Uniformed waiters carried around platters of crudites, fare of spicy tuna topped with avocado salad and tiny toasts topped with duck confit.
Over by the window, a DJ stands in front of a shiny silver Mac laptop and spins tunes digitally, at this moment a slow groove plays in the background. A hipster-style crowd gathers in clumps, seated in white leather booths along the wall, or in modern teak conversation chairs, sipping milky coffee and juice drinks.
But what may look at sound like another trendy Dubai nightspot is actually Make Business Hub, the emirate’s newest office-creative space targeted at mobile entrepreneurs.
It’s not all style and no substance. Each four-seat desk has the requisite number of electrical plugs for all the gadgets today’s startup CEO carries around. A cafe with a variety of sandwiches, shakes, juices and caffeine helps fuel and lubricate the conversations between coworkers and clients. Inspirational quotes – many of which are hand-drawn by patrons themselves – send reminders such as “anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve” – are scrawled on some walls.
Dressed in a bow tie, blazer and geek-chic eyeglasses, Leith Matthews, Make’s founder and managing director, is making the rounds and greeting guests. Playing host is something Matthews trained for, having studied hospitality management. He had a 9-to-5 job as a marketer for a beverage company in the UAE before coming up with the idea for the cafe.
As he whiled away the hours at Dubai cafes brainstorming and putting together business plans, the idea for Make Business Hub formed. “The opportunity was in creating a venue specifically for me at that time, assuming I wasn’t the only one,” he said. “What I needed was something more sophisticated than a coffee shop.”
What he needed — and what he’s banking other entrepreneurs like him will as well — was a sort of Cafe 2.0, a place with better “hard infrastructure,” as he put it. “Coffee shops provide Wi-Fi but it’s the bare minimum for a mobile worker,” he explains. “We need ergonomic chairs and tables, a layout that allows for interaction and collaboration.”
Make Business is the latest in Dubai’s community business hubs, following in the footsteps of the Shelter, which reopened last summer in new more spacious digs in the gritty Al Quoz industrial area after its inaugural location in the burgeoning arts district. In addition to providing space for budding entrepreneurs to work and meet clients, the Shelter holds evening art exhibits and movie screenings.
Facilities like Make Business Hub are attractive for startup companies that can’t afford the rents for office space in the variety of free zones available throughout the U.A.E., or even a monthly telecom bill for Internet service.
For now, Make Business Hub has a open-house policy. There are no memberships or fees to work there. A private investor provided about 70 percent of the 2 million dirhams to start it up. Matthews says he plans to use revenues from food and beverage sales to keep operations going.
“This is a hospitality venture with a very specific clientele and market,” he says. “I hope we deliver a fairly high level of service and help patrons grow their business” as we grow ours.
Make Business Hub is located behind the Jumeirah Beach Residences in the Al Fattan house building. It’s open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, call 04 392 9216.