Sometimes getting shit done is completely dependent on the space in which you’re working. Not just the physical space, but the head space as well. These, however, can go hand in hand. If you’re the type of person who is easily distracted, a busy office may kill your productivity and make prolonged focus a futile task. For others, a room of creatives mining away on their innovative dreams and ideas is exactly the vibe you need to fuel your fire. For those looking to buckle down, get shit done, and also meet like-minded individuals on the busting-ass path to success there is Workwell Cafe – Toronto’s newest coworking space. Here, freelancers and entrepreneurs can reserve a seat in a beautiful cafe space where there’s reliable wifi, plugs at every seat, good nosh, and a pay as you go concept that you can actually afford. We pummelled the owner, Matt McCausland, with questions about the space, the inspiration, and his thoughts on getting into the zone. Here’s what he had to say.
In eighty-eight words or less, can you tell me what you do?
I run Workwell Cafe. I create spaces for people to work and meet, and bring people together to do their best work and help them achieve their goals. I develop software. I market and promote my cafe. I clean tables, toilets, and floors, and I make great espresso.
How would you describe the ‘Workwell Mission’?
We want to provide the perfect place for you to be productive. We also hope to function as a community hub so you can meet the people who can help you achieve your goals.
What did you do before this?
I’ve worked as a software engineer and product manager for software startups for the last ten years. I was the first employee at ScribbleLive, and recently exited my first startup, an artificially intelligent chatbot named Sam:). I am also co-creator of The Sheet, a monthly newsletter about the Toronto startup community.
How has what you did before helped you on this venture?
Working in technology startups taught me to be agile and lean. Those lessons have helped me open Workwell Cafe quickly, and stay lean so I can learn from my customers, and evolve the space as their needs change. I’ve also met a lot of great people that have helped me in every way possible. Whether it’s introducing me to the landlord and giving me a box of routers, helping me build the software to reserve a seat, or helping me with a user interview to help refine the idea, so many people from my past have helped me so much.
What inspired the idea to start Workwell Cafe?
In the early days of a startup, finding a place to work is hard—office space is financially out of reach and you can only work at your kitchen table for so long. Coffee shops are an intermediary, but pose their own set of problems: if you’re even able to find a seat, there are rarely power outlets, the wifi is spotty, and the seating is uncomfortable.I started Workwell Cafe to solve these problems for entrepreneurs and professionals. I love bringing people together and helping them achieve their goals. More than just filling a gap in the market with an innovative business model, I wanted to create a community hub and meeting place for the growing Toronto technology community.
Assuming you’ve used other coworking spaces, what did you feel they were lacking?
Traditional coworking spaces lack two things: affordability and the potential for connections. For most small businesses, signing a contract to spend hundreds of dollars a month is out of the question, especially when the spaces available don’t allow the potential to make those connections that are so important to their business.
Who will I meet (what type of person) working at Workwell Cafe?
Entrepreneurs, freelancers, software engineers, writers, people who felt isolated working at their kitchen table, and people who work in large offices but found them distracting and wanted a change of scenery. Literally anyone who needs to get work done.
How do you hope Workwell will grow and evolve?
Through hosting meetups, workshops, info sessions, etc. I hope that Workwell Cafe will become the unofficial hub for the thriving Toronto tech community. It will become a space where you can get stuff done, and a space where you might run into your new best customer or partner while getting a coffee.
What are your favourite things about what you offer?
My favourite thing is that this is a space I needed desperately when founding my own company a couple of years ago. Now it exists! I also love that it’s a space where people can drop in, grab a coffee, and chat about what they’re working on. Since opening I’ve had so many great conversations about what people are working on and what help they need to get to the next level.
How long was the process from start to finish?
I’ve had the idea in the back of my head for years and I’ve been working on it seriously for six months. I researched competitors, interviewed potential users, researched bylaws and licensing, developed software, sourced furniture, etc. It was a whole lot of work!
What was the design inspiration for the space? Can you give us an idea of what that mood board looked like?
I used Instagram pretty heavily. I follow tons of interior design, architecture, and coffee shop accounts. When I see something great, I save it to a collection that I share with my designers (West End Design Co.). I’m very into Scandinavian and mid-century modern design styles, which is lucky because IKEA exists. It’s not easy creating a beautiful space while keeping costs in check, but my design team really did a great job.
What’s different about your space vs. other coworking spaces?
Workwell Cafe is street-level, so you can see what’s going on inside before you come in, and you can run in, grab a coffee, and say hi to your friends working there. There’s a lot of opportunity to interact with like-minded people at the cafe. It’s perfect for getting work done, but also meeting people who can help you grow your business.
How do your costs compare and how do you keep yours so reasonable?
It’s only a few dollars an hour with no monthly commitment. Because we’re also a full-service cafe, we essentially operate two businesses: a cafe, and an hourly coworking space. This allows us to keep the cost of a seat reasonable, while providing gourmet coffee and tea.
Do you have a specific view on productivity? What’s your philosophy on it?
Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard is about measuring the results of your productivity. Measure the days and years, not the weeks and months. It can be discouraging if you work hard and don’t see dramatic improvements every week, or every month. But, if you make progress every day, and reflect on the year as a whole, you’ll realize your hard work is making a difference.
When are you your most productive?
As much as it’s terrible because I can never sleep in, I’ve always been my most productive very early in the morning. I have an incredible amount of focus between 5am and 10am. I understand as much as I can about whatever I need to do the night before, let it percolate while I sleep, wake up early and get it done. It feels great when everyone else wakes up a few hours later and I’ve already blasted through a big chunk of work. My only tip is to start with your version of a rough draft ASAP and edit like crazy afterward. Whether it’s a blog post, a press release, a piece of code, or a UX design, just get your first idea out, consider it, review it, talk about it, and refine it.
What’s your personal dream work space?
My dream workspace is a place where I can throw headphones on and get to work, or answer a few emails and run into acquaintances who might be able to help me with something I’m stuck on. It’s Workwell Cafe!
What playlist will you have playing in Workwell Cafe?
Everyone has a preference for the type of music they like to listen to while working, so we’ve got an extensive playlist that includes a mix of types of music people have told us they listen to while they work. We’re always taking recommendations, so let us know if there’s something you’d like to hear and we’ll add it to the list.
What are the best snacks to have on hand when you’re trying to get shit done?
We’ll have the usual selection of cookies, croissants, and muffins, but we’re also working on a snack menu full of brain food with a chef who specializes in healthy eating (Carla at Keep Kitchens). We’ll have energy balls, chia pudding, rich noodle salad, and quinoa salad.
Great ideas can strike at any time, and be born just about anywhere, but why not at Workwell Cafe? This space is meant to inspire creativity for the entrepreneurs, side hustlers, and office fugitives that will surely soon be regulars. Good news – Workwell Cafe, found at 49 Spadina Avenue, has already launched! You can just walk in and get to work. The space is open for hourly coworking, at $5 an hour. Enjoy unlimited Americanos, a definitively cool vibe, and our Agency Side Hustle swag to help keep you on your hustle. And FYI they’re having an Open House event Thursday, November 9th and offering free coworking that entire day!