5 Ways That Coffee Shops Could Become an “Anywhere Office” for Entrepreneurs

coffee shop entrepreneursEven though I am focused on writing blogs about the Canadian digital landscape and emerging online trends, I wanted to share an idea that I have been kicking around in my head for a while.  I mentioned in an earlier blog that I meet on Wednesdays with my “Career Yoda”, Rachel.  We meet every week at a Second Cup where we discuss my assignments.  I am always amazed by how many people are there working on their laptops and I have noticed that there are a number of regulars (sometimes teams of laptop workers) who are there every day.  I believe that someone could write a book about the companies that these coffee shops have launched and I sense that there is an untapped market out there for coffee shops.

I recently discovered someone on Twitter who also had that thought and is already one step ahead of me.  I recommend you check out @thecoffice to see what I mean.  So, instead of writing a story about the entrepreneurs who now call coffee shops their “coffice”, I thought I’d outline some opportunities for coffee shops like Canada’s Second Cup and Starbucks (obviously an American chain) to tap into a new revenue stream by accommodating entrepreneurs beyond providing free wi-fi.

Here is a list of some of my ideas:

1. Private workbenches to rent by the hour – Toronto has already opened a few Centres for Social Innovation where entrepreneurs can rent a desk and chair or office space by the hour or for a short period of time.  I believe that coffee shops have an opportunity to also offer this service if their shop is big enough.  They could either have an upstairs area or an area in the back designated to entrepreneurs who are working out of their shop.

2. Private call rooms – If the coffee shop doesn’t have the space for full desks or tiny offices, another alternative (or addition to small offices) would be tiny phone booths or call rooms.  They could have one or two tiny “phone booths” that just have a chair, tiny table and a phone that entrepreneurs could again rent for a small fee and would just pay the barista for a key to one of the booths, or book the room online in advance.

3. Conference call dial-in numbers – If small businesses are already there working for an hour or two, perhaps Starbucks or Second Cup could host a number of 1-800 dial-in numbers that they could rent to entrepreneurs for the day via an online service.  This would likely involve a partnership with a Telco – I believe that Starbucks has already partnered with Bell on some web services.  This could either be a separate fee or be built into the fee for renting a tiny space for the hour or day.

4. One or two private meeting rooms for teams – Again, this could be booked by the hour on some sort of web portal hosted by the coffee shop where entrepreneurs could book the room in advance when they know they will be working out of that “coffice”.  The meeting room could be equipped with a projector and conference phone.  Perhaps you could also pre-order coffee and treats to be set-up in the room when you get there?

5. Online Community for Entrepreneurs – Starbucks or Second Cup could tap into a community like Sprouter to have entrepreneurs share their stories about launching their business from their shops and also provide some coffee perks, no pun intended, to frequent users of their office services.

I suspect that there are additional opportunities for coffee shops to accommodate an “anywhere office” for entrepreneurs.  Please share your ideas and I’ll add them to the list.

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6 thoughts on “5 Ways That Coffee Shops Could Become an “Anywhere Office” for Entrepreneurs

  1. Sam Title

    Andrea;

    Thanks so much for the mention above in your post about The Coffice.

    You’re right on all counts! In their current incarnations, the biggies here in Canada (Second Cup, Timothy’s, Starbucks and – with some trepidation I include – Country Style) do provide a minimum for Cofficers who want to be…well…Cofficers. (They do in other markets too; but I’ll stay in Canada where this post is concerned.)

    Free (sometimes limited) wifi service in partnership with the big telcos; a “laissez faire” attitude towards us Cofficers who plant in the Coffice for full work days; access to power outlets — these are just some of the benefits provided to us — whether they know it or not.

    Starbucks is definitely taking a top position in my books as the corporate coffee shop leader. Their unlimited free wifi and newly launched content network has seen to that — both great moves on Starbucks’ part. The one I frequent is terrific to its patrons…from the baristas up to the district manager, whom I’ve met.

