The Burien Farmers Market is well known for featuring unique crafts and artisanal foods. Many of the vendors are seasoned veterans and others are just starting out, testing out an idea before deciding to expand their business. It was after seeing one vendor struggle to make enough of their hand-crafted boxes to sell at the Burien Farmers Market that Debra George, executive director of Discover Burien, had an idea. Burien needed a maker space.
Despite challenges posed by the pandemic, in 2021, the Discover Burien team proceeded with clearing out a space previously used for classes, purchasing equipment, and hiring staff to manage the “The Box” Makerspace, Highline area’s first publicly accessible maker space.
George recalled, “The goal of “The Box” was to be a launchpad for micro-businesses looking to take their operations to the next level. We wanted to build a space where people could do small production runs and enhance their businesses, but it’s become even more than that. The way I see it, everyone is a maker. The Box provides a community space for people looking to spark their creative sides and let their imaginations run wild. As they say, the best time to start something is now!”
Denise Ferguson, a long-time Discover Burien employee and Burien small business owner, helped create the space, assembling the equipment and organizing the space into different work areas divided by type of equipment and craft.
Ferguson has more than 20 years of e-commerce and entrepreneurship experience, which she is happily teaching to others through her classes and mentoring.
“I’m always interested in new things and new ideas – and that’s turned into teaching now,” said Ferguson. “I get that from my folks. I have a lot of facets in my knowledge base. My dad was a woodworker and my brother and I would try and learn new tools. When Debra asked me to help her with the maker space, it was right up my alley.”
Mitchell Allen, the manager of The Box Makerspace, started last August after spending most of his career as an educator working for museums and afterschool programs, including last summer’s Boys and Girls Club program at the Burien Community Center. Working with 3D printers and other machines was his hobby.
The Box features a variety of equipment that can meet all kinds of project needs. 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, woodworking equipment, sewing machines, a podcast studio, and more—all are available to members.
“I try to make myself at least intermediate level with all of the machines and then get people to my level and then have them push me. I guarantee within a year, I will no longer be the best user of all these machines. And that just means I did my job right. Because then my job becomes teaching the next generation and pushing them toward the people with lots of experience and having them bring them up from there,” said Allen. “My job is to be the catalyst to help the community grow.”
They also offer certification courses, drop-in classes, and special activities during community events. They are also looking for more instructors to teach classes.
The space is geared toward two groups of people: those interested in starting a small business and who need a place to build a prototype or construct a small batch of products to sell. It’s also for people just interested in making things. For example, a group of cosplay enthusiasts recently used the space to make costumes.
But it’s not just a space for making things. It’s also a place where community comes together. The team behind the Box is eager to partner with schools, theaters, and other organizations who may need access to their equipment. They hope to start hosting meetups for different maker communities.
“The lights are really coming on about how we can get out into the community,” said Heather Adams, communications coordinator for Discover Burien. “We are in that marketing phase—who is our audience, what do we want to come out of here? And what does our community look like that we are starting to build? It’s exciting.”
“We are here to facilitate and foster your ideas,” said Ferguson. “Have an idea for a business? Come and talk to us.”
The Box was founded in 2021 as a resource for micro businesses and the local community to get inspired, explore, and create. In addition to their hours below, the space is open during the Burien Art Walk every first Friday of the month between 4–8 p.m.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday: 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m.
Friday: 10:30 a.m.–7 p.m.
Saturday: 9:30. a.m.–6 p.m.
The Box is located in the alley behind Discover Burien off 153rd Avenue between Ambaum and 6th Ave SW.