The benefits of local contacts

The benefits of local contacts

Have you connected with resources in your community? Ashton Hauff, founder of Makewell in Bismarck, North Dakota, has provided a powerful forum for locals to encourage, learn from and inspire each other. Read on to learn more.

Provide a brief history and overview of Makewell.

Makewell was created out of the need for a local creative community in the fall of 2016. I was experiencing this community gap in my personal work as a designer and photographer, and found it to be true with others, no matter what creative industry they belonged to. I reached out to get some peer feedback before diving in, and the response was overwhelming. From there, I was able to form a team that wanted to make it happen and we held our first event just a few months later in February of 2017. Since then, we’ve held three more sold-out events and continue to build more ongoing opportunities to build communities for makers around our state and beyond. We believe when the makers succeed, the community succeeds so we’re 110 percent invested in helping the makers connect, learn, and be inspired by one another.

Who inspired you and what key events have influenced you to create Makewell?

It’s hard to be surrounded by so many excellent creative leaders and NOT be inspired to do something! The people we serve motivate me every day to give back as they’re all working so hard to give their own gifts and passions. As far as key events, a few life experiences come to mind. First, I was raised in an art room constantly seeing my mother making, so that instilled a sense of creativity early on. Second, my college years in Minneapolis really gave me a sense for the impact a creative community can bring. I saw the friendships, the collaborations, and the way it transformed the city’s culture. That city and its people are role models, for sure.

Please share your perspective on the importance of community.

Without community, we might have the rules and regulations of society to guide us, but we’d be without the generous help, wise advice and grand life experience that each and every person brings to the table when community is present. I visualize community as a domino effect where relationships and dreams exponentially grow when we’re supporting one another. For this very reason, Makewell exists. We know the talented makers of North Dakota are hard workers with strong motivations, but when they have the gift of community, they can accelerate all their efforts and live in their full potential and purpose.

The effect of makers in community is essential to a community’s culture. No matter which community you call home, each and every community is different with both their own challenges and gifts. Makers, as the natural innovators and visionaries of a community, can bring their gifts, ideas and talents to solve the greater challenges we all face in unique, innovative ways. Whether a town with just 10 people or a large, populated city, makers are key in creating a diverse, local culture that we can all be proud of and thrive in. Without that creative community present, a place may never experience their full potential and culture, so with Makewell our work strives to make sure makers have a seat at the table to make communities come alive.

What has surprised you most since starting Makewell?

I’d be mistaken to say I’ve never had an idea or project fail in the past, so my biggest surprise with Makewell was seeing how great the need for the community was, and how creating community was the simple, yet obvious solution to that problem. When we’re all alone in our own worlds creating, it’s easy to get competitive and assume we all have that attitude towards one another, but it’s been completely amazing to see the support, generosity and vulnerability in our Makewell community come alive. Now I know with complete certainty that the makers in our area are ready to give and share ideas with one another; there was just never the space to do so. Makewell encourages those interactions in everything we do, and we’re all benefiting because of it.

Who are you trying to recruit to be a part of Makewell?

Makewell is for the makers, small business owners, entrepreneurs and culture creators. If you’re making, problem solving, building, growing or simply contributing to the world you live in, we want to come alongside you and support you along your journey. It’s always a great day when we have a new maker-type join our circle that we never knew existed. For instance, we’ve had a hula hooper, yo-yo performer and balloon artist attend and perform at our events alongside the teachers, community leaders and software engineers. When we get together as a community, it’s pretty magical and the connections are invaluable. If you make in any capacity, let us introduce you to an amazing group of people, ready to help you succeed.

What lessons learned can you share about starting this group?

I’ve learned a couple of things. First, if you have a problem in your life that leads to an idea, make sure to voice it to someone. It doesn’t matter if it’s your spouse, friend, parent; just someone to get the idea outside of your own head space. When you voice an idea to someone else, it gives the opportunity to come alive or get set aside for later. Either way, once the idea is out there, you avoid letting your own doubt get in the way, crushing the idea before it even gets a chance. Even if it’s a ‘bad’ idea in that moment, it might be a ‘good’ one later on or can be something you pass on to someone else. Ideas succeed when it’s the right person at the right time, so I encourage all of us to share ideas in order to make that happen.

Secondly, if you’re like myself and dive head-first and get really passionate about an idea, make sure to test out your idea with a small group of people, say 20, to really analyze and see if its ‘sticky.’ I’ve had previous projects “fail” because I skip that step, so when it came time for the idea of Makewell, I learned my lesson and surveyed 20 makers I knew. In the end, I think their feedback encouraged us and showed us just how great of a need there was. In addition, this step can save you significant amounts of time and energy if your idea isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. Just set it aside and get back to the drawing board.

What are the ‘shoot for the moon’ goals of Makewell?

Where to begin…Makewell is fairly new so we have a lot of big goals ahead of us that really excite and energize us as we continue to build and grow. Our biggest ‘shoot for the moon’ goal is to open a ‘makerspace’ to provide a space for makers to connect on a daily, weekly, monthly basis as it’d have a subscription model. The space would provide a communal working area that’s inspiring and modern, while also having several workstations for messy creations. For instance, we could have screen printing, a photography studio, sewing machines, carpentry space, podcasting booth, commissary kitchen, etc. for makers of all types to use equipment that they either can’t afford individually or have never had the chance to learn about before.

The space would also be used for Makewell’s home office, workshops for all ages, gallery events, meetings and more. The combination of a focused work and messy creation space would be so dynamic for the maker community as we have several freelancers that currently work alone in their homes with a desire to learn and meet others more often. The challenge with this project is finding a centrally located space as our audience members consist of 77 percent millennials who live near downtown and finding one that’s fairly large in square footage as the creative equipment isn’t your normal office gear.

If anyone wants to see this ‘shoot for the moon’ goal happen, or knows of resources to get us there, I’d love to talk more and see how we can make it happen in our community.

To learn more about Makewell, visit


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