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Ponoko: Carving a Truly Sustainable Business Niche for Themselves

| Friday October 2nd, 2009 | 3 Comments


Ponoko logoBack when I was a student at the sustainable MBA centered Presidio Graduate School, one of the more oddball students was Edward West. A mad scientist in the making, complete with wild hair, a secondary concern for such an idea driven man, he now leads the charge at electric motorcycle startup Mission Motors.

Edward told me about how he knew of people that could take most any idea you had for an object, and using lasers, carve it for you. Print on demand products. Another wild eyed green MBA dream, perhaps?

No. Now it’s really happening, and happening successfully.

As reported in Inc recently, New Zealand based Ponoko was first a one machine shop, cranking out the products that their sellers sent them the designs for, helping leap the big hurdle from concept to business, the typically large quantities fabricators require.

Having now adjusted their pricing model to make it more affordable for designers to use their services, it’s gotten busier, itself going from gee whiz idea to viable business. But there’s more.

ponoko ecosystemNow, with a sizable ecosystem of designers, fabricators, and customers for the unique products out there, they have smartly made themselves the hub of this – facilitating a self sustaining operation, where companies with materials meet designers with needs for them, for instance.

Ponoko has also enrolled those with the equipment to do the fabricating of the products closer to those buying and shipping them. This reduces Ponoko’s workload, increases their capacity, and minimizes the footprint, while giving those digital fabricators additional work.

Realizing that not everybody that has an idea knows how to design it, Ponoko is now connecting the dots between them and the capable designers that populate their community, again creating work for designers and ultimately, more business for Ponoko and the person who had that idea, selling it on Ponoko.

In this rough economy, having an agile network with enthusiastic people and companies participating, all supporting one another from idea to purchase, is a smart, truly sustainable way to run a business.

What other creative, self supporting business models that remove barriers are you seeing out there?  Bought from or worked with Ponoko? What’s been your experience? Please share, below.

Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations around, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media.


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  • alex

    We all have to make a living, but if we can make it doing something we love, sharing the creative process with like-minded/souled fellows, whilst serving people’s needs without destroying the planet under us….then we should; and spread the news in the process – so Thanks!
    Great ethos! ‘Ecosystem’ ‘hub’ great language. So much inefficiency and waste is due to adapting old ways, rather than going for a complete overhaul. It seems the overhaul is happening! I’m really impressed. Viva (eco) systems-theory, crazy (haired) people and innovators who share!

  • http://woodmarvels.com Jon

    Ponoko is amazing, we use them for all our laser cut kits and they are great to deal with.

    Jon @ WoodMarvels.com

  • http://www.greensmithconsulting.com Paul Smith

    @Alex Well said!

    @Jon Glad to hear it’s going well, will have a look for what you do on there.

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