The Coworker is a new weekly series by MTLinTECH that spotlights one Montreal coworking space every Tuesday.
Pierre-Antoine Fernet said the Fabrik8 coworking space in Mile-Ex is for companies who are looking for their second office.
These startups are growing. They’ve spent time in an incubator, perhaps they’ve done a few months at a coworking space. Now they’re looking to take their business to a new level. That’s where Fabrik8 comes in.
Above all, it’s a place that won’t have beer kegs and chaotic events every night of the week, but rather a place where professionals rent professional office space.
“Come here, focus on your work and I’m going to focus on all the bulls–t,” Fernet told MTLinTECH. “When people see that we want things done well, I think people respect that. And that’s what I’m selling.”
Sitting at 7240 Rue Waverly in between Parc and De Castlenau metro stations, Fabrik8 is a modern-looking, expansive, two-floor space that has already built up a sizeable client list. Together Fernet and business partner Vanessa Brochu manage it.
Fabrik8 offers a general coworking area at $300 per month per desk, but it’s real bread and butter lies in its private offices. There’s an office for nearly every sized team and Fabrik8 has adequate stock.
An office for one person costs $450-500 per month, an office for two to three goes for about $750-1050, and three to five people for $925-1750. There are also offices available for six to 10 people, or even 30. Fernet expects people to stay for at least three months, but if they want to leave they’ll have to give at least three months notice.
Fernet is known around the community as the person who previously founded the Espace 360 coworking space on St. Urbain, just around the corner from Fabrik8. He had already started several money-making ventures since he was 20.
At 8,000 sq ft, Espace 360 still exists, but after a few years Fernet said he wanted to go bigger.
“Business wise, I just realized it wasn’t possible to profit from 8,000 sq ft.” he told MTLinTECH. “We were doing well and people seemed to be happy, but you have bills. I said to myself, ‘We need to do something bigger to make it work.'”
Fernet wanted a fresh start, so he completely changed the branding and message to that of Fabrik8. It took almost two years to find partners (including the BDC) and to get a commercial loan. He acquired the building in the summer of 2015, started construction in September, and the first tenants moved in in February of this year.
“It was crazy. It was such hard work finishing the whole building,” said Fernet. “I’ve never done something this big. I worked pretty much everyday for six months. It’s amazing that this office is finished and the electricity and everything works. For everyone else it’s normal, but for me it’s amazing. When I see people working here I gain a lot of pleasure.”
In terms of tenants, Fernet made it clear that he will be picky about who he brings in. He doesn’t want telemarketers or family lawyers clogging up offices and conference rooms. If he “sees a good fit” then he’ll accept a company or an individual.
And he’s taking a serious approach. He doesn’t want the beer kegs or the drinks events every night. Fabrik8 is a place where people come to work in peaceful conditions.
“The first thing for people here is they want to have a proper space for them to work and concentrate,” said Fernet. “I have teams that started alone at Espace 360 and have grown to 10-15 employees. And they trust me to always create a great working environment.”
What I realized is that I wanted to be pretty strict and that’s what my clients wanted. They’re focused, they don’t want to see monkey business and that’s why we haven’t lost many people over the years. If something is broken we fix it. When people see that we want things done well, I think they respect that. And that’s what Im selling. Come here, focus on your work and Im going to focus on all the b—shit.
-Pierre-Antoine Fernet, Fabrik8
Fernet’s backstory partially explains why he takes such a serious outlook on his space. He started his first businesses out of his mom’s basement. Then he made a deal with a buddy and worked out of the corner of his office. After that, Fernet finally got his own office. He grew his team to four people, his wife was pregnant and it was all good.
But then his landlord, seemingly out of nowhere, kicked him to the curb.
“Basically the only reason was that someone else wanted to have my office and the landlord said ‘sure,'” said Fernet. “You learn from it, but at the time I wasn’t protected.”
It was nearly traumatizing, especially given the timing. He vowed that it would never happen to him again, and he wouldn’t project his experience onto others once he became a property manager.
“At that point I thought there must another way where people can be treated better. Just give decent customer service and respect to your client and you’re already better than probably 60 per cent of landlords,” he said. “I don’t protect my business by having strict leases. I want to protect my business by being one of the top coworking spaces. If you’re one of the best all the time you’ll always have clients.”
“I don’t want to base my business on ‘I gotcha now.’ If you do work, people will come. And they will stay.”
Have you read the rest of The Coworker series?