A place to work on your dreams

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By Romsanne R. Ortiguero

Like other businesses, Diligence Café was born out of a desire to address what is lacking. In the case of this two-year-old café, it is to provide a place that is conducive for productivity even when it’s the dead of the night.

The idea came with the personal experience of the café’s 26-year-old owner, Elmerei Cuevas, back when he was a Materials Engineering graduating student of University of the Philippines — Diliman in 2013. During that time, he was struggling to find a place to be productive, thus, had a vision of having Diligence Café.

“The burden started out because of my schedule as a student — I have classes in the morning, then I have a school organization work in the afternoon. In the evening, I would go out for dinner with friends to talk about life, then I have to walk back my friends to their dorm after so the only time I have to do my academic stuff was at 12 midnight onwards. However, the library closes at 12 a.m., the cafés around would close at 3 a.m., and my dorm is not a productive place because my dorm-mates are playing computer games,” Mr. Cuevas told BusinessWorld.

Given this, the then student shared that his last resort was fast food chains, which unfortunately — among countless other struggles — had no power outlets to plug on a laptop, has no Wi-Fi connection, and security guards tend to call the attention of those who are overstaying.

“I hated that feeling. I realized that students or people in general have dreams, goals, and are expected to make something out of our lives but we don’t have conducive places to just sit down and do our stuff,” Mr.  Cuevas lamented.

This struggle paved the way for the opening of the first Diligence Café in 2016. During their first two weeks of operations in which the café is open from 2:30 p.m. until 7 a.m. the following day, Mr. Cuevas noticed that people are really coming in — validating their idea that there is really a need for a space as well as the unique services they are offering.

“Our target are really people who wanted to get things done regardless whether they’re students, professionals, or freelancers. As long as you wanted to finish something or you want to be productive, you would go to us,” he said.

One of the pioneering cafés in the metro that offer such services, Diligence Café now has two branches — the first one in Katipunan, Quezon City and a newly opened one in Taft, Manila. To date, both cafés are open everyday from 12 noon to 7 a.m. the following day. For a fee of P70 per hour or P350 a day, the café offers Wi-Fi connection, power outlets, unlimited brewed coffee and juices, napping services, and an optional shower services for an additional rate.

Diligence Café also offers breakfast meals, printing services, locker services, meeting rooms, and events place.

“We are not a coffee shop even if we call ourselves a café. In all technicalities, we are a hybrid of co-working space, a café, and a hostel but we market ourselves as the best place to be productive overnight. We really want to be known as a place where people can work on their dreams, and we will always be a part of their journey towards success,” Mr. Cuevas said.

Despite having no business background, money or connections, Mr. Cuevas was able to transform his vision into an actual business with patronage together with his 26-year-old business partner, Anna Lorraine Uy, and investors Ariel and Nancy Meneses.

For aspiring entrepreneurs, Mr. Cuevas advised that it is important to note that money is not the biggest problem.

“Run barefoot and people will give you shoes — that is when people will see you running towards your vision. Even if you’re struggling, they will invest in you,” he said, remembering one of his former employer’s — Anna Meloto-Wilk — motivational talks.

The young entrepreneur also suggested to have a strong vision. According to him, it is only by having a vision that provision will come.

“If you don’t have a vision, provision will not follow because provision is only there to enable you to carry out the vision,” Mr. Cuevas noted.

More importantly, he said to always be diligent.

“Diligence is not about being the best at it. It is about keeping at it no matter what. Whatever people have heard, seen, or experience about Diligence Café — more than it being a business — we want it to be a testimony for people that as long as you dream and be diligent on that dream, one day, God is going to give it to you as your destiny,” Mr. Cuevas concluded.