5:2:8 Creative Coffee Collective is far from just another café. Founded as an offshoot of architectural firm 25:8 Architecture + Urban Design, this coffee shop is a way for founder Jay Lim and his team to satisfy three passions – coffee, architecture and mentorship.
Lim is an architect and adjunct professor at Carleton University. His team at 25:8 Architecture + Urban Design had long been digital nomads and coffee connoisseurs. They often worked with clients and mentored students at one coffee shop or another. So why not redevelop the old auto garage space next door and turn it into a café?
But not just another café like so many others that dot Ottawa’s urban landscape.
“As an architect I am used to solving our clients’ needs in unique, non-traditional ways,” Lim said. “We are not inventing the coffee shop, but we are transforming it by doing a few things differently and doing them really damned well.”
Not just a customer, but a member of a club
5:2:8 Creative Coffee Collective features a weekly rotation of coffee from independent micro-roasters from across the globe. The café appeals to morning commuters and neighbourhood regulars because it eases the daily routine with pre-paid packages or subscriptions.
Customers who are looking to stay awhile and work can sign up for the “HUB CLUB.” The club provides coffee while they work, as well as access to space, 3D printers, high-speed internet, scanners and much more.
The emphasis is also on going green. Don’t look for disposable stir sticks, sugar packets or creamers here. Patrons can only use reusable cups (which are also available from 5:2:8). Even the café’s signature popper topper pastry is designed to fit the 5:2:8 cup lid so the hot coffee will warm the pastry, avoiding the need – and the wait – for a microwave.
To maximize the use of the space, 5:2:8 serves overnight as a ghost kitchen for a separate gourmet burger business.
Such innovative ideas aside, launching a new business is a challenge even at the best of times, never mind during a pandemic. Lim and his team further put themselves on the spot by aligning their store opening with its name – 5:2:8 (May 28).
“We have had to shift our opening date several times to accommodate provincial closures,” Lim said. “We have also had to develop strict cleaning protocols and systems to make the place inviting while also addressing public health requirements.”
Subject to pandemic lockdown measures, 5:2:8 will open offering dine-in, curbside pickup and no-contact delivery.
The right digital presence, right from the start
Lim realized that a strong digital presence would be critical to getting the word out to potential customers. He learned about the Digital Main Street (DMS) Future Proof program available through Invest Ottawa from one of his clients.
“The DMS team helped jumpstart a lot of our initiatives.”
“The DMS team helped jumpstart a lot of our initiatives,” Lim said. “We could use all of our start-up capital to invest in equipment and products instead of e-commerce set up.”
Over an intense two weeks, Invest Ottawa’s DMS business advisors worked with 5:2:8 to develop an engaging website and newsletter templates, optimize search engine rankings, customize its e-commerce platform and create a social media program. They provided the coaching so that Lim and his team could learn how to manage effective social media campaigns themselves.
DMS graphic designers also created 18 branded ad campaigns for the Kiss List – 5:2:8’s new collaboration with “Where To KIS.”
“We know that about 75 per cent of first dates happen at coffee shops and we are injecting them with both caffeine and a fun activity,” Lim said.
Close collaboration is key to the success of any DMS engagement, said business advisor and team lead Vladimir Kozak:
“Our talented team worked incredibly hard for 5:2:8. Jay met with us almost every single day and had new ideas and suggestions to strengthen his business’s online presence. Many members of the team worked overtime almost every day to improve the business.”
Lim found the assistance invaluable.
“DMS is an absolute gift to any new business,” he said. “They provide the initial start-up to get e-platforms ready and then it’s up to you to capitalize on the opportunity.”