    It may be a while before the other majors follow suit; I thought your ideas would be great for some of the indies to try out — especially the ones who are a bit put off by us dedicated Cofficers. Most issues tend start and end with money, so they may want to check these ideas out to maybe embrace the Cofficer and supplement revenue with some alternatives.

    If Cofficers find them valuable (I think I would use one or two of them if they were available), indie coffee shop owners would know. If not, they move on. It can’t hurt.

    One of the most important things I think a Cofficer (seasoned or rookie) should have is a really, really good network of other Cofficers (and beyond). Some of us could use it more than others, and this is one of the reasons why I’ve launched both the Twitter feed and Facebook page (blog to come). I really liked your Sprouter idea as well. These networks are so important to us Cofficers in provide the missing infrastructural elements needed to do our work.

    Before signing off, one fantastic idea I actually read about recently (I’ll try to get the name of it) was a childcare service for work-at-home moms who want to get out of the house to do work but haven’t got alternative childcare options. I really loved this idea and think a coffee shop would do extremely well if this were in place.

    Overall, great post Andrea! Glad you tabled these ideas and I’m definitely looking forward to more…

    Sam Title
    Chief Executive Cofficer
    twitter.com/thecoffice
    facebook.com/thecoffice

    Reply
  2. David Pennington

    We have places in the States called “Coworking Spaces” where entrepreneurs, independent contractors, and freelancers can pay monthly fees for access to a space to work at that isn’t their home. Not only do they offer places for the self-employed to go during the day, but it is also a great opportunity to network with other freelancers.

    And there is usually free coffee to boot!

    I’m all for working in coffee shops, but I’d like it better if they offered some kind of security for our belongings, that way I’m not totally paranoid that my bag will get stolen or have coffee spilled on it when I get up to go to the bathroom.

    Reply
  3. Sam Title

    Hi David;

    Thanks for your comment!

    We have lots of coworking spaces up here too. Free coffee aside (a convenient value add), they’re all terrific and serve the needs of business people of all sorts just perfectly. Whether it’s a real desk, access to wifi and a printer, as well as networking opportunities, I highly recommend coworking spaces — if it’s something you can manage.

    From my perspective, and of others, a monthly rental of any space — coworking, real office, etc. — isn’t very budget friendly for a freelancer/startup. But a coffee a day at $2.00 max. is very much workable. When I first started working out of my regular Coffice (a Starbucks in my neighborhood), I made sure to buy at least one thing in the morning and another in the afternoon.

    As I’ve become better known there by the baristas and the manager, I don’t feel as obligated to keep buying. In fact, sometimes the baristas offer me a freebie every so often; it’s either an unclaimed drink from another customer or during a down time they’ll wave off my money. That’s just one benefit of becoming a regular at a Coffice.

    Another benefit of being a regular at a Coffice is the networking opportunities; and with that is having a trusted co-Cofficer with whom you feel comfortable leaving your stuff. Regardless of how well you know that person, courtesy dictates that before asking them to watch your stuff, you ask them how long they plan on being there. If it’s long enough to use the facilities, great.

    I’ve established a collegial relationship with another Cofficer at my regular Coffice. When he needs to step out to speak to a client, I’ll keep an eye on his stuff. When I have to take care of something at home (which is close by), he’ll do the same. Moreover, we’ve been able to trade business back and forth every so often. OH! And he designed my Coffice logo.

    (Another regular – not a Cofficer, just a guy who comes in a lot – sold me his Mad Magazine soft cover collection for a pittance! I was ecstatic!)

    I could go on, but how’s that for Coffice networking benefits?

    As far as spilling your coffee…that’s a tough one. I tend to put my bag and jacket on the other chair that comes with the table. I happily give it away during the busy times, but while I’m using it, it keeps my bag close to me and off the floor. So far the only spilling I’ve been concerned about is on my laptop.

    Hope this helps…

    Keep the great feedback coming David – here on Andrea’s blog and at our Coffice networks!

    Sam Title
    Chief Executive Cofficer
    twitter.com/thecoffice
    facebook.com/thecoffice

    Reply
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