Digital Underground: Dabble

February 20, 2013 10:33:46 AM PST
If you're looking for a new hobby or want to share one that you love with others, look no further than Dabble.

The crew concentrating on creating cupcakes is not part of a culinary school. They are just people interested in learning something new.

"I've always been interested in trying new hobbies and trying to figure out new ways that I can use my free time," Dabble student Raj Ray said.

That's basically how two young ladies felt a couple of years ago. Former urban planner Jessica Lybeck and her friend Erin Hopmann, who'd been working in advertising, wanted to gain new knowledge and expand their world.

"Here we are as adults, we still have interests, but it felt that every time we wanted to sign up for a class, the only things available would be 10-week classes that cost hundreds of dollars," said Hopmann.

Figuring there must be other people like them, they came up with Dabble, a website to connect those who want to "dabble" in various subjects and skills.

"Dabble is an marketplace for classes. All the classes are one-time only, and anyone can be a teacher. So you can dabble or pursue your interest without a huge commitment," said Lybeck.

It's $20-25 for a class lasting one to three hours. And in its two years online, Dabble has developed a huge following.

"I took a calligraphy class, I've taken a couple of knitting classes, a woodworking class where we made a cutting board in, like, three hours, which was really great," said student Dennise Saxton.

The classes range from painting to welding and everything in between. And, on the flip side, you can also dabble in teaching your hobby or special interest.

"So you can have an architect who teaches a pasta-making class or a foreign language institute teaching Spanish classes," Lybeck said.

The cupcake teacher, Meg Ahern, by day is a research scholar at the University of Chicago.

"And with no exams and no homework, it's a pretty fun environment," Ahern said.

Plus, it's a way to share your passion. Just ask mixology teacher Dennis McLennand, who runs a company called Eat, Drink, Educate.

"We do a lot of classes on prohibition and 'Mad Men.' You have to understand historically why they drank what they drank and why they did it this way," McLennand said.

"There is a lot of latent knowledge that bubbles up, and here we recognize that everyone has something to share. And giving them a platform for sharing is really what Dabble is all about," Hopmann said.

All while bringing a digital community even closer together.

"It's a way to meet people and network but really in a more organic ways and you have things to talk about right away," said Ali Kelly.

"Do it, just do it! It's $25 and two hours of your life. Give it a chance," Saxton said.

There are about 120 Dabble classes offered at locations throughout Chicago. They are usually held on weeknights from 6-9 p.m., but many are on weekends as well. The Dabble concept has been so popular that they have now expanded to Milwaukee and Denver and there are plans for even more cities.

More info: