Even 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.