Christina Perla

What was the first thing you ever sold to someone?

If we’re going way back, it was definitely a custom coffee drink. I worked at a coffee shop as a barista and I enjoyed selling the daily special to people, which was something I created. It was a challenge to identify people who would buy my overly sugary concoction.

It definitely had way too much sugar in it… always some sort of double chocolate Oreo twist with whipped cream.

Was it a difficult decision to acquire 3DUniPrint?
Behind the Question:

Prior to starting Makelab, Christina and her cofounder, Manny, were industrial design freelancers. Many of their client projects revolved around concept ideation and required prototypes. 3D printing was the most efficient solution to present iterative prototypes to clients. Christina and Manny didn’t own a 3D printer, so they used a local 3D printing manufacturer, 3DUniPrint. About a year later, the founders of 3DUniPrint decided to move to China and asked Christina and Manny to take over the company.

The topic came up casually as one of those crazy “what if” ideas between Manny, my cofounder, and I a few times prior to the actual acquisition. Manny and I were entrepreneurial and strategic, so the idea of running our own business excited us.

The decision to acquire 3DUniPrint seemed like a life-changing opportunity, and if we didn’t go through with it, I think I’d regret it and wonder “what if” for the rest of my life.

3DUniPrint became Makelab!

How did you attract clients while building Makelab’s brand?

We focused on community. We acquired this business with a mindset of wanting customer repeatability over mass popularity amongst one-offs. We value the relationships we have with our clients and customers, and there’s usually a common theme of mutual respect and learning.

We educate our clients on how to improve their products, and they educate us on their needs and painpoints.

I want the Makelab team to be experts in identifying client opportunities and painpoints. When training my team, I’m always pushing them to think about the customer. What are the customers needs? What does the customer want? What’s the best way to communicate this message?

We grow with our customers and that becomes the DNA of our brand.

What is your favorite type of prototype to make?

I absolutely love seeing visual prototypes coming in. We recently did prototypes for martini shakers, and our machines were a perfect use case to illustrate the need for iterative prototyping.

What is the most exciting project you’ve made?

Every year, a new project that comes in and just tops the charts. This year, it was definitely our Finish Line project. We worked with the creative team at Finish Line to create customized, 3D printed shoe boxes that housed special edition kicks for the newly drafted 2020 NBA players as a congratulations gift. The boxes were intricate and so unique!

Finish Line custom-3D printed box

Finish Line custom-3D printed box
What excites you the most about 3D printing?

The creative opportunities it presents. We get all sorts of clients: enterprise, small startups, freelancers, side hustlers; the common thread between them is the love of creation and making but they’re hitting a wall at the the “sketch” part of it. We give clients the tools and expertise to push through that barrier and allow them to realize their vision.

Are you inspired by certain artists or designers?

Yes! Although, I’m almost ashamed to admit, I’m pretty terrible at remembering specific pieces and artists that inspire me. Coming from an art school, this isn’t my proudest moment, but I’m working on it!

I can name a few 2D artists that inspire me- Marina Dunbar, Agnes Cecile, and Vanessa Nilsson (my best friend from high school who does amazing water- themed art amongst many other subjects).

What do you think the 3D printing world will look like 5 years from now?

It evolves quickly. I think we are going to see an acceleration of material advances such as metal.

Metal is already quite advanced, but I’m excited to see an increase in its availability in 3D printing. I also think 3D printing will take away market share from the traditional, manufacturing industry.

What skill or talent are you most recognized for?

It’s evolved quite a bit over the past few years. When we were a super tiny startup with few operational systems in place, I was a master operator. I could work in any “department” and easily fill in for others when they needed help.

Now, it’s more leadership and management. I’m a good communicator and I motivate people well…a big part of that is an unusually high level of optimism at any given moment. I’m definitely recognized for that!

Is there any advice you think aspiring entrepreneurs hear very often that isn’t actually helpful?

You know, there’s almost too much good advice out there, to the point that it can be quite overwhelming. When I started Makelab, I was looking at every blog, article, every resource list or “stack”, framework – the whole thing!

What I ended up finding super helpful was identifying 2 to 3 people that I admired and just following them. They were “curating” all the entrepreneurial content out there, and this helped me digest the information. Otherwise it’s super easy to get stuck in a feedback loop, or on the other end of things, not taking in any information all.