ness of the value of libraries in general
through social media. This production development cycle is still a work
in progress, but we believe small steps
make a difference.
AKIBA: I once mocked marketing as
a skill that requires no skill. That
couldn’t be further from the truth.
I’ve come a long way in understanding
where marketing fits in my business.
It’s probably the most important aspect of business, but nobody ever told
me how it could be done ethically, morally, and as a form of self-expression.
I grew up thinking marketing was the
art of selling people things they didn’t
want. Terms like direct marketing,
telemarketing, network marketing,
or internet marketing didn’t matter.
For me, they were just code words for
Marketing now permeates my business in many areas, but it’s done in a
way that is meaningful to me. In contrast to how I originally started FreakLabs, the rebirth of Freaklabs required
a lot of reflection on what was meaningful to me. I discovered I really care
about two things: the environment
and the arts. With that as my guide, I
decided to separate my products and
design efforts into two separate entities. The Freaklabs line focuses on
equipment and hardware for outdoor
environmental monitoring and research; and the re-branded Illuminado
product line focuses on theater technology for performers. My interests influenced my marketing decisions, and
those decisions influenced the business structure. By separating the products into two separate product lines
with narrower audiences, it allows me
to focus my marketing efforts on specific audiences relevant to each line.
It also allows me to target my designs
and features to needs my audience
might have. Most importantly, I’m very
passionate about those two areas because I believe they make a difference
in the world.
One of the interesting implications
of this way of thinking is the realiza-
tion that I don’t need to cater to all
customers. I no longer feel the need to
push myself to appeal to the broadest
possible audience and come up with
generic designs. By focusing on a more
specific audience, I allow myself to
make bolder decisions in my designs.
I’ve added features that allowed my ide-
al customers, i.e., people interested in
environmental monitoring, to instant-
ly recognize it was targeted at them.
Interestingly enough, sales increased
without me increasing my marketing
effort. I started getting much more
business via word-of-mouth sales and
My view about marketing has also
changed my view of travel. Rather
than traveling to trade shows or
events, my girlfriend and I now plan
our travel to places that have meaning to us. As family is a big part of our
lives, we try to create markets for both
our products wherever we have family. This consists of community outreach, workshops, in-person appearances, and finding local distributors
in those areas. We tailor our marketing to address local needs and express
dedication to each area in a unique
way. Some examples are running local workshops in areas near hackerspaces, makerspaces, and community
centers, as well as giving talks to local
communities, schools, and clubs. The
benefit of doing things this way is we
can build our businesses, and spend
more time with our families and
strengthen family bonds.
OPERATIONS AND MANUFAC TURING
JACINTA: My boyfriend and I both work
in manufacturing. As manufacturers
we’re part of an industrial machine
that uses natural resources. If we claim
we care about the environment, we
need to be responsible for the manu-
facturing impact of our companies,
and trace and verify the supply chain
as much as possible.
This takes time, costs money, and
language barriers complicate things
further. Paying more for paper that is
Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certificated, researching and asking what
kind of ink is being used, and doing
factory visits to build relationships and
see the work conditions and environmental standards of the factories are
ways we do this.
Fulfillment and logistics have a big
impact on our lifestyle goals, as currently these tie us geographically. Our
inventory and prototyping setup is in
Japan; when we travel, it essentially
stops. The next step in our lifestyle
plan is to automate our fulfillment and
build a mobile prototyping setup that
can travel with us.
The approach of aligning a business
with a lifestyle plan is an incremental
process and can’t be done all at once. It
needs to constantly adapt as priorities,
values, and the business landscape
changes. But it can be a reference and
guide to living a fulfilling life and running a fulfilling business.
Chris ‘Akiba’ Wang has 20 years of experience as an
electrical engineer with 10 years of experience in product
design and manufacturing. He’s been a design consultant
to organizations such as UNESCO, the International
Atomic Energy Agency, and World Bank. He started his
first company, Freak Labs, in 2007, specializing in open
source wireless sensor networks. He now also runs
Illuminado, a theater and performing arts technology
company. He also runs Hackerfarm, a hackerspace
in the Japanese countryside focusing on agricultural
technology and sustainability, with his girlfriend Jacinta
Plucinski and his friends.
Jacinta Plucinski is a writer and producer with more than
15 years of experience working in Asia, Europe, and the
Middle East. She’s produced content for clients including
Google, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, Louvre in Abu
Dhabi, the South China Morning Post, and the Australian
Centre for Moving Image. She was also the associate
partner at Be Movemen, a social publication sharing
the stories of remarkable people. Today she runs Zoot
Publishing—an indie publishing house exploring new
formats of printed books and boardgames, and conducting
workshops on writing, publishing, and storytelling. She
was one of the founders of Tokyo Hackerspace, and runs
Hackerfarm, a hackerspace in the Japanese countryside
focusing on agricultural technology and sustainability with
her boyfriend, Akiba Wang and friends.
© 2017 Copyright held by Owner(s)/Author(s).
Publication rights licensed to ACM.
people start with
a lot of energy and
work long hours,
fewer plan how to