Engaging Entrepreneurs 

Extension connects makers, artists and innovators with resources and a peer-to-peer community

Man in front of an art piece

Inside an 8,500-square-foot building in Concord’s Penacook village that previously sat vacant, Ty Meier diligently draws lines.

Pen and ink and watercolor bring to life illustrations of dogs, goats, foxes, turkeys and raccoons.

Meier is an artist who has found a way to make a living using his craft. He’s also found a home at the nonprofit Making Matters N.H. — a makerspace bringing vibrancy and inspiration to New Hampshire’s capital.

Making Matters provides affordable and flexible space to support emerging businesses and artists. In addition to the eleven members who currently rent space, dozens more use equipment. There’s a wood shop, metal shop, prototyping and electronics lab, fiber arts studio and photography studio. There also are private offices and open studios.

A Space to Create and Collaborate 

During the pandemic, Meier was juggling the demands of remote learning with his 12-year-old daughter, so it was important to have a workspace free from distractions.

Joining this community has also connected him with fellow artists with whom he can have the kinds of deep conversations that sometimes dissipate after one’s college years — like, “Was John Singer Sargent an illustrator or a fine artist?” and, “How does art influence society?”

Art pieces hanging on a board

Cost can be a barrier for renting office space, but at $50 a month, Making Matters provides a reasonable rate to access tools and facilities while also opening doors to new relationships. People of all backgrounds are encouraged to become a Maker and there are discounts for students, seniors, military members and families, as well as discounts for six-month and yearly memberships.

Classes are also offered, such as Hands-on 3D Printing for Beginners, How to Make Polymer Clay Jewelry and Intro to Woodworking.

“I enjoy being around other artists and creative people,” Meier says. “We have conversations about the philosophy and history of art. It’s important to find your crowd.”

Extension Experience Guides the Way 

UNH Extension Community and Economic Development Field Specialist for Merrimack County Jared Reynolds has been instrumental in the startup and success of Making Matters, serving as its president.

Embedded into the state’s entrepreneurial community, Reynolds brings business acumen, leadership, strategic thinking and revitalization experience to this role. He also leads free webinars about creating entrepreneurial ecosystems and has united Extension, Making Matters and HRKNSS Coworking to develop a New Hampshire chapter of 1 Million Cups, a national monthly networking series for entrepreneurs. Each month in Concord (or virtually during the pandemic) two speakers share an overview of their respective businesses and then ask for advice from the audience regarding specific challenges. This unique and interactive format kindles conversations, encourages relationship building and promotes economic prosperity. 1 Million Cups events are free and open to the public, regardless of an individual’s background or experience.

To increase entrepreneurship for younger Granite Staters, Reynolds is partnering with the UNH Sustainability Institute and the New Hampshire Small Business Development Center on the Community Changemaker Challenge for high school students. In a program based on the highly successful N.H. Social Venture Innovation Challenge, entrants must identify a social, environmental or economic problem in the world and use an innovative and entrepreneurial approach to address it. Teams ultimately pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who determine winners. Teachers who mentor their students through the program receive professional development training and curriculum support.

Artist workspace with machinery

“This is a way to get young people involved in their communities and create connections,” says Reynolds.

Pursing entrepreneurial projects requires risk. There are challenges to overcome and new skills to learn. For startups and visionaries in New Hampshire, no matter one’s age or experience, it’s comforting to know that UNH Extension can offer support to help dreams come true.

Author(s)

Emma Joyce
Production Editor
Phone: 603-862-1814
Office: Cooperative Extension, Nesmith Hall Rm 319, Durham, NH 03824