Make It in Brooklyn: Makelab
Field: 3D Printing
HQ: Clocktower Building
Founded in 2017 by two industrial designers, Makelab is a 3D printing company that enables its customers to create, iterate, and prototype faster. Founders Christina Perla and Manny Mota pride themselves on running a business that helps other small businesses grow and thrive with quick and easy prototyping. A few years ago, Makelab relocated from East Williamsburg to the Clocktower Building on Gold Street in Downtown Brooklyn, where they’ve doubled their team over the past two years and fully embraced the community and the benefits of being based in the neighborhood.
Adapting to the Pandemic
3D printing played a significant role in the immediate response to Covid-19 as a fast and reliable means of local production. In spring 2020, when NYC was the epicenter of the pandemic and experiencing a critical shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), Makelab stepped up to produce face shields and mask extenders. For Makelab, adapting their operations to help protect New Yorkers was a no-brainer. The team was contracted to provide PPE directly to aid frontline workers at local hospitals.
Also, the founders flipped roles with their team to maximize safety. While their staff worked remotely handling account management, Christina and Manny – then classified as emergency workers - were in the lab running hands-on production.
“It’s always nice as a founder to get in and roll up your sleeves. We took it as a learning opportunity to just dive back in.” [Christina on sending her team home due to COVID]
While orders poured in for PPE, in collaboration with some of their customers, Makelab facilitated local donation pools that directly benefited New York hospitals. During this time, there were a lot of newcomers who weren’t as familiar with 3D printing as an option for producing PPE. Makelab’s informative staff and their key location in Downtown Brooklyn made their service incredibly accessible.
Diversity is central to Makelab’s work ethos. Breaking into the field of 3D printing and advanced manufacturing can be challenging for marginalized groups who haven’t been exposed to the field – and even for those who have. Christina and Manny both identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) immigrants from China and the Dominican Republic respectively. Their experiences as people of color have inspired them to not only encourage others to explore the field but also to create opportunities for anyone to get hands-on experience through internships and events.
What Makelab focuses on most when hiring is an applicant’s ability to collaborate. Generally, they hire based on behavioral characteristics rather than technical skill; thus opening the door for those without specific technical expertise and experience. Makelab prioritizes a candidate’s interest and capacity for teamwork and collaboration when recruiting new staff, and are willing to train those who are a good cultural fit in specialized skills after they join.
Downtown Brooklyn HQ
Makelab found their current office space by chance. Unfamiliar with Downtown Brooklyn, they were pleasantly surprised to find the Clocktower Building, which was previously home to a traditional printing press. Settling into a historic loft building at a competitive price, with great transit access to boot, was perfect for their team. When not in the office, you can find the Makelab team at City Point’s DeKalb Market grabbing a bite or joining Tuesday night trivia at Circa Brewing Company on Lawrence Street. Makelab has plans to grow their operations with additional offices and production centers in Manhattan – while keeping Downtown Brooklyn as their homebase.
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