By 2020, it is estimated that more than 60% of professionals will be able to work remotely, a trend which will increase the demand in work spaces, such as coffee shops and collaborative spaces. Yet independent coffee shops have such thin profit margins, it will be increasingly difficult for them to survive if the self-employed work from there more and more, consuming little while taking up seating space. For their part, co-working spaces, while convenient, offer less flexibility. We see a market quickly being created, but with no solution in sight. Phil Héroux and Gab Dancause believe they have found the perfect solution with GAB, the first coffee shop for workers in Canada.
As a graphic designer and programmer, respectively, Phil and Gab have also been working as freelancers for many years. Being self-employed gave them the freedom to work while they travelled across the globe, whether it be on a train, a ferry, a plane, sailboat, in hotel lobbies, coffee shops and co-working spaces, or, simply, at home. A situation many would envy them for.
Yet, they admit it’s not always ideal. “I don’t know if you’ve seen Jerry Maguire, but many people dream of leaving their job like a rockstar to become self-employed,” Phil tells us. “The movie scene is cool, but afterwards, the reality of it isn’t quite ‘living the dream’.” The daily routine of working from home soon became redundant for them, and its loneliness was demotivating. In places where they could work, they just weren’t finding what they were looking for: “If you work in coffee shops, soon enough you’ll see the staff grumble when they see you arrive with your computer, cables, paperwork and business meetings, spending $5.00 in four hours. In co-working spaces, the spot can be so similar to your old job you begin to wonder why you quit in the first place.” One evening, over a couple of beers, the idea of a space with the atmosphere of a coffee shop combined with the functionality of a co-working space sprung to them. Thinking they could not be the only ones seeking that kind of working environment, GAB was born.
Described as a 50% co-working space, 50% coffee shop, GAB provides a compromise, adapting to the reality of the self-employed, as well as students. People pay hourly to sit and work, contrary to the monthly fees they would need to pay in co-working spaces. For those looking for a more long term arrangement, GAB also offers weekly and monthly fee options. All the good sides of a co-working space are there, such as printers, a wireless network which, according to Phil and Gab, “defies the laws of Physics”, electrical outlets all across the walls, as well as meeting spaces. You can also book your spot and even bring your own meals. Naturally, coffee is also served, and is, so they say, “without pretense, one of the best in town.” More flexible and dynamic than a co-working space, more practical and professional than a coffee shop, GAB is one of a kind.
Since the launch six months ago, Phil and Gab had to modify their initial concept, as it is the case for many entrepreneurs. “An idea can be great on paper, but when someone physically enters your space, asks about your concept and then leaves, it can lead you to doubt yourself.” They’ve had to change prices, hammer home GAB’s business differentiation and improve the space, also converting a small space to allow people to enjoy a coffee without paying to stay on-site. To give potential clients a chance to discover and appreciate the concept at GAB’s, the first two hours are free of charge to all new workers or students who walk through the door.
If they had any advice to give, it would be the importance of passion when starting a business. They state that passion must come before profit interests, since issues, doubts, and hours of work necessary for the business to succeed will often not justify the financial return, especially the first year. “If your customer sees your passion as stronger than your thirst for making money, the relationship will be healthier and you’ll have a higher chance of succeeding.”
Written By: Véronic Tremblay, Bi-Lingual Marketing Specialist, Futurpreneur Canada