From Tinkerer to Franchiser

Since being featured in our start-up issue ("How to Launch a Cool, Profitable, Kick-ass Start-up," July), Jim Newton has been in high demand. Newton, the founder of TechShop, a fledgling chain of workshops for inventors and hobbyists, has been contacted by more than 700 people interested in setting up TechShop franchises in their cities. The company has preliminary agreements with nine franchisees so far, and the plan is to have TechShops opened by this summer in Seattle; Portland, Oregon; Sacramento; Los Angeles; San Diego; Austin; Orlando; Marin County, California; and the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. TechShop is looking to raise from $5 million to $8 million from angel investors and venture capitalists by the end of March. Ultimately, Newton would like to have 55 shops operating by 2013.

And thanks to Inc.'s matchmaking skills, Newton has struck up a relationship with Paul Orfalea, the founder of Kinko's, whom we asked to assess the TechShop business plan. The two men had lunch in September, and Orfalea is setting up a visit to the company's Menlo Park, California, facility this year.