GR Makers and The Factory join forces


The Factory is a co-working space in downtown Grand Rapids for those interested in technology. Photo by Johnny Quirin

Individuals seeking collaborative and creative work environments can now take advantage of a new partnership between two local facilities.

Two community-driven co-working spaces based in Grand Rapids are partnering to offer discounted rates for members interested in obtaining access to both spaces and corresponding networks. GR Makers, an open community lab, and The Factory, a co-working space, each are creating easy access by offering a resident membership discount that grants a free entry-level membership to the other workplace.

Mark Van Holstyn, president and founder of GR Makers, said there is synergy in what both businesses do by going after a very similar need in the community — despite approaching it from two different angles.

“We are really excited about the partnership with The Factory,” said Van Holstyn. “Through different avenues, we are both trying to provide space for people to work collaboratively.”

GR Makers, 401 Hall St. SW, is a 3,200-square-foot community workshop where people can work collaboratively or independently on projects using tools such as welding equipment, a 3-D printer, and a CNC machine. The space focuses on three aspects: enabling personal expression, providing education and supporting entrepreneurship as a way to build community, according to its website.

Samuel Bowles, a board member of GR Makers, said the emphasis on community comes from seeing the effect and outcome of people working together.

“Building and creating alone is nowhere near as effective as when we bring people in,” said Bowles. “We want to make great things, and to truly make great things we know we need other people and their expertise.”

While projects created at GR Makers range from industrial to fine arts, The Factory, 38 W. Fulton St., Suite 400, is a hub for those interested in technology. Through its co-learning program, individuals can learn key skills in developing iOS software, programming and content strategy.

The partnership occurred as a response to recognizing a crossover in members. Each business offers a three-tier membership with corresponding costs for increasing access. At GR Makers, a “tinkerer” membership costs $49 each month and allows access to the facility 10 days a month during open business hours. The second level of membership is known as a “maker” and allows use of the facility every day during open hours.

The third tier, referred to as a resident membership, grants 24/7 access and free membership to The Factory. According to GR Maker’s website, for a limited time all plans are set at $49 per month.

“For some of the folks in GR Makers, I think it will be a really useful tool,” said Van Holstyn. “We are trying to build both communities of people and bring them together so there is a larger community of people that everyone has access to.”

The Factory offers a day pass for $20 and a punch card at $150 for 10 days, in addition to its three levels of membership. A light membership costs $75 per month and allows access to the facility two days a week, while the basic membership costs $150 per month for five days a week. The third tier of membership, known as resident, grants the individual access at any time with dedicated desk space, storage, conference rooms, and a GR Maker’s membership at $275 per month.

Aaron Schaap, founder of The Factory, said the partnership is a way to avoid forcing individuals to choose one membership over the other.

“We are making it easier so people don’t have multiple different memberships,” said Schaap.

Although this is the first formal collaboration between GR Makers and The Factory, Schaap said the two organizations are not two random businesses that happened to join forces.

“These are my friends,” said Schaap. “We already had a good respect for one another, both at an individual level and for the products they have made.”

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