x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Coffee and casual work at Make Business Hub

The Life: Part coffee shop, part magnet for mobile workers - the Make Business Hub officially launches today and aims itself at the entrepreneurially inclined within the Emirates.

Leith Matthews, the managing director of Make Business Hub, plans to hold workshops to help aspiring entrepreneurs get started. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
Leith Matthews, the managing director of Make Business Hub, plans to hold workshops to help aspiring entrepreneurs get started. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

With a laptop in front of him and a smartphone to his right, Anas Al Halabi keeps tabs on the handful of employees at his events consultancy.

But instead of being crammed into a cubicle or toiling away under harsh fluorescent lights in an office, Mr Halabi was basking in the warm glow of Make Business Hub, a Dubai cafe that started serving customers last month in Al Fattan House on Jumeirah Beach Road and has its grand opening today.

At first sight, Make Business Hub appears to be a typical coffee shop, with the stimulating scent of freshly brewed java in the air. But the space also has workstations and benches reminiscent of the cafes in San Francisco, New York City and London that have become magnets for mobile workers and the entrepreneurially inclined.

"The design of this place is really helpful," says Mr Halabi, who uses the eatery as a makeshift office and is the managing partner of dxp production, which was launched in 2009. "It's like a pleasant study hall; the space is very inspirational."

The four-seater desks at Make Business Hub are designed for collaboration among small-business employees as they work or interact with cafe customers who could become clients. Each desk has electrical ports for charging gadgets. Inspirational quotes - including "make it happen" and "anything is possible if you've got enough nerve" - are scrawled on some walls.

The cafe caters to "someone that would not necessarily be office-based all the time but could use a space like this to hold meetings [in] a non-traditional set-up," says Kristian Valdini, apatron of Make Business Hub who is the managing partner of Calypso, a marketing and events company he launched about 18 months ago.

"I've seen a lot of people that I know - other business contacts, associates and friends that are in the same line of work - literally just bump into each other in here," says Mr Valdini. "The first week that it opened it was almost like being in university."

Make Business Hub's managing director, Leith Matthews, studied hotel management and was a marketer for a beverage company in the Emirates before coming up with the idea for the cafe. He quit his 9-to-5 job to launch it. Mr Matthews targets entrepreneurs like himself, and he plans to hold free lectures and workshops to help aspiring business people get started. Food and beverage sales during the events would offset his overheads.

Soon after moving to Dubai from Sweden, Jon Karlsson heard of Make Business Hub through a post by someone he follows on the microblogging site Twitter. Mr Karlsson, the head of operations for Experience House, a design-centred consultancy that started operating last year, says he is using Make Business Hub as a workspace until his company's office in Business Bay is ready.

"It puts a lot of people who are in the same position together," Mr Karlsson says of the cafe, "and what I'm interested in - especially just moving here recently - is meeting new people, creating connections."

For Mr Halabi, Make Business Hub offers a more suitable space for his team, typically four to five workers at a given time. His company operates through Virtuzone, which helps businesses start up in Fujairah's Creative City Free Zone but provides clients with temporary office space in Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Residence. Working from Make Business Hub is more expensive than using Virtuzone's office, which is free, but the Virtuzone space is "very small, crammed", says Mr Halabi.

"It's there for you to come and finish up your paperwork for a day or two and go on, and when we became a larger team it's not elegant," says Mr Halabi. "I don't want to overstay our welcome."

To ensure that entrepreneurs do not overstay their welcome at the cafe, Mr Matthews plans to ask patrons to purchase at least Dh25 worth of food or beverages each hour during their stay - once there is enough demand for tables to warrant the charge. "We have to be patient," says Mr Matthews.


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