Makerspace provides room to grow for young entrepreneurs

3 mins read
Teens at the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies work on a project.

FARMINGTON – The Center for Entrepreneurial Studies has recently been awarded a $25,000 grant from the Maine Community Foundation’s Start Up/Scale Up grant program to begin work on a new makerspace- a room containing tools, equipment and work space, which will include computers, a printer and a 3D laser printer. The makerspace, in addition to the new resources that will be available, is another step toward the Center’s vision of “promoting an engaging and rigorous entrepreneurial opportunity within Franklin County.”

Founder of the nonprofit, Bonita Lehigh, expressed her sincere enthusiasm for the benefits of the expansion, and described it as “empowering.”

“It’s my passion to see other people thrive,” Lehigh said.

The makerspace will allow more young entrepreneurs the space and tools they can “check out” to create and work on their business ideas; the makerspace will enable more individuals the opportunity for economic growth.

“That foundation is so important for people to have to be happy and successful,” Lehigh said.

The grant will provide a big push toward the center’s ultimate goal of fulfilling a need for a particular demographic. The CES provides volunteer opportunities in exchange for the free resources available for anyone to use, as well as mentoring and hands-on experience, but the primary focus is financial literacy for youth with the understanding that each situation is different.

“We work with youth that are high school drop-outs or have parents with addiction, and… some of them are not capable of doing a 40-hour work week because of all the challenges they have,” Lehigh said. “We have to be realistic about what our expectations are with that demographic.”

Lehigh hopes to create more part-time volunteer opportunities for youth acting as heads of household or experiencing other challenges.

Lehigh’s efforts for the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies have gained attention from area businesses as well, including the manager of the local Walmart.

“It’s validating that others see the same need in our community that I do,” Lehigh said.

Lehigh’s fundraising goal for the space is about $37,000 away from being complete, but she is determined to make an impact.

“It’s an amazing project, and I really am determined to make it happen. I think it’s really important; I’m always rooting for the underdog…you have to care about your community,” Lehigh said. “I hope it comes full circle; I think it will.”

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