HaHo Market Hopes to Open Shared Workspace with Kickstarter Funding

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After hosting the Handmade Homemade Market (HaHo), a venture that has helped launch dozens of small craft businesses, Stephen Toma and Dani Lanworthy are taking their concept to the next level with a shared workspace. But they need a Kickstarter campaign to reach its goal in order to take that step, and a fundraiser tomorrow will help with the push.

Since HaHo started five years ago, it's been a labor of love. Toma spends so much time on the market that he can only work part-time (at Weathervane Cafe) and Langworthy teaches anthropology at Community College of Denver; the bi-monthly market, which asks only for a donation or bartered item for admission, usually just breaks even. Vendors pay just $20 to sell their wares at the market, compared to the $150-plus that similar markets ask.

While making money isn’t the goal, Toma and Langworthy are hoping to transform their labor of love into a living without sacrificing the concept of keeping it affordable for burgeoning businesses. “There’s a few of us out there who want to build programming that doesn’t benefit us, but there’s got to be give and take,” says Toma.

That’s why they plan to create the Micro-Business Incubator and Event Space, an affordable shared workspace for crafters and local food makers. Being a member of the space — which is called a Vendorship — will cost $200 a month; members will receive space to work as well as access to discounts from a number of businesses, including web design, photography and industrial printing. The Colorado Small Business Development Center plans to host classes, too.

Toma and Langworthy have a venue in mind for the new workspace, but are keeping it quiet until after the campaign ends. They're looking for $30,000—which will cover renovation of the new space, three months rent, a manager stipend and development of a webstore. If they don't reach that goal, Toma and Langworthy aren’t sure about the future of HaHo. The Kickstarter page reads: “This programming FULLY depends on the success of this crowdfunding campaign. If we don't see it reach the goal, we do not get to move into the new venue or make these vendor resources possible.”

“Everything is hanging on the line with this,” Toma admits. As of last night the Kickstarter, which ends March 31, had 77 backers for a total of $8,595, nearly 30 percent of the total goal. Toma and Langworthy have plans for some last-minute pushes, including business sponsorships and the March 20 event. But the plan won’t happen without this financing, and that puts a lot of pressure on the campaign. “It’s hard to say I’m confident when no donations come in one day,” says Toma. “but that came after a really great day.”

One of the backing options at $100 is the Vendorship deposit; four businesses and individuals have already signed up, and Toma says that more than a dozen have applied and will be paying their deposit that way, committing not only their money but also their business. Other levels get you local crafts from vendors and supporters of the HaHo Market, many of whom who get their start at one of the market tables.

Toma is hoping for about thirty Vendorships, including fifteen to eighteen that will go in the kitchen space. At those numbers, the memberships will just cover the rent, he estimates. Other revenue streams, like renting out the space and an online market, will be used to cover utilities and other costs—like a salary for Toma to manage the space. The online market will be like a local Etsy, but easier to use: “Etsy is just so saturated and it’s not handmade and homemade anymore,” notes Toma. “Not only will this be a completely unsaturated market for people to shop solely for local goods, but if you meet a vendor at the market and don’t remember their name, you can go online and find them more easily.”

The HaHo market has been an incubator for a number of local businesses—Toma estimates about two dozen got their start at HaHo, including DRAM Bitters, Clean Getaway Soap and Happy Leaf Kombucha. The new concept will continue to provide a place for local crafters and makers to sell their wares: The plan calls for the market to continue once a month in the new space, and there will be a First Friday market, too. “It’ll be the first time in Denver where you can go and shop at tables in the same spot where the stuff is produced in,” Toma explains.

The party on March 20 will take place in the Green Spaces co-working space, where the HaHo market was born in July 2010. WaterCourse is providing the food and Great Divide Brewing Company the beer for the event, which includes live music, a silent auction (all proceeds will go to the Kickstarter campaign) and, of course, a table of computers where guests can back the effort. The event will run from 7 to 9 p.m.; find out more here.

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