created by Alex Bandar, who said he was inspired by the way the internet had democratized the entrepreneurial process — people didn't need to necessarily go back to school to create something real.
"With open source software and crowdfunding, the only bottleneck to realizing an idea is access to tools, a place to congregate and a friendly and talented community of people to help turn the crank on that process," said Bandar, who self-funded the idea for six years before leaving his day job to run the Foundry full-time two years ago. It's grown from a 24,000-square foot commercial garage to a 60,000-square foot facility housed in a former factory.
The Foundry has 300 members, and has won several international "maker" competitions in 3-D printing, robotics and pyrotechnics.
"This is a can-do kind of community that is ex-industrial and manufacturing, but also high-tech and retail," Bandar said. "That is an excellent blend for the right ecosystem to help people become empowered to make their dreams come true.