In a small room in an unassuming office building on Dunklin Street, Brett Welschmeyer hopes for the building blocks for entrepreneurial dreams.
Welschmeyer, 31, led a team that opened Mid-Mo Maker Labs at 115 W. Dunklin St. on Dec. 1. The organization hopes to spark ideas for entrepreneurs and give them access to expensive equipment they normally would not have access to.
"I have a lot of ideas I want to test and see if they are viable," Welschmeyer said. "There's probably a lot of other people who would want to test their ideas to see if they can make them work without having to spend tens of thousands of dollars."
Welschmeyer and co-founder Matt Holland began working on the project in November 2017. Like many entrepreneurs, their dreams started big, then got smaller as they shaped their idea. The pair originally said the organization would move into a space in a house on Madison Street and planned to make computers, woodworking and metal-working machinery available to members.
As the cost of the project set in, the idea changed its form.
Because of the expense associated with making woodworking and metalworking machinery into the space, the board of the nonprofit organization ditched its initial grand ambitions in an effort to get the project off the ground. He hopes the organization will eventually be able to add the wood working and metal shop.
"That's what entrepreneurs have to do," Welschmeyer said of the decision. "These are the changes and choices that people that start companies don't realize you have to make."
Mid-Mo Maker Labs occupies just one medium-sized room at 115 W. Dunklin St. Two other rooms sit on opposite sides of the building, while a cleaning business sits in other rooms in the interior of the building. As the organization grows, Welschmeyer said the space gives Mid-Mo Maker Labs space to grow and hold events like an upcoming gaming tournament.
In the lab, Welschmeyer feels in his element.
At age 8 he began tinkering with robots and often took apart household items to see what he could make with the gutted gadgets. By age 13 he taught himself how to code.
A Jefferson City native, Welschmeyer attended college at Lincoln College of Technology in Indianapolis where he got an associate's degree in automotive technology and business management. Welschmeyer is about to earn his bachelor's degree in computer systems technology from Columbia College. He plans to get a master's degree in cybersecurity through an online program offered by the nonprofit Western Governors University in Salt Lake City.
In 2011, four years after graduating from Lincoln College, Welschmeyer founded his own computer repair, cellphone repair and web design company.
Welschmeyer currently works as a software support manager at the Jefferson City division of ECi Software Solutions, where his team fixes technical issues in one of the company's software suites. He loves his job, but also has the entrepreneurial bug and dreams of starting a tech company or even a board game company in the maker lab.
Even within the small confines, the space has many gadgets to keep entrepreneurs occupied.
A Computer Assisted Design laser cutter in the space can etch computerized images into wood or metal. Welschmeyer tried to etch the organization's logo into the bulb of a green metal Christmas ornament Wednesday, but did not like the result.
"This is one of the hard parts of doing a round piece," Welschmeyer said as he looked at the bulb. "You can put the attachment in there that allows you to rotate it and it does it a little bit better."
In another part of the room a freshly made X-Wing Starfighter from the movie "Star Wars" sat on a 3-D printer. In another area sat a stack of the lab's servers, which will be available to teach members cybersecurity and other soft tech skills.
Memberships cost $420 per year or $35 per month and give members access to all the tools in the space. Student and family memberships are also available for $35 per month and $60 per month.
Mid-Mo Maker Labs has 20 members and is already close to breaking even. As the organization grows and builds a community around it, Welschmeyer hopes to pass some of his wisdom onto fellow entrepreneurs.
"I don't claim to be an expert, but I can definitely help in areas I've failed in," Welschmeyer said.