Tamara Wendt photo by Catalina Ayubi.
More than two months ago, Danny Lafuente and Wifredo Fernandez, co-founders of The LAB Miami, announced they were setting their sights on new projects and creating an opportunity for someone else to carry on the day-to-day management of the vision they brought to life. While I’ve been supervising operations at The LAB Miami since late last year, I’m excited to build upon that work as the new managing director.
I have been fortunate to be part of The LAB since the Cirque du Cowork, the launch party for the current location in 2013. Danny invited a maker space project I was involved with to base itself in one of The LAB’s offices. I began to see the story unfold of brilliant hard-working founders, an impressive board, and the support of the forward-thinking Knight Foundation, all set against the backdrop of Wynwood, one of Miami’s most creative and progressive neighborhood.. It was clear that there was a demand for a place like The LAB, which hosted more than 25,000 people in its first 12 months. More than 160 members spanning 80 diverse, but commonly social-minded, organizations began to co-work and collaborate here. The ethos of openness, trust and sharing is palpable when you walk into The LAB. It is relaxing, invigorating, inspiring, and, as I hear visitors say almost every day, it “feels really good in here.”
In the next year we will continue to support open programs such as the Wynwood Maker Camp, the Maker Educational Initiative, Code for Miami and a number of new community initiatives and social events started by members and non-members alike—and many supported by Knight. Groups such as Code Fever, Colony 1 Sustainability Hub, LadyFest and the Overtown Youth Center will all have a hand in shaping our approach to community building.
There will also be a more sophisticated approach to improving on some of the more successful events from the past year such as the Brainfood Mentor Talk Series, The LAB’s Brown Bag Lunches (for more intimate small group discussions), hackathons of all kinds and Lean Startup Experiments.
World-class, marquee events will continue to define The LAB and Wynwood: III Points Music Festival will shock and awe with new tech activations, the Miami Mini Maker Faire will double in size and take to the streets of Wynwood, SIME MIA will once again inspire and inform with its all-star roster of speakers, and Art Basel week at The LAB will go even deeper into tech-meets-creative.
We will continue to support and find new ways to provide for our members, to foster collaboration within the broader community of entrepreneurs and innovators, and to change the way people think about work itself.
In 2012, I was driving from Ann Arbor, Mich., to Miami having decided that after 12 years in nonprofit management, I wanted to do something entrepreneurial. I had no idea that two years later I would find myself at the helm of one of the most exciting social ventures in South Florida. The LAB is a platform for community engagement. A place for ideas and connections. A vortex of creative energy. A resource for startups and established businesses. I count myself lucky to be able to serve this community, and I hope to play a supporting role in the next chapter of Miami’s growth.