Cecilia Tham is the founder of Makers of Barcelona co-working space.
I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for just one day before moving to Macau where I grew up. When I was 14, we moved to Atlanta, USA.
I initially wanted to become a doctor, but before medical school you have to sit an MCAT exam which determines whether or not you’re medical school material. I got a three percent rating which obviously didn’t look too promising. I then decided that I wanted to study architecture, so I applied to Harvard and was accepted. The school was incredible. The studios were open spaces where I was always surrounded by other students and constantly exposed to what everybody was working on. That was my home and my life for the following four years.
My journey in Barcelona started like many others. I arrived, I decided to stay a few more weeks, weeks turned into months, months into years and so on. My first job here was at an architecture firm which I really didn’t enjoy. I just didn’t feel valuable as an employee, and with my language skills at that time, I really couldn’t compete against the others. I really missed the environment I was used to, working and sharing ideas with people in my field. I always wanted to create something like that here. Something that I would have appreciated when I arrived here. Then I fell pregnant.
When I gave birth to my first child, I became a ‘stay-at-home mom’. I love my kids, but being at home, I was bored to hell. I always have to be doing something. My husband decided that a sewing machine would solve my frustration. I remember sewing my first line on fabric and stopping to think ‘oh my god, I did that!’. I was so pleased with myself. I then started making shoes and clothes for my kids. My husband mentioned that his company needed a website making. I was adamant that I could produce a website myself. I studied HTML tutorials online, and I created his website—they still use it to this day. I kept reminding myself that I was not useless, I can really do stuff.
My passion for making things didn’t stop there. I also created a camera shutter release for a friend, which was pretty intricate, but after finding another tutorial online, and a quick trip to Onda Radio on Gran Via, my friend and I managed to create a fully functioning one. By this time I was unstoppable!
I then thought, why not? Let’s do MOB. Let’s create a space where people can interact and collaborate within a creative environment, sharing ideas and expertise, even specialist equipment. I had no idea of how I was going to start this. I was fixated on three criteria. I wanted it to be big, on street-level and centrally located. My friend lived above this location, that’s how I initially found out about it. We actually negotiated to get the first seven months rent for free, in return for reconstructing the space, which was previously just a derelict space. We borrowed €60,000 from the bank, which went on the renovation.
We started with 40 members in November 2011, and now have 200. I would say to anybody thinking of joining MOB, that this is not just about coworking, it’s about being able to have a mass of people who are able to move forward together and be creative. Our space is focussed on the ‘maker movement.’ It’s about the attitude, mentality and inspiration from those around you. Here, creativity is contagious.