Posted by: Qiao LAB on Jun 27, 2012
COFFEE, cakes, snacks, free advice and a sympathetic ear - that's what on the menu of a new coffee shop that sees its mission not as selling java but as helping customers. Nie Xin orders a cup.
An information lunch with Warren Buffett, the most successful investor of the 20th century, was auctioned for US$3.46 million this year. When it comes to learning how people make money and how they can too, many people are insatiable.
On a far more modest and affordable level, the founders of a new coffee shop in Shanghai - all successful professionals - are offering free consultations to customers on a range of issues: finance, law, career choices, even psychology to help with personal problems. Next month investment, health, Chinese medicine and horoscopes will be added. It's a work in progress.
The free "knowledge chatting and consultation" service at WeeCoffee started early this month; 10 experts can be booked for one hour's conversation-consultation.
WeeCoffee, whose name suggests its weibo microblog networking, is located on Xinzha Road on the ground floor of a commercial building.
It was started last December by 50 partners, some of whom are available for consultation. More knowledge-related events, such as talks on particular subjects, are planned. They are free.
The two-story space sells coffee, cakes and snacks, just like other coffee shops. It seats around 50 people and bossa nova and jazz provide the background music. It seems like private sitting room or a small library.
Joyce Huang, a 29-year-old secretary in an international pharmaceutical company, is confused about her career, since she majored in accounting and finance at university.
"I am always considering changing my job to find a position that's closer to my major, or just making changes in my career and life," Huang says.
Learning bout WeeCoffee through weibo, she decided to chat with an expert on career management.
Wang Xiaosai, one of the main founders, posted a notice on weibo in April about founding a coffee ship like this; it would be a place where people would chat and network, a place where community would be extended.
Hundreds of people expressed interest in a short time and 50 of them became shareholders.
"The criteria for selecting partners is not merely the funds they can afford, but also the expert knowledge and experience they can share - and their mature social network," Wang says.
"Our aim is to help more people with ideas through our own ideas," Wang says. "We hope to create a new cultural form in crossover fields."
The chatting consultancy was officially launched early this month after "focus groups" in which the four main partners chatted with customers.
"One of the features of personal coffee shop is that costumers enjoying chatting casually with the owners, right?" Wang asks, laughing.
Interested experts, who are not partners, are welcome.
One of Wang's customers went for a chat with him a few days ago. The young man from Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, plans to open his own coffee shop and he is doing research in big cities such as Shanghai and Beijing. Wang chatted with him about his own experience and also introduced potential investors.
A young Shanghai interior decorator dropped by for a casual chat with Wang about design, coffee, the weather, nothing in particular - she just went there to talk.
"People these days are under many pressures. They need to talk with people who can give them useful, expert advice in business or to people who know something about psychology and can help them relax and de-stress," Wang says.
"But many people find it hard to find the right people to talk to," Wang says.
"Paying money and seeing a professional psychologist or financial consultant to consult about business or my confusion makes me feel nervous," Joyce Huang says. She sought advice about changing careers.
Founder Wang says he aims to make the consultancy industry more relaxed, adding that the future will be about individual influence and power."
"There is a story that everyone in the world needs six or seven friends, including a doctor, lawyer, financial consultant and psychologist," Wang says. "What we are doing is providing opportunities for our customers to build their network casually, easily and usefully."
There are various ways to book meetings: register in the coffee shop, through the Internet or official website (or weibo account of WeeCoffee), requesting a topic of consultancy and the desired booking time. Consultants will also release their schedules online and arrange meetings with customers, up to several at a time.
WeeCoffee asks for customer feedback and input will be used by the owners in deciding whether to continue keeping consultants or not.