The Coworker is a new weekly series by MTLinTECH that spotlights one Montreal coworking space every Tuesday.
“We wanted to work differently.”
That’s what Halte 24-7 cofounder Olivier Berthiaume said when asked why he and cofounder Phillip Tremblay left their comfortable jobs in the pharmaceutical industry to start a small coworking space on rue de LaRoche.
Berthiaume was working in marketing, mostly on generic medicine brands, while Tremblay worked for the same company in a different department. They took out a small loan from the bank, poured in a bit of their own money and sourced design inspiration from modern spaces at the time in Madrid, Berlin, Hong Kong and Paris. At the time, they didn’t see anything comparable in Montreal.
But most of all, said Berthiaume, it was simply boring working in the cubicle world of a big company. He wanted to change the way he worked everyday.
“It’s the thing that you notice immediately when you come here: people work differently,” Berthiaume told MTLinTECH. “You can work beside a friend who has their closed office next door, you can go to the lounge or any one of the common working spaces at any time, relax in the roof-top terrace, and then go back into your privacy.”
More than that, Berthiaume wanted to build a community space where people could have their own “entourage” around them, or a core of professional colleagues close at hand.
“You need a lawyer, you need an accountant, a web designer, a web developer, someone in HR. You need these professionals around you in the same building and everyone working alone, but together. That was the main idea that we wanted to create and we needed an environment for that,” he said.
It was over two years ago when the guys decided to take the plunge, at a time when the concept of “coworking” was still alien to many people.
“When we started, we kept telling people, ‘We’re a coworking space,’ but people would say, ‘But what is coworking?'”
That soon changed. From MTLinTECH’s research, over 20 different coworking spaces are in operation within the city. Some of them are even devoted to specific niches, like women-only businesses, or gaming-only startups.
Coworking is fashionable in 2016, and Berthiaume’s observation of design-poor spaces two years ago is a relic of the past. Today, more coworking spaces market themselves as trendy, cool and popular, rather than somewhere to get work done.
Still, the importance of design wasn’t lost on Berthiaume and Tremblay.
Halte 24-7 sits at 4284 rue de LaRoche in the popular Plateau neighbourhood, just a few blocks east of the Mont-Royal metro station. It’s a nice, small building on a beautiful street, with three floors and a terrace.
“We’re close to Parc Lafontaine, Ave Mont-Royal, Rue Rachel and the mountain,” said Berthiaume. “Lifestyle is an important part of our concept.”
If the natural setting of the Plateau wasn’t enough for members, they can also take advantage of Halte 24-7’s partnership with Gym Le St. Jude, where every new member can work out free for a week. Moreover, a current promotion can get members a hot desk and a gym membership for $299.
Halte 24-7’s appearance is what sets it apart from rivals. It’s a beautiful 12,000 sq. ft. space with an all-modern look and huge windows that bring in abundant sunshine throughout. The hot desks, dedicated desks and private offices aren’t simply cordoned off from each other. Instead, members are all mixed up: hot desks primarily sit on the first floor, near reception, with a portion of dedicated desks to the rear. A common lounge also separates the areas, along with small conference rooms and telephone booth-sized private, sound-proof call stations.
The second and third floors feature a mixture of private offices holding one to 10 people. There building also sports a spacious and quiet basement lounge along with an enviable rooftop terrace. And while 100 active members drop in and out of Halte 24-7 every day, the multi-floor design gives it a quiet essence where everyone can get their work done in peace.
“There’s always a spot somewhere in the building where you can work quietly,” said Berthiaume.
Philip Taylor, a graphic designer, had been working from home for five years before he became a member at Halte 24-7. He visited several coworking spaces before he chose Halte 24-7’s dedicated desk for $299 per month.
The location was close to his child’s daycare and he said it attracts an “older crowd and a good mix” of professionals.
“Some of the other places did look like they were for lots of young, enthusiastic startups, but almost like caged chickens, or massive rows of desks with everybody working together. I thought, ‘Ok, that might be a little noisy,’” said Taylor.
He said Halte 24-7 makes a big effort to create a real sense of community.
“They often do evenings with barbeques and drinks, so it’s good like that. It has lots of light, it’s a modern building and its been beautifully set up,” said Taylor.
As Taylor pointed out, the space puts on twice-monthly events, like themed dinners (sushi, lobster and oyster nights in the past) or events. The most recent event featured representatives from the BDC, who gave a talk on startup financing.
Berthiaume said Halte 24-7’s main challenge within growth in keeping everyone happy. The founders have clearly offered a high-quality service to clients, and Berthiaume wants to make sure that doesn’t slip as the space attracts more than its current 100 members.
“This is the challenge and it will take a lot of effort keeping close to our members. It’s making sure the place is clean, the coffee is good and it’s not too cold too hot. Making sure that there’s someone at the front desk who’s competent, smiling, and books conference rooms right. It’s all these tiny details that really mean a lot,” he said.