Like most people that teach, I discovered the old adage about ‘teaching because you love it and not for the money’ certainly holds true.
Fiscal forces nudged me take on a “corporate” gig. In the timeline of life, we’re now standing in the early 90’s right at the beginning stages of the Internet boom (or bubble – depending on your perspective).
And then it happened, someone in corporate America decided I should be one to figure out how to digitally transfer audio files from my studio to the studio in Atlanta where the editing/animation for the videos. They gave me a T1, a computer and…..well, that was pretty much it. At some point I am sure I uttered the words “the Inter-what?”
It did not take long for the fascination to set in. One of the producers and I quickly became very interested in this Internet phenomenon and its potential impacts on society. We read everything from “Being Digital” to “The Future Does Not Compute” searching for a clear vision into the future.
One day over lunch the conversation spiraled downward. Call it the mood, call it the food court pizza, but today the Internet did not stand a chance. Convinced the Internet would destroy society as we know it, the man across the table from me said these words: “You know, the problem is that we never use computers in a social setting….that’s why I want to open a coffeehouse with computers in it”.
The food court went silent in my head. I looked at him – “What did you just say?” He repeated himself. My response – “Well, that’s the best idea I have heard today – let’s do it!”
And out of that conversation grew The Strand Cybercafé. From the beginning, I set out to create a restaurant that integrated technology as an image and a social service. I did not set out like many of my bright-eyed competitors to make money on renting computer time. That model would not last.
Instead, I wanted to create a true café atmosphere reaching back to the European cafes of old where people gathered to interact and engage. My dream – that my customers would engage the technology as well as the people. I wanted to help prepare people for the future I saw coming.
Insofar as the business, a leader with no real prior restaurant experience managed to fund, design, build out and launch a restaurant on the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, MD. To say I had help would be an understatement – many people along the way took their talents to new heights to help make this dream come true. I sought out people who saw the vision and wanted to invest and immerse themselves in the project.
USA Today named The Strand Cybercafé one of the top ten in the nation and we were on the road to over a million in sales with a 10 to 12 percent profit margin. Not bad street cred in an industry with a 60 percent failure rate (numbers vary wildly on this – some say as high as 90 percent).