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“I did what any responsible father of two would do, I bought a motorcycle,” said Mike Esser of Raleigh Motor. “And then I bought another one.” Mike wasn’t talking about buying showroom condition motorcycles. He found two junkers on Craigslist for a few hundred bucks, neither of which started. Over the next few months, Mike spent hours in his basement carefully disassembling and rebuilding the two bikes into one perfectly working riding machine.

“I knew if I could just get one complete working bike out of the two, it would be a success.” Through the process Mike met other local, talented individuals who are true artists at their craft. These leather workers, metal workers, painters, and others had a passion for their craft – and also working on bikes. The process of Mike’s first bike inspired him so much that he launched “Raleigh Motor,” a place where fellow artisans can come together to talk shop. What started as a simple impulse buy on Craigslist has now morphed into a strong, tight knit community. “Our goal now is to bring together as many of these artists and builders as we can to collaborate on gear and apparel, bike builds, and our very own works of art and design.” Its stories and people like this that make RTP 180 simply…awesome.

Welcome to 2016, another year with another solid lineup of RTP 180 talks! In case you’re unfamiliar with RTP 180, let me give you the low-down. Every third Thursday we pack 300 people into RTP’s The Frontier to listen to 4-5 speakers tell amazing stories about their passion. Each speaker is given 5 minutes, and then fields 2-3 questions from the audience. To keep it fresh, we change the topic every month. In January, we featured Makers and Do-It-Yourselfers from across the Triangle. These were people with a lot more hands-on talent than I’ll ever have!

I say this a lot, but part of the reason I enjoy emceeing RTP 180 is due to the fact that I get to meet some incredible people. People with more passion and talent in their pinky finger than I have in my whole body, like Sean Maroni, the CEO of BetaBox. I graduated grad school before he even walked across the high school graduation stage and he’s taking bigger risks and doing cooler things than I’ve ever imagined of doing. He took a shipping container – a nasty old, rusted out shipping container – and turned it into a mobile lab that travels all over North America filled with awesome devices! He’s taken that idea and expanded to several boxes that companies and organizations can rent for a variety of reasons. #ThatIsAwesome. If that wasn’t enough, Sean and his team are launching a 9,000 square foot incubator/co-working space in downtown Raleigh for others in the maker space. As Sean would say, “Makers believe in themselves.” I’d say Sean is living proof of his own words.

And, for all the kids out there, don’t ask to have your next birthday party at some lame pizza place with a giant mouse running around, tell your parents to take you to The Scrap Exchange! Are you kidding me, a place where people to craft together what most would call “junk” into your own piece of art? I wouldn’t lie to you. Daniel Bagnell filled us in on the awesome programming, events, and retail store at The Scrap Exchange in Durham. I would encourage you to plan a trip soon to check it out!

Finally, have you ever wanted your own custom fabric? Maybe you’re into unicorns, Star Wars,  or purple camouflage. Whatever it might be, you don’t have to look any further because Spoonflower offers custom digital fabric printing. What started in an old sock mill in Mebane (pronounced Meh-Ban) has now grown into a $25 Million dollar-backed company with offices in Durham and Berlin. Of course, Stephen Fraser,co-founder of Spoonflower doesn’t take any of the credit. Instead he claims it was all because he married a smart woman. 

Interested in hearing more fascinating stories like these? You should join us at the next RTP180! The event is always on the third Thursday of the month, and tickets go on sale two weeks before.

Why do I now want a motorcycle?