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Since leaving MakerBot, company co-founder Zach “Hoeken” Smith now calls Shenzhen, China home where he says he loves the maker culture and the city’s easy access to electronics and expertise. The weather is a lot better than Brooklyn, too. Zach recently met a local maker named Mr. Chen whom he says has achieved the life many makers are working toward: “self sufficiency, low volume in-house manufacturing, and sustainable living.”

He wrote about his encounter on his blog. It’s an interesting, cross-cultural read about a true maker.  Here’s a sample:

As we got to talking about making and DIY culture, I began to get a sense that this down-to-earth guy was someone who really understands the so-called Maker culture. He was very business savvy, and even had a slogan: 花小钱,赚大钱 which roughly means spend less and earn more. What he was describing was a lean operation where he had digital fabrication tools that allowed him to retool and switch around really quickly and efficiently. His house was doubling as his production floor so he had very little overhead. He also understood that he needed to find niche markets in order to remain competitive.

Stett Holbrook

Stett is a senior editor at MAKE with abiding interest in food and drink, bicycles, woodworking, and environmentally sound human enterprises. He is the father of two young makers.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

Contact Stett with tips and story ideas on:

*Sustainable/green design
*Young Makers
*Action sports



  1. Alan Chunkster says:

    Ah, yes. China is thriving utilizing principles we have long forgotten. How can he turn his house into a production floor? He’s not zoned for that!

    Someday we’ll get it. It will be too late.

  2. Kevin says:

    actually “花小钱,赚大钱” more accurately means – “be stingy”. It’s the motto and way of business for all chinese companies. In a different context it could also mean “exploit your employees” – hehe, however that’s another story altogether.
    Strangely enough, i live in shenzhen. Which i find this quite interesting.