Friday, July 29, 2016

Set Up A 501(c)3 Non Profit Corporation

I keep getting asked to help people set up a non profit because I've done a couple.

I think lawyers try to make it sound more complicated than it really is.  With a little focused expertise, you can get it done quickly and at a much more reasonable cost than hiring a lawyer (or trying to figure it out yourself).

It's really quite simple.  I've done two so far and given this advice to about half a dozen others (those that carried though with it as outlined all got their 501(c)3 designations).  The first one we did took 30 days (denhac, the Denver hackerspace) and the second one took 60 days (TinkerMill, the Longmont Makerspace).

We used the same process for both.  It involves three steps:

1) create a Colorado (or whatever state you're in) non profit corporation. In Colorado, the cost is $50.  You do it online here (Colorado's Secretary of State website, your state likely works in a similar way):

2) hire this firm to do your paperwork:  Floyd Green Financial Services (Atlanta, GA).  Ask for Tina Mikova (  tel. (877) 457-2550; direct line (678) 608-3911;  They charge between $500 and $650 for everything.  This person did both of our's and she's a pro.  They want to be paid via credit card up front.  Trust them and pay them.  We did and got exactly what we paid for.

3) pay the IRS their one time fee.  You now send in the paperwork Tina prepares for you and a check to the IRS for $850.  Or $400 if you're doing less than $10K in revenue a year (for regular 501c3 applications). For those organizations that qualify for the expedited 501c3 application (f1023-EZ), the IRS filing fee is $275 if their projected gross income is of less than $50K.

So, total outlay, about $1000 low end, about $1400/1500 high end.

I would strongly recommend you not try to do this yourselves.  Hire these guys.  They got ours through the IRS with zero hassle.  They've done thousands of 501(c)3's and know exactly what to do.

DISCLAIMER:  I am getting NO referral fee's or any other remuneration of any kind from Floyd Green Financial Services. I just think they do really good work at a fair price, fast.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

TinkerMill- Time For Me To Move On

It's time for me to leave the leadership of TinkerMill, the Makerspace, to the next generation of members.

Monday, 7/25/16, was my last Board of Director's meeting and a new board was elected Tuesday night.  After three years, I'm no longer part of the team running TinkerMill and am now just a regular member.

TinkerMill started in May of 2013 as the simple idea that I  wanted a makerspace in Longmont, where I lived.  I'd been a member of denhac, the Denver hackerspace, and was tired of driving to Denver multiple times a week.  So, I started talking to people.

First (among several people) was the VP of education at SparkFun, Lindsay Levkoff.  She and I met at City Cafe, one of my favorite places to eat, and decided, 'yea, this is a good idea'.  She had a URL called "TinkerLab" which we considered as the name.  We settled on TinkerMill though because one of the first places we (almost) rented was an old flourmill.

So, we used (highly recommended).   I posted a meetup and thought, if 4 people show up, we'll have a second meeting. 6 people showed up and we haven't missed a weekly membership meeting since.

Within a month, we'd created a non profit Colorado Corporation (June of 2013).  Within 2 months, we had about 30 members.  Within 6 months, we had 50 members and we had a space - about 4000SF in a soon to be torn down mall).  Around a year or so in we got our 501(c)3 non profit status.  We found a new home (about 10,000SF indoors and another 3/4000SF of covered outside space at 1840 Delaware Place, Longmont CO., where TinkerMill still lives.

We created bylaws, a board of directors, documents, structures and processes for protecting the membership and a culture that, apparently, is working well.  I served as president the first two years, and the last year as a director on the Board of Directors.

As of early July, 2016, we have around 400 paying members making TinkerMill one of the largest makerspaces in the USA.

It's become a true melting pot of people from all walks of the creative life.  From bits - computers and software - to atoms - metalwork, pottery, woodshop, plastics, robotics, blacksmithing, welding, wetlabs, glassworks, silversmithing, music, amateur radio, recording, art of all types, scouts and other kid friendly learning, sewing, prototyping and coming up with new art, products, companies and, well, just creating and innovation in general.

It's also become a place with over 100 classes a month (often more) on everything from how to use a 3D printer or lasercutter to how to throw and fire pottery to how to program arduino chips and build robots and drones to how to develop a new game (software, board, cards, dice, you name it).

Everyone at TinkerMill is an expert at something.

It's, (initially) by accident, then intentionally, turned into a kind of incubator/accelerator and center of entrepreneurial activity for the area.  With members from all over the front range, and several small companies forming and growing within TinkerMill's walls; new products, businesses and primary employment are being created in a place, and in areas of interest, that have never happened before in Longmont.

Although I'm the original founder and had a significant part in getting it started, the real star here is the membership itself.  The members of TinkerMill made it what it is today.  In the last year, we even found our new, very capable, leader:  Ron Thomas, our full time Executive Director.

One person can't create a group of creative artists, craftspeople, scientists, developers, engineers and entrepreneurs like this though.  Even the membership can't really do it alone.  It's something an entire community has to get behind and that very much happened at TinkerMill.

The City of Longmont (Sandi Seader in particular, as well ad Harold Dominguez) have been very supportive, with the City Council (in a 6-1 vote) providing us with a $60,000 grant for equipment in our 2nd year, which helped jump start our membership due to the great tools we could buy.  Other entities in the business community were also really helpful, especially the Longmont Economic Development Partnership (Jessica Erickson) and the Longmont Community Foundation (Eric Hozempa).  The State of Colorado awarded us a $50K advanced industries grant.

