Repair Cafes Help People Fix Broken Things, in DIY Style

Repair Cafes Help People Fix Broken Things, in DIY Style
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When I was a kid, my remote control car survives well under heavy use. As a kid, you redefine the word ‘heavy use.’ It means that your RC car survived falls, crashes, trips, and anything else you could think of. If it didn’t suffer much, it lasted for years before you need to buy another one.

Growing up, I finally realized that consumer goods weren’t as durable as before, and it was intended to be that way. You see, manufacturers figured long ago how to effectively shorten electronic devices’ lifespans to increase consumption (e.g. buy a new one because the old one is broken.)

Nothing personal. It’s just business.

So, what happen to the old stuff? We throw it away.

Now, not all of us can accept that fact lightly. Some of us retaliate, trying to fix things up, DIY style. Unfortunately, not all of us are great at fixing stuff. Blame the education system, if you will, for not teaching us how to have even basic repair skills.

To solve the problem, some saw an opportunity to create a community of like-minded people – those who don’t want to give up easily on their broken stuff. This simple premise has lead the trend of repair cafes, started out several years ago and sweeping the world, cities by cities.

It’s not as flashy as starting up a well sought-after SaaS company but solving problems is a big, big business, regardless of how ‘boring’ the idea is.

So, what is a repair cafe?

It’s essentially a community of people, young and old, who want to learn on how to fix things, trying to extend the lifespan of their stuff, even revive it. But not without help and guidance, of course: A team of experts and volunteers stands by to help the community. Joining is free.

It’s hip in the US, right now – learn more here:

It’s started in other parts of the world – for example, here’s one in Amsterdam, Holland:

…and here’s one in Paris, France:

As you can see, it’s a worldwide trend.

Where’s the money?

This is a typical, must-asked question, but unfortunately, this is also the one that I can’t answer well.

Repair cafes were started as non-profits, and as far as I know, the thousands of repair cafes worldwide operate typically from Government grants and donations.  As participation is free, while tools and amenities are prepared by the members and volunteers, profits are something that’s still in an uncertain region.

The business model is sound, but to start one as a for-profit company or social enterprise, founders need to find ways to support the operational – most probably through partnerships with tool makers, brands, and so on.

That said, I’d love to hear from you if you’re the owner of a for-profit repair cafe – contact us with your story, and we’ll feature you in this post.

Now over to you

So, are you ready to start a repair cafe in your local area (here’s a guide for that,) or take it further, maybe by creating a scalable version of it (like this one,) helping people to start one in their local communities? The trend is there, and it’s all up to you how to capitalize on it.

Cover photo credit: Desador.WordPress.com