Makeshop: A Genius Bar for Creative Services




Talent doesn’t just grow on trees, but in urban hubs like New York City, independent creatives are flourishing—and they’re almost everywhere you look, from coffee shops to co-working spaces. Ajay Rajani realized this at a café in New York City, where he noticed everyone around him working on projects—from designing logos to building PowerPoint decks.

As an entrepreneur, Rajani knows there are just as many business owners and brand leaders wishing they could find on-demand help with their latest projects. Opportunities obviously abound, so Rajani partnered with ZeShan Malik to turn naturally synergistic spaces into productivity hubs.

Make Shop

Their latest venture, Makeshop, is billed as a “genius bar for creative services,” which include copy, design, product management/UX and more. Patrons looking for specialized help can sign up for a timed, in-person session with one of Makeshop’s handpicked creatives through a fairly simple web platform.

The business model is transparent: Patrons pay $90/hr and creatives are paid $50/hr (and unlimited coffee and snacks at the participating venue). The goal is to make sure patrons get access to the crème of the creative class, while freelancing professionals get a good rate for fun projects that could turn into side hustles or bigger opportunities.

Makeshop addresses some relevant macro-trends: the rapid urbanization of the world and the rising need for creative skillsets, driven by increasing automation. The high concentration of supply and demand for such talents in urban areas necessitates tools for streamlining the creative process.

“You have apps to help you get from point A to point B physically (in a car or bike), but no there’s no such solution for the creative journey,” explains Rajani, who’s incubating Makeshop and other experiments in the future of work via Core Labs. “You’re forced to contract work to strangers online, pay exorbitant agency minimums, or just make do on your own.” He wanted to create a streamlined solution for the working future, while keeping humanity front-and-center.

According to Rajani, Malik is the person “best-equipped to make the creative economy more human and efficient.” Malik cut his chops building new models for creative collaboration as the founder of Brandathon—weekend-long creative sprints for brands and branding professionals.

Makeshop enables the same level of creative collaboration on a more bite-sized level, making it accessible to people from all walks of life. He expects to draw patrons from the startup, agency, fashion, and tech worlds, but also hopes to attract independent shops, non-profits, musicians, and artists. “Getting help from Makeshop is low-risk in terms of cost and very high-reward in terms of what a person can gain,” says Malik. “It’s good business to get an outside opinion on branding matters from professionals who are not afraid of delivering honest feedback.”

In terms of relevance, Makeshop’s founding tenets (Curation, Concierge and More Human) line up with rising expectations for better and more personal experiences. Each of Makeshop’s copywriters, designers and product/strategy experts is hand-selected and monitored based on performance. This guarantees high-quality results for short-term projects, while eliminating a disproportionately lengthy interview processes.

The team also tailors the experience to patrons’ needs, helping them narrow their project focus, determine the right session length and find the creative best-suited to their goals. And because these sessions are designed to foster in-person connections, humanity is inherent. Working one-on-one in short stints allows both parties to get to know one another and decide whether to pursue a longer-term relationship. It’s like match-making meets speed-dating for professionals (but arguably much more creatively rewarding).

Rajani and Malik hope to hone the Makeshop experience in New York before expanding to other urban centers, and plan to automate some of the “concierge” aspect, which makes sure participants are ideally matched based on project needs. An Alpha experience held last spring at Distilled NY sold out. It also scored the team funding to open up Makeshop from February 26 to March 30th across three Bond Collective locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The ideal is novel and low-risk enough to try once, but the challenge will be attracting repeat patrons—and getting enough momentum to grow. Makeshop is responding to a changing culture, and perhaps its most powerful role in that will be as a facilitator of new relationships. “We’re surrounded by talented people who can help us a long creative journey, yet it’s more difficult than ever to connect and work together,” says Malik. As ways of working shift, we’ll need to find new modes of connecting and collaborating. Giving people a platform to match their talents and needs is what he believes is most special about what they’re doing.