We even worked with Eric H. to create a kind of 'small' investment granting entity he named Longmont Ignite that helps find and fund great ideas from entrepreneurs at TinkerMill.

Brad Feld, a very well known venture capitalist in Boulder County (who's home is in a Longmont zip code no less) and his wife Amy Batchelor sponsored one of our bathrooms (a Brad thing).  Brad also is helping Eric H. with the Longmont Ignite fund, or so the rumor goes.

There were many others as well.  Hundreds of people from all over the community, too many to name here, unfortunately.

We've been visited by dozens of different entities from around the country (and world, a S. Korean TV station did a special on how TinkerMill and makerspaces in general are the future of education) and inspired, we're told, more than one other makerspace in Colorado (one of the first being our sister city:  Loveland, and their Loveland Creatorspace.

So, it is with a slightly sad, but satisfied, heart I leave the leadership of TinkerMill.  I wish the new leadership a smooth and fruitful journey and I look forward to whatever the next adventure might be.

If you've got something that you think I might be interested in or could help you with, I'm around; feel free to drop me a line.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Well, it keeps getting weirder.

Last Monday, I went to check on my youngest brother Brian, and found him slumped over in his easy chair. He'd passed away the night before. He was 50. He'd developed lung disease (a heavy smoker most of his adult life) and it took him, peacefully, in his sleep.

It's been a pretty crappy 3 months. Dad in November (88, heart disease); Craig on Christmas eve (53, complications from surgery) and now Brian. The good news is I still have one brother and Mom, who are doing as well as can be expected, plus a large extended family across the country.

Brians obituary

Saturday, December 26, 2015

A sad holiday season

For anyone who knows me, I've never been a big fan of the holiday season.  It's taken on a bit more of a personal flavor this year with a pretty unhappy pair of losses over the last 2 months.

On Nov. 5th, my dad, Ken Converse, passed away.  He was 88.

He was a kind and gentle soul.  The youngest of 8 kids raised during the depression by only his mother, a widow, and the mean streets of Pipestone, S. Dakota.  He served in the Navy in WWII and was in the fleet that was present when Japan signed the surrender.  He met my mom while skating (he was, at the time, a bit like a skateboarder would be today in his youth) and asked her to marry him while working at a dairy where they both ended up at during the same period (he was, for a short time a milkman..yep, for reals).  That's not where his real interest lay though.  While in the Navy, he became an electrician's mate and, for most of his professional life, he was the equivalent of an un-degreed engineer everywhere he worked.  He spent most of his working life (30+ years) at IBM in various positions and lived a long and happy life with my Mom, Betty Converse, who's, thankfully, still with us and in reasonably good health.

A day before Christmas, my brother Craig died after a surgery that he hoped would end the pain and possibly help repair the damage done to his spinal cord in a car accident 9 years ago that made him a near quadriplegic.  He was 53.

Craig was a huge man, in both physical size and in the size of his heart.  At 6'6" and weighing in at 250-300lbs most of his life, it was hard to call him my "little" brother.  I did call him my less infinitely wise and younger brother as often as I could though, much to his (feigned) chagrin.  He was, like our dad, a gentle soul.  An architect by training, deep down, his real nature was that of an artist.  A very good one at that.  He spent the last several years of his professional life designing schools and involved with educational institutions before the accident.  His lovely wife Kate took excellent care of him until the end, making his life as good as it could be given the circumstances.   She will always be a part of our family.

I miss my Dad and my Brother, both, terribly.

Treasure your family and friends.  In the end, they're really all that matter.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

It's time to pass the torch at TinkerMill...

I founded TinkerMill a little over two years ago with a room of 5-6 people one Tuesday evening in one of our local public school meeting rooms.

Over the last two years, it's grown from an idea that we needed one of these in Longmont, to the largest makerspace in this 10 state region, with hundreds of paying members, over 1,000 online members, 10,000+ square feet of space, an incredible array of tools and capabilities and, most importantly, an incredible community of creative people, all experts at something.

I've been the president for these first two years; I said when I started that I'd lead it for a year, two tops.  Here we are, two years later and it's time for me to pass the torch; I told everyone that if nominated for president again, I wouldn't accept.

Soooo... Although I'm still on the board, mostly to provide a smooth transition, as of yesterday, I'm no longer the president.  We elected a new board and the board elected new officers (President, Vice President and Secretary).  Here's the lineup:

Clint Bickmore (New President)

Greg Collins (New Vice President)

Matt Stallard (New Secretary)

Fara Shimbo (Director)

Scott Converse (Director)

Ron Thomas remains our executive director.
Chris Yoder remains our Sgt. at Arms.
Steven Alexander is our new Treasurer.

I'd also like to say: A truly deep and sincere thank you to our departing board members: Karl Niemann, Lee Sutherland and Dixon Dick, all Founders of TinkerMill and all incredible contributors over our last two years of existence.  I'd also like to thank Jeff Cragg, also a TinkerMill Founder, who served for over two years as our treasurer as we grew to become what we are today.  Thank you to all of you.  It's been a great ride so far, and I think we still have a long way to go.

There are many adventures ahead with Makerspaces and TinkerMill around creating new kinds of education, innovation, economic development engines and furthering the creative collision of art, science, technology and entrepreneurship.  I'm not going away, I'll be there, trying to figure out how all this fits into the future, in Colorado, and many other places, and I hope many of you will be right there, with us.