Startup Spotlight: Moonlighter Makerspace encourages creative collaboration

Co-founders Daisy Nodal and Tom Pupo in their new Moonlighter Makerspace on Sept. 2, 2015.
Co-founders Daisy Nodal and Tom Pupo in their new Moonlighter Makerspace on Sept. 2, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

Company: Moonlighter Makerspace

Headquarters: 2041 NW First Place, Miami

Concept: Moonlighter is a membership-based makerspace for creative collaboration, personal manufacturing and engaging in the design process. Moonlighter features and supports local designers, artists and creators and aspires to engage the communities with fun and educational STEAM (Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics) experiences that foster the growing maker movement.

Story: After co-founders Tom Pupo and Daisy Nodal graduated with a master’s in architecture, they realized that there wasn’t a place in Miami equipped with the same technologies they were used to using on a daily basis for design projects. After doing some research, they found that this need was unfulfilled for a range of different user groups, including artists, designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, professional firms and hobbyists.

They visited various makerspaces around the country and in Europe to see how these new organizations were fulfilling this need for their communities and realized it was becoming a global phenomenon. “We bootstrapped for a year, bought our first two 3-D printers and hosted a series of maker workshops around the city. Each one was booked over capacity, and we found that there was a huge demand for a place where one can come and create anything with the high-tech machines needed to do so,” Pupo said. The team also entered the 2014 Miami Herald Business Plan Challenge (they were finalists) and participated in the Miami Mini Maker Fair, MDC MOA+D Bazaar Bar, Miami Science Museum’s Innovation + Engineering Weekend, BritCode for Britweek Miami, Art Basel, eMerge Americas and other events that drew creative people and listened to feedback and needs of the community.

Then Pupo and Nodal sought out the guidance of SCORE Miami-Dade, the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at FIU and the Hispanic Business Initiative Fund (HBIF). They took SCORE workshops on business planning and funding, and SCORE and SBDC counselors connected them with the Miami Bayside Foundation’s loan program. “We were able to obtain a loan to finally open our doors in Wynwood, to become a hub for the emerging creatives in our city and to empower a new generation of technology enabled creators,” Nodal said.

Launched: 2014

Management team: Daisy Nodal and Tom Pupo


Financing: $85,000 in personal savings and friends and family; $50,000 loan from Miami Bayside Foundation.   

Recent milestones: Celebrated grand opening Aug. 14 of Moonlighter Makerspace with the latest technologies for digital design and personal manufacturing; also chosen to join as the first littleBits Global Chapter in South Florida, joining a community of creative spaces worldwide. Received loan from Miami Bayside Foundation.

Biggest startup challenge: Raising capital. “Our space doesn’t have all the technology in our vision, and we don’t have as much space as we know the concept needs, but we produced our current space as a prototype to illustrate the possibilities. Hopefully, as [investors] inhabit the space and understand the relationship between each machine and component of our vision, they will understand the bigger picture,” Pupo said. 

Next step: To build a membership base while hosting workshops, classes and events led by experts in art, design and engineering.

“It is crucial to generate different sources of revenue and to keep on with educational sessions in schools and universities in order to grow the future community of makers in South Florida,” said Gustavo Grande of HBIF, which helped Moonlighter with a marketing plan, promotions and media strategy. “Moonlighter will definitely add value to the technological and innovative ecosystem that is growing in South Florida and at the same time is a wonderful place where anyone can have fun, meet great people while making a new collection of furniture, an exclusive piece of jewelry or a robotic prosthetic arm.”

Nancy Dahlberg