This Women’s History Month, Downtown Brooklyn Partnership is proud to share stories of the neighborhood’s many women founders and business owners.
Makelab is a professional 3D printing service located in Downtown Brooklyn’s historic Clocktower Building on Gold Street. Makelab handles everything from prototyping, productions runs, and custom models. Their office is also decorated with memorabilia from The Office, commemorative 3D sculptures, and also features a beloved pet dog.
We talked with Makelab Co-Founder & CEO Christina Perla about entrepreneurship, exciting projects, and 3D printing. Christina serves as an NYC Ambassador for Women in 3D Printing and is on their Board of Directors.
How did you get started in 3D printing?
CP: I didn’t like working for someone else. I caught the entrepreneurial founder bug, put in my two weeks, started freelancing and taking on my own clients, and started doing product design development. Then Manny (my co-founder) joined me and that’s when we started 3D printing. We found a great 3D printing vendor in Bushwick and when the owner decided to move to China a year later, he asked us to take over the business. We rebranded to Makelab after a few months.
A lot of founders we’ve talked to have a philosophy or mantra for their business. What’s yours?
CP: Our mission is to make 3D printing as easy as 2D for our clients. We really take a creative approach to problem solving here. Internally, we’re big on culture and I think that spreads to our clients. We genuinely enjoy each other, we genuinely enjoy learning, and we also really enjoy working with our clients. What our clients are working on is so cool — if you just take the time to talk to them, they’re so passionate — it’s really easy to share that with them. It makes the job fun!
What are some interesting projects you’ve worked on?
CP: THE NBA draft happened in November, and Finish Line, a sneaker company, was giving sneakers to the NBA draft picks. We 3D printed custom boxes for them. There were a lot of approvals to get through, but thankfully it all worked out and the draft picks all received their boxes.
At the height of the pandemic, we repurposed our operations and manufactured hundreds of face shields, face masks, and ventilator parts to meet the growing need for essential medical equipment.
What is your favorite thing about this business?
CP: I love that I’m able to do so many different things. I get bored really easily so I love that I can have so many different functions. I love being able to have the balance of being super focused and also managing a team. I love enabling other people. It’s amazing to see people grow here.
What are some challenges you’ve faced as an entrepreneur?
CP: It’s easy to feel imposter syndrome in the beginning. When we first started pitching, my imposter syndrome hit because we were doing so many pitches and taking feedback — rejection is hard. You can go into a pitch as an experienced founder, or a complete noob. And we went in as complete noobs. I’ve definitely grown since then.
Why Downtown Brooklyn?
CP: Downtown Brooklyn is such a central location with all the trains, buses, and major roads that we intersect. With 50 percent of our clients preferring to pick up rather than have their products shipped, we couldn’t sacrifice the opportunity it gives us to develop a relationship with our clients.
What are some tips you would give budding entrepreneurs?
CP: People first. You will not get anywhere if you don’t have a good team helping you run the day to day so you can focus on the next thing. I feel like that’s not something talked about a lot in the tech industry. When you think of starting a business, you don’t always think about the hard work and the constant work, and the little things that make your team culture good so they feel empowered. I used to watch “The Profit” with Marcus Lemonis. He talks about the 3Ps: People, Process, Product. People first, because people will help get your process down, and your process will help output a good product. The 3Ps will help make a good business. This is what I’ve always thought about since starting Makelab.