Phil Héroux and Gab Dancause
By 2020, it is estimated that more than 60% of professionals will be able to work remotely, a trend which will increase the demand for workspaces, 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 often, consuming little while taking up seating space. For their part, coworking spaces, while convenient, offer less flexibility. 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 or a sailboat, in hotel lobbies, coffee shops and coworking spaces, or, simply, at home. 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 bucks in 4 hours. In coworking 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 coworking space came to them. Thinking they could not be the only ones seeking that kind of working environment, GAB was born.
Described as a 50% coworking 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 coworking spaces. For those looking for a more long term arrangement, GAB also offers weekly and monthly fee options. All the good sides of a coworking 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 pretence, one of the best in town." More flexible and dynamic than a coworking space, more practical and professional than a coffee shop, GAB is one of a kind.
Since the launch, 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, including converting a small space to allow people to enjoy a coffee without paying to stay on-site.
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."
GAB - a space with the atmosphere of a coffee shop combined with the functionality of a coworking space.
This success story is provided by Futurpreneur Canada – helping aspiring business owners aged 18-39 launch successful businesses across Canada.